This post was previously published at juicytomatoes.com.
I have a photo of Eleanor Roosevelt on my home office wall that my
sister gave me. Eleanor peers down at me through her glasses and inside
the frame I’ve attached the Eleanor quote: “You must do the thing you
think you cannot do.”
I am surrounded by women. I have postcard images of Toni Morrison, Amelia Earhart and Katharine Hepburn being Rosie in The African Queen. I have a Frieda Kahlo light switch. A souvenir ‘Hillary for President’ bumper sticker.
Every March since 1987 Women’s History Month has been officially
celebrated throughout the country, the intent to identify women artists
and writers and astronauts who have contributed to the nation, not to be
outdone by the mighty men who once dominated history. The project was
organized by the National Women’s History Project in Sonoma County, CA,
where I live, and spread across the country.
As a newspaper columnist, now blogger, I’ve been writing about Women’s
History Month and celebrating practically every March since then, but I
realize I also require daily reminders from the different women I look
to for courage, grace, spirit, humor and resolve.
There’s my photo of Rebecca Latimer from Sonoma who was married to a
diplomat and became liberated in her 60s when her husband left
government, they became pacifists and Rebecca started writing books.
I have a birthday card from one of my daughters that shows a woman in
a red dress dancing barefoot. The text, by Anne Lamott, says, “Dance
hungry, dance full, dance each cold astonishing moment.”
There’s a postcard of Mayan women in brilliant dress holding hands
with children and standing up to a police barricade. A cut-out doll of
Simone de Beauvoir. A moody photo of a middle aged woman sitting
comfortably alone in a bar, maybe Chicago, maybe Berlin.
I do adore men and children and dogs and pictures of foggy beaches
and lush French country scenes of tables set with yellow cloths and a
bottle of wine.
But in the small working space where I go to think, write and be alone I need my women speaking to me.
There’s a newspaper photo of Indian women lining up to vote. A
calendar picture of a Victorian woman stretched out on a couch, holding a
book, in a swoon over something she just read. A photo of the Angel of
the Waters, the full-skirted and winged sculpture at Bethesda Fountain
in Central Park. Plus a bulletin board packed with photos of daughters
and girlfriends, my sister, my mother, my book club.
A witch doll with curly red hair hangs from the window next to a
figurine of a peasant woman with her hair in a bun leaning on a broom.
I look over my shoulder at delicious Josephine Baker with her big
eyes and shake-a-tail feather attitude, who fled America to take her
talent to Paris, saying she was too afraid to be Black in this country.
Gloria Feldt, the feminist author who used to run Planned Parenthood,
in the even more embattled years than today, says that we all make
history, whether or not we end up on a poster or a greeting card.
In her book, No Excuses, about women and power, she writes:
“Every action you and I take moves women forward, takes them back or
maintains the status quo.”
Given this point in women’s history, when some would like to halt our
progress, I think it’s important to keep all our women in our sights.
Susan Swartz is a journalist, blogger and public radio commentator in Northern California. She is the author of The Juicy Tomatoes Guide to Ripe Living After 50, and you can read her at juicytomatoes.com.