Choices For Women


Equality. This is what all of life should be...equal

Equality. This is what all of life should be…equal

We live in in a patriarchal culture. What this means is that white men rule in a world where they feel they are the most important part. I would like to tell you today about some feminist women.

The first was a feminist woman named Adrienne Rich, lawyer, mother, feminist, author and an example of the fullness of life that women can have when they are liberated, free to make choices for themselves. She was a white, educated woman who lived in the late fifties and who had to plead and argue for sterilization after choosing to bear three children. This is something I also experienced in 1972, having to plead to be allowed to be sterilized. Being able to plan your life includes when to have children if you want children.

Another feminist, Margaret Sanger, wrote Motherhood in Bondage in 1928. She wrote about a women seeking birth-control advice so she could carry out her marital duties with her husband without becoming pregnant again and again. She wrote diaries in which she expressed how hard it was to be sensual and be able to give her children what they needed and not get pregnant again.

Mothers and daughters were bonded by strategy. Trying to ensure that they would not continue to have children made many women feel shame for what they wanted and were trying to accomplish. They feared losing love, home and desirability as a woman. Many women felt that their only value was for sex and procreation, which is what the patriarchal society they lived in taught.  

When Adrienne Rich realized she did not wish to have more children, she wrote to Margaret Sanger to find a way to find some modest control over the use of her body. For generations, women have asserted their courage on behalf of their own children and their husbands. Women take care of their children, then their husbands.  Then they help strangers, and finally they take care of their own needs.  That has been the role of women for millennia.

The “sacred calling”  of motherhood has had, of course, an altogether pragmatic reality. In the American  colonies an ordinary family consisted of from twelve to twenty five children. An unmarried woman was treated with reproach even if she was as young as twenty five. A woman of this “advanced age” had no way of surviving economically, and was usually compelled to board with her kin and help with the household of children. No other “calling” was open to her.

An English working woman who was a child in the 1850’s wrote that “I was my mother’s seventh child, and seven more were born after me – fourteen in all – which made my mother a perfect slave. Generally speaking the mother was either expecting a baby to be born or had one at the breast. There was a time when there were eight of us old enough to go to school, but we couldn’t get ready without help.”

Both the white pioneer mother and the black family slave worked daily as a full productive part of the economy. Black women often worked the fields with their children strapped to  their backs. Historically, women have borne and raised children while doing their share of necessary productive labor. It was just expected from them.

The mother bears the weight of Eve’s transgression ( Eve, as the first offender, the polluted one, the polluter ) yet precisely because of this, the mother is expected to carry the burden of male salvation. Women were frequently reminded of what horrible things could happen to her if she wasn’t a good mother.

This is the 21st century, and women’s choices are expanding beyond just motherhood.  Motherhood is a wonderful calling, but there can be more to a woman’s life if she so chooses.

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The woman and the inner woman

The woman and the inner woman

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Women with Stories to Tell


Let's choose to be happy

Let’s choose to be happy

Angela Weld Grimke lived from 1880-1958. She was the daughter of a white abolitionist mother and a black father who was the vice-president of the NAACP. Grimke studied at Harvard. A book of her poems wasn’t published until 1991.

Fragment

I am the woman with the black black skin
I am the laughing woman with the black black face
I am living in the cellars and in every crowded place
I am toiling just to eat
In the cold and in the heat
And I laugh
I am the laughing woman who’s forgotten how to weep
I am the laughing woman who’s afraid to go to sleep. –1930

Adrienne Rich was born in 1929 She was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated from Radcliffe College. Her poetry underwent a change as she outgrew her interest in traditional poetric scture. She became increasingly interested in feminism and a peotry of community.

1948 : Jews

a mother”s letter torn open
In a college mailroom:
…Some of them will be
the most brilliant, fascinating
you’ll ever meet
but don’t get taken up by any clique
trying to claim you.

–Marry out, like your father
she didn’t write She wrote for wrote
against him

It was a burden for anyone
to be fascinating, brilliant
after the six million
Never mind just coming home
and trying to get some sleep
like and ordinary person —1990

Myrtle Beach, SC Photograph taken and copyrighted 2003

Myrtle Beach, SC Photograph taken and copyrighted 2003

Seven Sisters Mountain twilight, Black Mountain. Photograph copyrighted by Barbara Mattio

Seven Sisters Mountain twilight, Black Mountain.
Photograph copyrighted by Barbara Mattio

One of my Sheroes…Adrienne Rich


Adriene Rich

Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich is a prolific writer. She has written prose, poems, and feminist thoughts. One of my favorites is Twenty-one love poems. One of her feminist pieces is Of Woman Born. It was originally printed in 1977 but remains relative to the lives of women now,  in 2013. When she began to write on this subject she had become aware of the new politicization of women. We were in the middle in of the second Feminist Movement. One subject not addressed was women as mothers.

The devaluation of women spurred her on to write and examine women’s lives; even mothers. The Women’s Movement has had detractors but we really did want to work to raise the value of women; whether she was an at-home mom or she was in the work force. As the movement began, many women stayed home and when given the opportunity to go out into the work world, chose it instead. Some women did both. The media put much pressure on women to be “super women.” This was not the intention of the movement. We simply wanted women to have a  choice and the right to make the choices that were the best for her. Therefore, this book is an exercise in examining motherhood for all women and also for Adrienne. Maternity deserved to be examined. It is an American institution.

There were attempts to show the patriarchy the value of women in the work place and well as in the home. Equal pay for equal work came into the light and also the value of the work women did in the home was also spotlighted. Every woman has a job description and a monetary value was given to each job task she performed. When all was said and done, most at home wives and mothers couldn’t be afforded by their husbands except for the very well-to-do.

Rich brought into the light the fact that women are as intrinsically human as any man.  The ability to control her reproductive health is vital for women to be equal. This is why it goads so many non-feminist citizens. Most work on this planet is done by women. In all countries, women have the children, feed them, raise and clothe them. They work in factories and sweatshops, clean the house and make coffee in the office. Procreative choice is as important as a legally limited work day.

All human life on the planet is born of women. Being born is the one unifying, incontrovertible experience that men and women share. Young human beings spend more years needing the nurturing of a mother  than other mammals.  Some sociologists believe that part of the discrimination against women is the discomfort many men feel knowing they were dependent on a woman for nine months. Rich raised three sons and was married. So I recommend that you look into Rich’s work and see what you think about what the Feminist author has to say.

Sketch of Adrienne Rich

Sketch of Adrienne Rich

Headlines

New Worlds

New Worlds

The Passing of an Icon


My heart is heavy as I heard of the passing of one of the great feminist leaders of our time. Adrienne Rich was a feminist and a poet. She authored the book ” Of Woman Born ” and many books of poetry.

Adrienne was born in 1929. In the 1960’s her poetry took a turn from the more traditional style to a radical feminist format. She wrote about how poetry can break isolation,she  reminded us of creating beauty where there is no beauty and  reminded us of our Sisterhood.

From a Survivor

The pact that we made was the ordinary pact
of men and women in those days
I don’t know who we thought we were
that our personalities
could resist the failures of the race
Lucky or unlucky, we didn’t know the race had failures of that order
and that we were going to share them
Like everybody else, we thought of ourselves as special
Your body is as vivid to me as it ever was;
even more since my feeling for it is clearer;
I know what it could do and could not do
it is no longer the body of a god or anything
with power over my life
Next year it would have been 20 years
and you are wastefully dead
who might have make the leap we talked,
too late, of making which I live now not as a leap
but a succession of brief, amazing
movements each one making possible the next.”

—–Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich described her poetry as political and as personal. One of her poems, “Power ” speaks of how women find it very difficult to grab onto and to raise up their talents and successes and dreams. In “Power.” she speaks of Marie Curie, the scientist.

“She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
denying
her wounds came from the same source
as her power.”
This is from one of her books of poetry called, “The Dream of a Common Language; Poems 1974-1977.

So I say goodbye to a heroine and icon and I will end with this excerpt from her poem “Translations.”

You show me the poems of some woman
my age, or younger
translated from your language

Certain words occur; enemy, oven, sorrow
enough to let me know
she’s a woman of my time.”

Thank you for your contributions to the cause of women’s rights and RIP.