I initially became a feminist because of books. I was taking some continuing education classes in nursing. One book I had to read discussed the “The Burning Times.” These were in the good old days when women were midwives. Men felt that taking care of sick people was beneath them. Midwives got paid in a pie, some vegetables, some homemade bread. They were also more than expert in herbs and healing plants. Because of the nature of such a woman, she often enjoyed gentle relationships with the animals around her cabin or home.
There were a few men who exhibited the same gifts. Today we would call them feminist men. I am sure everyone knows some. The Church, in those days found it hard to handle midwives and healing women.
We are looking at the time in history of the Spanish Inquisition. Protestants had to confess after torture, Jews fled to present-day Europe and the Ottoman empire. Special priests were sent out to root out and to kill the blasphemers who said they could heal. As time went on, village after village suffered through “witch trials.” Many good and caring women went to their deaths because they were deemed witches. Children had no protection from these accusations. They often would be tortured and would speak the name of someone they knew. They would call someone a witch, just to get the pain to end.
It is said that over 2 million women were murdered for being witches. This was also a holocaust. At this time, midwives went underground and men began to look to medicine as a way to make a living. So men suddenly had good reason to ensure that no healing women or witches were in their communities. Much information about the healing effects of herbs was lost for a very long time.
I was interested in what I was reading and took more books out of the library. I couldn’t stop reading and thinking about these women. There is an article you might be interested in reading called “Witches, Midwives and Nurses”, by B. Ehrenreich and D English.. It can be found at .www.blancmange.net/tmh/articles/witches.html.
To this day women’s medical practice has thrived in the midst of rebellious lower class movements. These witch hunts for the midwives did not stop these healing and caring women,, but the midwives where often branded as superstitious and possibly malevolent.
I read all this, and another feminist was born. I got involved with other concerned women in my community and we tried to assess women’s needs in our community. What we discovered was that women were being abused in their homes. So we started a shelter for abused women. We had no money, but we got a rundown old house in a bad neighborhood and the Jewish, Protestant and Catholic women worked long and hard to save these battered women and their children. Some of the Catholic women were nuns and I remember that we all “planted” a penny in the tree lawn of that house and the nuns prayed for the women and children who would be saved. Today that shelter, started in the 1970’s has a budget of nearly a million dollars a year. I am still a feminist because they need every penny of that budget to continue to protect the women and kids.
As our society becomes more violent, with mass shootings and other community violence, Domestic Violence is not shrinking. Nearly forty years after domestic violence shelters and programs were established in this country, we are still taking pictures of injuries, advocating for abused women in court and hiding them until they and their children can get safely away from the abuser. Oh, I must not forget to tell you that more women are killed trying to get out than at any other time in the battering relationship.
This is the number one reason I am still a feminist, however it isn’t the only reason. I am concerned that women are not legally equal, and do not get paid the same as a man for the same work. And so, I fight on.
Together we can gain our legal equality. Together we can take care of each other. Together we can become equal partners. Together we might just add some peace to the world.