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Shirley’s Story

Often irreverent, sometimes playful, and never boring, Shirley White Pearl gives voice to the unconventional American woman of the 50s, 60s, and beyond.

Shirley left her hometown of Marshalltown, Iowa, in 1950 to attend Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She soon transferred to the University of Iowa in Iowa City and her world opened up to the injustices in the modern world.

 She became an advocate for civil rights and unwittingly lived a life for breaking the glass ceiling. She received her doctorate in educational psychology in 1965.

But she did try, unsuccessfully, to conform to the life deemed the one she was “meant” to live as a woman at that time. She married and had a child. But her rebel-without-a-cause husband soon drifted beyond the scope of what she wanted to deal with and she divorced. Marriage #2 came and went.

Then marriage #3 to an African American man in 1970. She and her new blended family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where Dr. Shirley White Pearl became a pioneer working with emotionally disturbed children.

Shirley developed educational curricula for elementary students and gave them tools for dealing with life’s problems. She and a team of amazing people started the first school for children often left behind by traditional schooling methods.

She threw herself into work as marriage #3 crumbled around her. Finally, she stood alone, a single mother with a grown daughter and the career she always wanted.

And then she met the Occasional Man and embarked on the most unconventional relationship yet—and one that was to last 30 years, until the death of her beloved companion. Her first memoir, The Occasional Man, was published in 2012.

Her second memoir, The Marginal Woman: Loving, Living, and Breaking Boundaries in a Pre-Feminist World was published in 2016. She resides in St. Paul, Minnesota where she remains actively engaged in writing and life. 

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