Today, on International Women’s Day, I’d like to pay a tribute to the women who came before me; my grandmothers who gave life to my parents. I had not thought about it really until one day when I thought about the context of their lives, and what they had to endure as women living lives that were out of the normal for their time. It makes the stuff I complain about seem like nothing, really. The fortitude, strength and courage they displayed are inspiring. So today, I dedicate this post to them, and to other women like them, who are pioneers and who lead lives of courage in times of adversity.
My grandmothers were very different women, one from the countryside, one from the city, one who had many children, one who had only one. I think they both shared something in common—they both lost the men they loved, they both never experienced love after that (at least not that we know of.) They both had to deal with heartbreak, loneliness and had to make things work, to take care of their children.
I think about Catalina, my paternal grandmother, a woman who became a young widow with nine children to feed, ranging from girls in their teenage years, to toddlers and a month old baby. I think about how hard that must have been for her, at a time when women did not work outside the home… the solitude she must have felt, and despair probably as well, at some point. I’ve heard stories; she bartered and traded chickens and hens that she kept in her backyard, and other livestock that she had left behind when she moved her family to the city. Later, when her older sons were able to, they left home to work in faraway places, so that they could make some money for their family. She was a lot of things, and she was without a doubt judged on many aspects of her life, but I think her most important role was that of mother, and for her children she did everything she could, and raised wonderful men and women who were devoted to her as she was to them.
I think about Piedad, my maternal grandmother, who was a single mom in the 1950s, living with her parents with her daughter… how scandalous it must have been, how people must have spoken of her. I wonder what her parents must have said to her… all I can do is wonder really, because I will never know from her own words. What tremendous courage she must have had to have a child at that time, and in those circumstances; what courage to be a working mom during that time, what courage to live life differently. It must have not been easy, especially in a society where reputations mattered; she was probably branded with a scarlet letter. She was probably called a rebel, a loca, who knows what else. With the help of her parents and despite it all, she managed to raise an outstanding daughter, someone who always worried about fitting into the traditional molds of womanhood and motherhood.
So on one side, a widow left with nine children, on the other side, a single working mom who raised her only daughter with the help of her parents, that is the legacy that I inherited. When I think about these strong women, I think that my “first world problems” are really trivial in comparison to their life stories. I complain about how hard life is with my one child, and all the million and one things I have going on, but in reality, I do have it a lot easier than they did. (After all, they lived in a world with no washing machines, and probably other things we take for granted, like disposable female hygiene products and diapers!) I have a husband who is supportive, and my family who helps me in more ways than I can explain. I am privileged to be doing things that I love, I have choice, I have education… I have the power to make a difference.
I believe that my grandmothers’ experiences have shaped in some way my interest in women’s rights and the condition of women and mothers.Throughout my life, it has always bothered me the type of injustices that women face…even the little things, like the stuff I wasn’t allowed to do because i was a girl. We women can be strong, resilient, and powerful, even if the world doesn’t want us to be. We as women, have capabilities to lift ourselves up, our families up, and our communities up. We are capable of so much more than we think, and this is what we have to pass along to our little girls. That is not enough, however, what we also need to do is teach our young boys the value of women, to respect them, to honor them, to treat them as human beings, as they would want to be treated.
I hope there will be a day when we will no longer need to celebrate Women’s Day, as we should be celebrated, admired and respected all 365 days of the year. As mothers, it is our job to teach our children (both girls and boys!) that all PEOPLE, regardless of gender should be respected…let us start with our little ones today, and lead by example.
Happy International Women’s Day to all the amazing, hardworking, strong, inspiring women around the world.