March is Women’s History Month.
I suppose a gamut of responses are possible ranging from indignation over injustice, to celebratory joy, to resolve. As I’ve read and reflected on the topic this year, my thoughts have revolved around gratitude. Gratitude for people who have encouraged and fueled me along my way.
I’m thankful for my dad who, although he was a pretty conservative guy, was my chief exhorter during my growing up years in the 60s and 70s to believe in my abilities and push myself farther.
Dad would brook no nonsense about school, especially when it came to math. My moans of “I’m just not good at it!” invariably raised his hackles. “I don’t want to hear that! You are perfectly capable of excelling at math.” Confidentially, I still think math is not my strong point…but oh, how glad I am Dad didn’t say, “Well, after all, you’re a girl.”
Dad did not support the Equal Rights Amendment but wow, he really wanted me to become a lawyer. Dad did not help with the housework, but thought if law was not what I wanted, probably I should head into business. Why did this traditional guy encourage me to fly high, to pursue powerful careers? I don’t know, but looking back I am profoundly thankful for his affirmation, confidence, and big dreams. Thanks, Dad, for never limiting me based on my gender.
I’m thankful for my mom, a traditional post-war happy homemaker, who made me wear patent leather shoes and act like a lady on Sundays, but the rest of the week turned a blind eye while I grubbed about with frogs, climbed trees, and created stinks with my junior chemistry set in the basement.
Growing up in poverty, Mom was not able to get a college education. It was her lifelong sorrow. Her frugality enabled me that opportunity and she insisted early and often that for us girls, a degree came first. Keep those boys at bay! After we finished college we could think about marriage if we wanted to. Thanks, Mom, for holding a sky-high view of education for women.
I’m thankful for my husband who has been happy to walk through life as equal partners in this thing called marriage. Who never called it babysitting when he energetically parented our children. Who has worked hard to understand what white male privilege looks like from other vantage points. Who taught his girls how to fix their bike chains and his son how to make perfect Swedish pancakes.
I’m thankful that both my dad and my husband freely shed tears of happiness, gratitude, sorrow, so that neither I nor my children ever grew up with the notion that women are the emotional ones. Thanks, Kurt, for resisting squinchy boxes that weaken both sons and daughters, husbands and wives.
I’m thankful for Elsie, my mom-in-law, who raised her son to be at home in the kitchen! Thankful for my brilliant son who finds it normal to work with and for women scientists as he pursues his doctorate. Thankful for my keenly insightful daughters who keep teaching me about hidden, costly assumptions I and our society make about women and men.
I’m thankful to belong to a church full of strong men who are not threatened by equally strong women. For my soul-sisters, J., A., and L. — together we have lifted one another and challenged one another to flourish despite the sexism we have faced. Thankful for Alvera, my favorite college professor, who blew the doors off the ideas of gender inequality I had absorbed to that point.