Hey you women and men out there!
It’s international Women’s Day! Now before you men get started, I know there’s no International Men’s Day and all I can say to that is my response to Child Day – well, whenever you get all of them, you don’t really need a special one! I know, not strictly speaking true, and I really hope we get to a point where we can just have an “International Human’s Day” and let it go at that.
But we’re not quite there yet. I could rant about how we’re still underrepresented, abused, paid less, tossed away, wasted, etc., etc. but really, we hear all of that all the time. So let’s focus on the positive, shall we? Let’s raise a glass to those wonderful impossible women who were just out there, pushing their agenda, pulling others along with them willy-nilly.
Like Anna Leonowens, who founded NSCAD and travelled the world changing things after reinventing herself entirely.
Or Mrs. Humphrey Ward, who didn’t believe in suffrage but still started educational institutes for women at Oxford and refused to let anyone say nay.
Or Florence Nightingale, who fought her way through several glass ceilings to actually humanize health care.
Or Alexa McDonough, who stepped into the leadership of a federal party – the first woman to do so in Canada (Okay, it was 1980, and one could have hoped it would have happened before then).
Or the formidable Mrs. Thatcher – still so obvious in the political photos of that time.
Indira Ghandi. Maya Angelou. PD James. Jane Fonda. Jane Austen. Mary Shelley. Edith Piaf.
But more so than that, the women who just get up in the morning and make the world a better place for their being in it.
I can’t help but think of my grandmothers. Two more different women couldn’t be imagined. My Grammy, my mother’s mother, was a ferocious lion of St. John, NB, who gave birth to almost a dozen children, all of whom went forward and took control – in their city, in the country, in the world. They became nurses, lawyers, doctors, priests, accountants, businesspeople, pillars of the community, and parented another generation of the same. Grammy held them all to account. I didn’t know her well, but I always saw her as a bit of a bombastic person, given to expostulations that shook the ceiling, but maybe that was only after she became deaf. I still remember cringing in Filene’s as she argued with the sales girl about corset sizes. She had a great sense of humour and a strong sense of religion. She did ensure that her children went on to do great things, despite what must have been a pretty ropy existence with all those kids and not much money. They grew up and fought mightily and loved mightily.
My other grandmother I remember for her soft smile, her gentle ways. Yet she had power, too – she could speak to my dad with a twinkle in her eyes and he’d do whatever she asked. Her life wasn’t easy, either – my grandfather often wasn’t well – and she looked after her own large family. Yet she encouraged them, pulled them along, probably even lost her temper once or twice. They grew up to be marvellous people, too – but with a different feeling. Unlike my mother’s family, there was less competition between them. They didn’t always get along, but they were always supportive of each other. Even now, their first response to seeing me after many years wasn’t “where have you been?” but “welcome back!”
In their own ways, they made the world an infinitely better place, through their children, their children’s children, and now their children’s children’s children. I’m so grateful to them – I benefitted from all of my wonderful uncles and aunts and cousins and sister and brothers.
All over the world, women do this every day, in every way, in so many different situations and with so many different challenges. So yes, let’s take a special day to recognize that fact, and make a choice to support them, more and more.
And yeah, let’s stop all that ugly stuff. For women, men, and children, too. My grandmothers would have wanted it that way. Probably yours, too.