While March is designated as Women’s History Month, today is officially International Women’s Day. I first learned of International Women’s Day by reading Maria Shriver’s The Sunday Paper. I’ve always loved the quote which she started off the day on Sunday: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
I’ve never been one to take my privileges and opportunities for granted. My father was really a part of the Women’s Movement years ago and probably never realized it – or intended it, either, for that matter. He was just doing his best to try to raise strong women who could take care of themselves – and he and my mother certainly did.
I will always hear my Daddy telling me that I could do anything those boys could do when it came to farm work. He encouraged me to work hard and participate in agricultural endeavors in 4-H when that was not really the norm. Oh, I did do a bit of sewing and canning for the state fair but our greatest efforts and best showing as young girls was in the livestock arena. We trained our heifers to lead and joined the guys out there in the show ring parading our best and competing for top honors. At that time there were very few girls involved in that aspect of 4-H which was mostly dominated by guys. I think I was the first girl on a dairy judging team in our county as well.
Now, Daddy didn’t want me to forget I was feminine or to forget that there were times when lady-like behavior was most acceptable, but he told us that the true mark of a lady was if she could stand hip-deep in mud and manure and thirty minutes later look and smell like a rose…and that we were forced to do quite often.
Later, when my life was at a crossroad, Daddy again was my strongest encourager. I listened to him lift me up time and time again telling me, “You can do this,” when I was working full-time, going to school at night full-time, and trying to keep up with a couple of teenagers as a newly-single-mother. So, I guess without even knowing it, Daddy was a lot like Harry T. Burn. Only, instead of listening to his mother, he was encouraging his daughter.
Now, let me make it perfectly clear, I have never struggled the way many women have. I’ve never lived in poverty. I may have been like the one out of three women Shriver focused upon with her 2014 Report – on the brink. I remember not knowing if I was going to have enough gas to get to work on Friday when I didn’t get paid till Monday and that sort of thing but I could have asked for help and any number of people would have been glad to lend a hand. In those times, I truly was on the brink like some of the women spotlighted in the video She’s The One – if something had broken or I’d been in a car wreck, I would have been in a mess. I was fortunate and feel like I was being looked after by a divine being, though.
Daddy also always impressed upon me the importance of voting. He reminded me that our country is strong because of the power of the vote and I should not take that privilege for granted. He told me that if I wasn’t going to be able to go to the polls on election day that there is always the opportunity to vote early. He reminded me that lots of people had given their lives to provide me we the chance to vote and not to take that lightly.
On this International Women’s Day, I also would like to remind folks – especially women, not to take our situation lightly. Here in The United States, women are fortunate. We enjoy many opportunities. While, we still live in a man’s world for the most part due to the fact that there are far more men who out-earn us and out-power us in the corporate and political world, we are fortunate here. So, let’s not forget folks like Elizabeth Avery Meriwether, Lide E. Meriwether, and Anne Dallas Dudley. Check out the Tennessee Virtual Archive for more information about these women. There are also more materials online and a museum in Seneca Falls, New York which celebrates Women’s Rights that is owned and operated as a part of the National Park Service. Visit the Tennessee Woman’s Suffrage Monument at Centennial Park in Nashville to learn more, as well.
I may like the opening quote because I think it gives me permission to misbehave at times. I do strongly believe that it is those people – both men and women – who don’t do the ordinary that we remember and respect. So, on International Women’s Day, why not honor a strong woman you admire and respect? I am! I’m fortunate enough to work with them daily! Today my work is dedicated to you Andi Davis, Jessica Johnson, Katy Whatley, Sara Smith, Stacy White, Tara Wilhelm, and Missy Polosky!