INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY -2017

Seems strange that such a day of recognition could raise controversy among the very women it is meant to recognize.  Women are stating that the Women’s Marches and “Day Without Women” speeches and strikes don’t represent them… There have been debates about even the fact we celebrate women on this day.   Funny….we all have one thing in common – we are all women.  While that makes us the same, there is much that we don’t have in common and that’s what makes being a woman so special.

There are those woman who want nothing more than to be mom’s, stay home and raise children.  There are those women who love their children unquestionably but decide they need to work outside the home – some by necessity and some because they simply enjoy the challenge…but both are offering the world – and more importantly their children the opportunity of learning that strength is not only about muscles, that love can be spread not constrictive and that there are choices to be made.  I am a mom who has ‘had’ to work due to finances for many years but later continued as I loved the job I did…so I understand it from both sides as well.

 I was never a scholar in school – yet I admire the women who have excelled and become engineers, pilots, CEO’s.  If they can made my world a safer, better place now and in the future so be it.  I admire the women who chose to take on ‘blue collar jobs’- mechanics, big equipment operators  – they are building our world and making sure it continues to be a place for all of us to live in and learn.   I envy women who have taken the step totally outside their comfort zone, become entrepreneurs or just said ‘screw it’ and are doing something totally different such as musicians, artists. Or news reporters -especially those on the front lines of wars around the world, keeping us up to date with all that is happening.  And of course this brings to those brave women who are serving their Country at home and around the world.

There are women who are doctors and nurses fighting to find cures for horrible diseases like cancer – and sadly many women who are fighting the biggest fight of their lives in battling this horrible disease.  There are women who are police officers who have chosen to ensure we stay safe in our communities and there are women who need those officers to support them in leaving abusive relationships and ensuring their attackers are met with the letter of the law.  I’ve been in an abusive marriage many years ago and it takes much more than ‘want’ to leave – especially when children are involved.  It takes courage and guts…and it it never easy.  No fight is.

For many years I believed I was the ‘black sheep’ in my family – as a teen I was outspoken about worldly matters – the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War (sadly influenced mostly by American television – not that the issues weren’t the right ones just sadly I didn’t know all that was happening in my own Country regarding Residential Schools and our Native population); was a staunch supporter of what was good for people and believed even then that kindness was often far more important than power and had more influence in most cases.  I was an unwed mom (hate that term) in 1973 when it was not a socially acceptable role – I suffered horrible work place bullying by supervisors and disappointment from my own family; I worked until the day before I had my son  – and because the then EI payments were very male biased was only eligible for about two weeks of cheques before I had to go back to work when he was six weeks old.  I learned at that time that if you spoke out and had facts to back up your issues changes can be made – and they were, using my case as one of the examples which has lead to the luxury many mom’s now have of having a year off and guarantee of their job being available when they returned from maternity leave.  I moved away from family – 3000 miles away – and have stayed living far away for some 40 years – since then I had another child and adopted one, I left an abusive marriage and married a wonderful man who supports me daily,  I ran for political office at a time that being a women candidate was very unusual, went back to school to become a social worker,  have advocated and supported many individuals and families as a volunteer and in my professional life as a Child Protection Worker And hopefully during that time I have made a difference in some people’s lives.  But perhaps I’m not the first ‘black sheep’ – in fact perhaps I’m not so out of place afterall.

 None of this would have been possible without my women ancestors who spoke out, acted out, took chances, made changes and worked hard so that I had these opportunities.  My 7th great grandmother Jayne Lyons was only 16 when she came to America in a ship which was apparently captained by an unscrupulous man who planned to sell his passengers to plantation owners in South Carolina.  Somehow the issue was settled and my ggrandmother walked – at that young age – from South Carolina to Philadelphia with a small party to begin a new community and life in that community. She and my 7th ggrandfather Richard Lundy are the ‘parents’ to folks in every State and Province – they must be extremely proud to look down and see what they started.  Many of my ancestors were Quakers who had strong beliefs which included a very non-violent lifestyle.  They served others with kindness and sharing and eventually traveled by foot and wagons with many children in tow, in the late 1700’s to Canada because the believed strongly in their values and were seeking a better life for their children.  Others took up arms in American then and later to follow their beliefs, leaving their women behind to care for their families  After arriving in Canada many took up arms as well – fighting against wrongs and for their Country believing that they needed to stand up and ensure their families and country were safe.   My great grandmother Josephine Wright saw many of her siblings and her father die within days of each days as a child from a dreaded diphtheria outbreak and many years later saw her own daughter die from this same illness.  She stayed behind in Newmarket, Ontario with 7 children while her husband Daniel Smith Wright traveled to Carberry Manitoba to homestead – then traveled there with her children, her mother and the family dog on the newly completed train rails to meet him.  After the death of her daughter and her husband she returned to Newmarket with her children and worked as a seamstress to support them and each became successful in their own right.  My grandma – who I loved so much and wish I had the opportunity of tell her so much now – also had a hard life  and yet persevered.  I suspect she may have been an unmarried mom to be when she married her first cousin in 1916 – as yet I am unsure if he is actually my grandfather but I always remember her telling me that mental abuse was often worse than physical – even though there were no bruises to show for it.  She was left alone almost as a soon as my dad was born and raised him on her own, often not able to pay bills and moving to escape eviction while working at minimally paying jobs to ensure her son had his needs met.  In fact she worked until well into her 60’s and happily remarried again late in her life.  

My mom was also an incredibly strong woman who lost her own mom at a very young age and yet believed in herself enough to stand up to her father and join the St John Ambulance and served in the London England hospitals to save the brave soldiers fighting in WWII.  She returned to Canada and after marrying my dad moved to suburbs – with the endless fields of mud and little services.  She never drove and would walk everywhere to ensure we got to school, had food on the table and kept house for my dad; she cared for him for almost a year when he was in an explosion and not working yet I don’t remember doing without  and then lived on her own for many years after he died.

My sister Pat has fought and won the fight against Cancer; my sister-in-law Ros was a teen mom who has raised three wonderful children and returned to school to become a social worker, my daughter Caolaidhe is an entrepreneur who has her own small on line company and continues to succeed in a field of work ‘outside the norm”.  But in addition I have raised two sons Trevor and Doug who are compassionate men who show respect for the women in their lives as well as others around them. My nieces Breanne and Rebecca have become successful business women; one of whom has also raised two great kids as well.  We are all very different – each with characteristics which have allowed us to be who we are.  But we have in common that we are women who have worked and struggled and still managed to succeed in this sometime difficult world.  And there is still much each of us will do.

I am not clear why women have to fight among themselves in attempting to discredit other women who have made different choices….would any of us be here if women before us had not done so.  Regardless of where your family came from our women ancestors were all the above and then some.

On this International Women’s Day, lets celebrate our differences, rejoice in the fact that each one of us plays a different role in this world regardless of the various titles we wear…..and yet we are all the same -Women who proudly are the mosaics of our past, our family and friends and of a world that we are making a difference in.

Till next time…….