Foremother Is Not a Word

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Consider the words of a Women’s Freedom Song from South Africa: “Now that you have touched the women you have struck a rock, you have dislodged a boulder, you will be crushed.”

If you ask, you will be told that nothing prevents women from rising as high as men in the workplace. After the Women’s Liberation Movement and Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s, many people feel that discrimination is in the past. However, in real life, there are still barriers for women

Forbes’ list of Most Successful People is still dominated by men. Women make up only 14 percent of corporate boards. And examples are many of instances where women do not receive equal pay for working equally as hard, and just as effectively, as men in similar positions.

But all of that does not touch on the reality that many women are not empowered because they have not discovered ways to empower themselves. We tend to “stay in our place” because that place may seem more comfortable to us. I love the quote “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” So many famous women have quoted those words that no one knows for sure who first said it. That pithy phrase has appeared on T-shirts, placards, mugs, bumper stickers, sometimes with attribution and sometimes without.

But it seems that Laurel Thatcher Ulrich made those words famous when, in 2007, she wrote a book with the title Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History. The women she featured in this 2007 book were pioneers and indeed would not usually be described as “well-behaved.” She included women such as Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

We could name woman after woman who shaped history because of her bravery, her compassionate good works, her inventions, her accomplishments. But what is most important is for each of us, as women, to find ways to empower ourselves to change the worlds we live in today. We must stand up for ourselves and for our own self-determination. We must stand strong for the good of our children. We must be found in Parent Teacher meetings at school, at school board meetings, at board meetings in our cities. We must stand up and be heard, always proclaiming what is right and what is good.

We cannot wait for someone to empower us. We must look to the strength of the foremothers who lived before us and follow their example. My hope for you is that you will find ways to empower yourself to be all that you can be. Then we can change the world.

By the way, every spell checker informs me that “foremother” is not a word. And that’s not acceptable! If it’s not a word, let’s work together as strong women of courage to make it a word.

PS – Thankfully, dictionaries do include the word “foremother.”

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