Today is International Women’s Day 2018, and I felt compelled to write something. Anything. However, nothing inspired me because, since Parkland happened, my brain has been cycling in this school safety- gun violence- rut. I couldn’t think of a specific person or angle or clever hook that would suck in my audience with a positive focus. Mother Nature is pounding the hell out of the Northeast again with inches of snow and windy skies. Mother Nature continues to remind us that spring is a lifetime away, and she is in charge. Mother Nature is clearly a powerful bad ass representing International Women everywhere but doesn’t count as she is not actually a person.
I explained to my fellow English teacher, Jen, and one of her students (both were seeking solitude and peace for personal reading during lunch time) that they needed to inspire me with an idea. A quick cell phone Google search led Connor to suggest, “What about women and textile factories?”
Really, Connor? Women and textile factories? I questioned how anyone would be inspired to read something so depressing for INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2018. He returned to Google on my behalf, when he really just wanted to read his book.
I thought about Barbara Washburn (whom my Girls of Summer co-pilot Rebecca and I have been affectionately referring to as our friend Babs) who was the first woman to summit Mt. McKinley in Alaska. She wrote this great book called The Accidental Adventurer, about becoming an avid hiker and explorer because her husband, Brad Washburn was an avid hiker and explorer. She accompanied him on countless trips around the world, while also raising three children and working in and around the White Mountains creating maps. She wore button up shirts and cool 1950 style sunglasses; she was always sunburned and windblown and still the most glamorous looking writing hiker mom I’ve ever seen.
Don’t misunderstand me; there are amazing women living presently– and not just in our history books– they are living LIVE and in color in person and on screen giving speeches in Washington DC, at the Oscars, or in local Rotary contests; they are trailblazing other kinds of paths in the military, or as executives in business, the sciences, etc. They are the elementary school teacher magicians, mothers, and mental health professionals of our modern world. Women can be anything and are everything.
They are the women in my Monday night TOPS class (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly); they are the women waiting tables, teaching pilates, shoveling snow, building flower arrangements, coaching skiing, handling insurance, tending bar and children when they get home. They rock babies or take care of our sick folks or protect our community. They say #metoo, “#enough, and “heyyoumakemorethanmeforthesamejob.”
But then a beautiful thing happened this week. Celebrating literacy and Read Across America, our big kids partnered with the younger students in our school community as we do each year as reading buddies. They sat next to each other or at little chairs or in bean bags, heads bent together, sometimes giggling at silly Dr. Seuss words or farts or just because. I found myself reminding my ninth and tenth graders to quiet their bodies and speak softly because they were role modeling. Guess what– the kids who needed reminders for quiet bodies in first grade are not all that different in 9th or 10th. But they get it. They understood that there were little people who maybe didn’t have breakfast or dinner last night; they might only have one parent due to divorce, or drug addiction, or even death; they might act out because they don’t feel enough love at home; they also might really like being read to by a big friend because there is safety sitting down in little chairs in a 2nd grade classroom. All of this was floating through my brain when I passed the elementary library and the above poster quoting Mother Teresa, a working mother model to the children of the world.
I don’t know any women who worked in turn of the century textile factories; nor did I know Babs Washburn except from the pages of her book; clearly, I wasn’t in book club, TOPS, or high school with Mother Teresa; however, the lessons these women understood and shared through their words are meant to be revisited. We still have much to learn– even from Mother Nature, whose snowstorm rages on outside as if to say, “Listen up, world, today is the International Women’s Day, and there is work to be done.”