Skip to main content
Innovation and Inspiration: The Campaign for Kansas University
University Archives & Manuscripts - K-State Women
Mary Border: Mary Border, First ...

Mary Border, Kansas assistant 4-H Club leader, is in Pakistan, the first woman technician there under the Point Four Program. She is the home economics advisor to the first women trainees in one of the first two village development training centers set up in Pakistan.

It's at Quiad-Abad in the Punjab, and was opened July 1 with 57 trainees--43 single men and seven man-and-wife teams.

"I live with a young Canadian couple, the MacFarlands," she wrote in a letter dated November 9. "They have a bathroom and water; that is, whenever the men get some into the roof tank. They bring it in on trucks and carry it up onto the roof in a camel skin."

"Mrs. Mac and I are the only white women out here. Mr. Buffington (the American I work with), Mr. Mac, and an Australian are the only white men. I go everywhere alone in the daytime on foot and feel safe, but Mrs. Mac, being younger, is afraid.

"We have classes all morning, 7:30 to 12, and in the afternoon we go to the villages. We jeep as far as we can and then walk through sand. Last week the driver forgot to come after us one night and we had to walk back the five miles.

"At first I thought I couldn't stand visiting the villages, but it's interesting to note changes in one's attitudes! The people sit on their haunches like dogs and are filthy. But they have a charm, graciousness, and dignity that is unbelievable.

The insanitary conditions of the villages she explained in an earlier letter as inevitable in a country where water is scarce.

"I now have a counterpart and durned if I don't like her, and durned if she isn't smart and willing to learn." A counterpart is a teacher through whom educational material is transmitted in the dialect of the region.

"I spend some time every day indoctrinating her. Whenever I can get the jeep away from the men, I give her driving lessons. She wants to learn to drive and to dance. She has a very pretty face, but a hunched figure like most of the women.

"She wanted to see my underwear; so I showed her and told her how American women strive to be slim and smooth. Mr. Afzal, the Pakistan government official I work with, is amused as he thinks she is dieting to be slim.

"I'm really keen about this Mr. Afzal. He is a smart cookie and puts me in my place in the sweetest way. The first time I saw the training school 200 miles from our headquarters in Lahore, he took me. When the time came to go, my new 1953 Chevy had just come and I knew he was itching to get his hands on it.

"He told me that I was probably the only white woman who had ever ridden that far alone in this country with a black man without being afraid. I said that if he ever got out of my sight I'd be scared stiff. He laughed and laughed. I found to my surprise that he is sensitive about his black skin. His wife is very pretty and quite light. His 14-year-old daughter follows me around like a puppy and wants to go back to the USA with me.

"I'm still wearing summer clothes, with a sweater sometimes in the morning for an hour....

"I'd like to start a laundry here. My sheets come home dirtier than I send them, and bath towels are gray and stiff.

"I'm trying to get one of the Pak. government shops to make me a washboard for the training center. Washing traditionally is done with a stick and clothes wear out fast. The men say the women won't use it, but I can try to get them to. If I listened to what the men say I can't do, I'd be twiddling my thumbs!

"Last spring I met two Moravian missionaries, a wonderful brother and sister team. He's an engineer and has designed a well drill. I saw his well, 303 feet deep, in action--saw the villagers gathered around. They almost worship water. Who wouldn't if he'd had to drink mud all his life.

"The World Church Organization financed this well. He needs more money so badly to underwrite more wells. TCA and Ford Foundation aren't set up to help with such projects.

"One TCA man said that the missionaries are doing more than TCA, fine as it is, dares to do and without fanfare.

"They beg for home economics textbooks here. I practially have to sit on those I have to keep people from snatching them.... We hope to set up two-year home economics courses in two colleges to the north, and the Ford Foundation is to build a four-year school in Karachi. Want a job there?"

Wherever Mary goes, it isn't long before she has people dancing. In a May letter she wrote: "We've been dancing and do the Pakistanians love it! ... And you should see the American consul-general do the Jessie polka!" But during the monsoons most of her records curled up, melted.

"This TCA work is tough, and I don't mean maybe. But what real job isn't? Nowhere else could one have as many strange experiences, meet such interesting people. We're fighting Communism and sometimes I wonder how successfully. If only I can give value received so that my two years here will be a good investment for my country!"

Source: K-Stater, December 1953
Article appears here with permission from the K-State Alumni Association.
Any typographical errors are the result of retyping.