The fight for women’s rights in the United States may have officially begun in the early 1900s with the Suffragette Movement, but women have longed for better treatment throughout history in most every culture. Consider what you have read about the past, consider reports of the treatment of women in other cultures than your own and I would imagine you can think of examples. Think of stories from the Old Testament up through the New Testament of the Bible.
The story of the potential stoning of the woman caught in adultery by the crowd of men strikes most of us as hypocritical at best. The man she had been with was not being stoned. This behavior was acceptable for men but worthy of a cruel death for the woman? Thankfully, that example was set straight. Sadly, inequities and oppression toward women have continued for millennia since Jesus’ admonition.
I remember an assignment in Anthropology to read an interview with a woman, written about 1970. She had been a wife and mother for decades and had not gone to college. She cooked all of the meals, raised the children, sewed clothing, and knitted sweaters. The interviewer said to her a few times that she had accomplished a great amount in her life. She laughed and denied it. Why, she commented, she hadn’t more than an eighth grade education, and all she’d done was to raise half a dozen kids and kept the house. “Anyone could do that. No, I haven’t done anything great.”
What had our culture done to her or failed to do, that kept her from seeing the monumental and self-sacrificial work which she had indeed accomplished?
We have rightfully applauded women who made great and heroic accomplishments. Harriet Tubman, Mother Teresa, the female mathematicians at NASA in the “Hidden Figures” movie, the inventions of Hedy Lamar, the contributions of Eleanor Roosevelt, Condoleezza Rice, and the women who have recently run for the highest political offices of the United States including our first female Vice President Kamala Harris. Have we applauded the other women, famous or not, mothers or not, who have been the backbone of our country, of our world?
Pope John Paul II described the wonderful gifts of women as the Feminine Genius. Not referring to intellect, it celebrates the unique contributions of each and every woman by virtue of genetics, biology, spirit, strength and more. Edith Stein wrote prolifically about women and their gifts before the second World War. Philosopher Alice von Hildebrand continued the work of her husband and added more in celebration of women.
Despite injustices and oppression it is woman who has kept the human race thriving. This is certainly something to ponder.