“Women’s history month is as old as I am? Seriously?” My thoughts exactly when I did some research in honor of women’s history month. This seems completely ridiculous until you look back at our collective history.
Women’s History Month started as just one day - on February 28, 1909, in New York City to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the 15,000 women who marched in the garment workers’ strikes. Which then led to a week-long celebration in 1978. Did the women who participated in this sweatshop strike, many of them immigrants, understand the historic impacts of their actions? Or were they simply looking for justice and a safe working environment so they could support themselves and their families?
Either way, it is a humble reminder that the same struggles faced by women in the early 1900’s - equality, to be safe at work, to be seen as human - have not changed much in the year of 2023. Yet, we have one whole month - instead of only one day - dedicated to the resolve and power of women in our country, culture and world.
My great grandmother, Violet, was 3 years old at the time of the first women’s history week. Violet was one of my first examples of a strong, outspoken woman who prioritized her family while making minimal concessions on how she would live her life. Grandma Vi endured the harsh realities of a husband who loved the bottle a little too much, yet continued to defy the role of a woman at the time by working most of her life rather than staying home with her child.
By the time my brother and I came along, Vi had been living on her own for many years after her husband passed, and continued to drive well into her 80s only to give up the wheel on her own terms. We would visit Grandma Vi in her quaint apartment where she always had a dish of mint chocolates and “bullseyes” (the individually wrapped, soft caramel wheels filled with white sugary cream in the middle). My mother always tried her best to limit our candy intake - but was thwarted by a slap on the wrist from Grandma Vi proclaiming “this is my house…they can have as much as they want!” I know who to blame for my sweet tooth :)
She loved lobster, making (and consuming!) Swedish cookies her mother taught her how to bake and getting her hair permed. I am not sure if she ever participated in a protest or donated to a women's rights group. But, she most definitely set the example for the women of the Wadman, Rudd, and Holloway families - women can make their own rules, laugh as loud as they want, set boundaries, and be respected for their thoughts and ideas.
Grandma Vi left this earthly world in June of 2001, the day after my brother Barry, her first great grandson, graduated from high school. She said she would “make the Lord wait - I have to see Barry in his cap and gown”. Not even the Heavenly Father could keep my Grandma Vi from living her life the way she wanted to.