March is Women’s History Month. Over the course of the year, it is eleven months too short. When I think of the people who’ve shaped the direction of my life, the list is largely one of women. It’s not that I lacked male role models. It was women who nurtured the sense of reverence, belonging, purpose and justice that mean so much to me today.
My grandmother, Tekla, for example, had strong opinions about everything. She was wary all her adult life, and when I became an adult, I learned why. Her poor family paid what was a huge sum to a man who agreed to look after her, a 16 year old Ukrainian girl, as they crossed the Atlantic to the US. He disappeared as soon as they boarded ship, leaving her abandoned and defenseless. But she never lost her love of children, giving us treats, telling us stories from the old country that filled our imaginations with wonder, adding great overtures of expression and dramatic pauses to compensate for her lack of facility with the English language. I think it was our innocence that drew her to us, as if trying to recapture an innocence long taken from her.
My mother followed in her footsteps, but more softly, and with the idealism of a first generation USer. She brought out our gifts as children and those of the people she met. She showed us how to welcome the stranger in our midst. She taught us what it meant to be family and to live in community. She was selfless, yet determined. She broke through the conventions of the times to find her voice, stand up to authority and against bigotry, and demanded that we do likewise.
The women who inspired me, like most women, are nameless in the annals of history. Their brilliance was denied in science, medicine, the arts, government and business. But their contributions to who we are today are every bit as meaningful and worthy of praise.
I’m grateful that at least in some corners of the world that’s changing. Yet being grateful is not enough. Women need us as allies to stand with them in all areas of society… at home, in the workplace, as leaders in faith communities and across our social institutions. May we express to the women in our families, in our workplaces and in our social circles how indebted we are to them. May we be bold enough to ask how our behaviors help or hinder their long-standing fight for equity. Ans may