“Hey honey. October is a women’s issue, so you should write my column, you know, about being a woman.” Being female doesn’t mean I represent all women, Lee! But my cynicism does have me thinking, I may not represent all women, but I am a representation of all the women who have molded, influenced, and inspired me.
Of course, there are the obvious world changers like the suffragettes and Rosie the Riveters. My own individual favorite influencers and pioneers are Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale, Rosa Parks, and Anne Sullivan, but I’m referring to those women who are a little more personal to me.
My maternal grandmother. She never graduated school or drove a car. She grew up without running water or electricity and began working in the mill at the age of 16. She sang hymns while she cooked and cleaned, was lovingly devoted to a less-than-perfect husband, and fervently prayed over her wayward children. She taught me simplicity, humility, loyalty, and unconditional love.
My paternal grandmother. She cared for a brother with PTSD, lost a sister to domestic violence, and became a widow in her 40s. She worked multiple jobs in food service, textiles, and healthcare. She was opinionated but jovial and seemed to effortlessly care for the dozens of tiny humans who found themselves in and out of her home. She never forgot to send a single wedding or birth announcement to the paper. She taught me strength, self-reliance, caregiving, and thoughtfulness.
My mother. She is the youngest of 6 siblings, and the first to graduate high school. She cooked dinner every night when we were growing up, and regardless of what everyone else was having, always made me pasta the night before a cross country race or track meet. She attended every race, band competition, or play she possibly could. She used a little tough love to convince me to stay away at college when I called several times, crying, begging to come home. She taught me determination, nurturing, supportiveness, and patience.
So, as I lay here typing, looking over at the sweet sleeping face of my 2-year-old little girl I think about how the art of being a woman has been passed down through the generations. I recognize that I can only speak from my individual experience. My challenges are unlike those of my predecessors, and very different than those of my sisters of color, as well as disparate to those of a transgender woman. I appreciate those who have been bold and brave and shaped me and the world we live in. I reflect on what I want to pass on to my daughter. Will I exemplify the best traits of each of these women for my little girl?