International Women's Day

I think that the women who deserve recognition on this International Women's day are not those who became famous, but the women like my mother who raise families, go to work,  fight for what they believe in and never demand or even expect recognition.

My mother was only eight when her sister, who was a nurse,  died in the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918. Her mother, for whom I was named, died when Mom was a teenager. She grew up on a farm in Oregon with four older brothers. Money was scarce, but enough was found for all of her brothers to go to college. When it was my mother's turn, because she was a girl, she was sent to secretarial school. 

Despite her conservative rural upbringing, my mother was a  liberated woman and although she would have liked to go to college, she used her secretarial skills to move to Los Angeles, get a job, marry my father and get on with her life. 

Mom supported and encouraged my brother and me to go to college, and although she didn't really talk much about how much she would have liked to do the same, she was always working for a cause. Often the cause was education. She worked tirelessly for equal education for all. Sometimes the cause was our family and she would go back to work again. 

I wasn't until my brother and I were both married with our own families and my father had retired, that my mother finally did what she had always wanted to do. She enrolled at the University of California at Los Angeles when she was 65 years old and graduated  four years later.

My mother grew up in a different time...there were no demonstrations. There were no feminists. There were no support groups. I don't believe she ever felt that she had been cheated out of her rights or even had a clear sense of what her rights were. She a confident woman and not unhappy with her life, but she also knew what she wanted. She may have had to watch all of her brothers and both of her children go through college first, but she never gave up on the idea of one day going to college herself, and when the opportunity finally arose, she took it. 

It was always interesting to me that Mom chose not to attend her own graduation. Instead she and my father were visiting us while we were living in Edinburgh. It wasn't until months later that she got around to going over to UCLA to pick up her diploma and saw the words magna cum laude discretely printed at the bottom.


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