Today is the 100th anniversary of the first International Women’s Day. The idea for it was proposed by German feminist and socialist Clara Zetkin in 1910 at the second International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen, and it was implemented the following year.
Here’s what the IDW web site says about Zetkin’s aims:
She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result.
I think today should be a day of gratitude for the women who came before us, who struggled, fought and died for the simple idea that women and men should have equal rights.
We should remember their hard work and be inspired to build upon their legacy rather than lapse into comfortable complacency. A complacency that has been fostered by a consumerist culture that tells us that everything is all right as long as we have equal access to a credit card.
So, today I thought it would be a good idea to say thanks to my Mom. I was not raised in a feminist household. To this day I’m somewhat baffled at my inherent feminism, as I’m not quite sure where it came from, but I do remember being aware early that boys and girls were not treated the same – to the point that I favoured the tomboy route and disdained overtly ‘girly’ subjects.
It took me a long time to realise that I was just adhering to the dominant cultural trope that belittles women’s interests.
While my mother was not a feminist when I was growing up, she’s the one who read to me, and inspired my love of reading. She placed great importance on education, but encouraged artistic ambition also. She sacrificed for me and my siblings in ways that were taken for granted – because mothers are expected to do so. Often, what we wanted was more important to her than any secret dreams she nursed.
Like any parent/child relationship we had our battles, but I was lucky to have a strong friendship with my mother throughout my childhood and into my adult years.
In her forties my mother decided to go to university for the first time. Her studies lead her through the history and theories of feminism, and brought her to a new awareness of the subject. I was incredibly proud of her achievement when she graduated. She was not raised to aspire to college. To take that step required bravery and courage – something not understood by those who consider it a matter-of-fact part of the journey to adulthood. There were times she found it difficult, but it also made her buy her first computer and learn a whole different skill set.
She has always told me that she could not have finished college without my unswerving support. Perhaps she doesn’t realise that my support had its genesis in her ambitions for me while I was growing up. I’m the person I am today partly because of her.
Here’s a picture of the two of us up in the mountains of Mallorca just a week ago. A kind German tourist took the photograph.
Thanks Mom, for everything!