March was Women’s History month, which was established and has been celebrated since 1987. I was 15 then, the same age my daughter is today. I don’t remember ever sitting down with my mom and discussing influential women, women’s fight for equal pay, or the struggle for gender equality. As a recently widowed mother of two, she was busy working two jobs.
She never complained about her dramatic lifestyle change, and she wasn’t paralyzed with fear by an endless legal battle that damn near went to the Supreme Court. She was raising two daughters – there wasn’t time to despair.
My grandmother was born the year women were legally allowed to vote. She was not the come-curl-up-in-my lap kind of grandma. She didn’t reminisce or complain about growing up as a first generation American, born in the US to Czechoslovakian immigrants.
She didn’t discuss her long hours working at an arsenal, and longer nights spent with an abusive drunk husband. She never brought up the fact that she was a cancer survivor – a six-time cancer survivor. And she never apologized for taking your money in a wicked game of poker!
I wasn’t even a year old when Roe v. Wade was decided. I was 13 when I watched the Challenger explode. Though I couldn’t tell you the names of the crew who were there doing their job, I will never forget Christa McAuliffe, an everyday teacher who seized the moment to do something extraordinary.
The morning of the women’s march in Chicago, I realized I hadn’t even asked my daughter if she wanted to participate. I jumped into “mom mode” and suggested we still had time to make it…and we could be part of this historical event…and…
She cut me off – “Sorry, Mom, I have a hockey game.”
So that’s where we went.
I watched three teenage girls battle with their 10 (male) teammates against a team of 14 other boys. They didn’t have a sign declaring “We’re Equal”; they just showed up and did their job.
When Hillary was running for President, I took it for granted that there was a woman running for president. Why shouldn’t there be a female president? I didn’t personally understand the controversy. After all, my generation of women didn’t see artists, authors, or scientists need to sign their work under a male name. My generation of women didn’t enter the workforce with only two options: secretary or teacher. We are, quite possibly, the first generation of women to see and believe that our options are limitless.
We’re grateful for women like Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks who sat for equal rights. We’re grateful for scientists like Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan, who were indispensable to NASA, and authors like the Bronte sisters, Amantine Dupin and Louisa May Alcott who penned their work under male pseudonyms for credibility. We’re grateful for the woman who changed the face of music, sports, theatre and business, against all odds.
These are the women who laid the path for our grandmothers and mothers to raise this new generation of strong, independent women. To raise a teenager like Malala Yousafzai, willing to stand up against the Taliban. Most of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ names won’t end up in history books. Yet ultimately they are the influences that have the most direct effect on us.
Change isn’t necessarily made by the loudest voice, the largest gathering, or the greatest number of social media followers. It is made by those who show up, who endure, and who persist.