What Is a Summary of “The Leaving” by Budge Wilson?

Budge Wilson’s short story “The Leaving” follows Elizabeth, a young woman with low self-esteem who learns to believe in herself. Elizabeth learns to stand up to her husband and stand up for herself, despite living in a time when most women stayed at home and took care of their families.

Elizabeth doesn’t set out to read Betty Friedan’s “The Feminist Mystique,” but decides to after finding it in a pile of clothes that the Salvation Army donates to her family. To read the book, Elizabeth steals time from taking care of her house, her daughter, her four sons and her husband, and while she doesn’t understand everything in the book, she realizes that she wants more from life than what she has. She also wants to make sure her daughter, Jem, who narrates the story, has a better life than she has.

In the middle of the night, Elizabeth and Jem, who is 12, leave their family in rural Annapolis County and take a three-day trip. Elizabeth explains that they are going away to show the men in their lives all of the contributions they make. She wants her husband and sons to miss her cooking and appreciate the work they both do around the house. She confesses that the book is difficult to read but showed her that she “weren’t alone.” When Elizabeth and Jem return, Elizabeth tells her husband that he no longer can call her “woman” but must use her name, reclaiming part of her identity.