Friday, August 29, 2014

Foremothers

"A witch who is bored might do ANYTHING.

People said things like 'we had to make our own amusements in those days' as if this signified some kind of moral worth, and perhaps it did, but the last thing you wanted a witch to do was get bored and start making her own amusements, because witches sometimes had famously erratic ideas about what was amusing.” 
― Terry PratchettLegends 1

Boredom coupled with a general lack of energy is a terrible combination for me, because, like the quote above alludes to, I find ANYTHING amusing when the two strike together.  Yesterday's ANYTHING was "The Witches of East End".  Normally. I'm not much of television or film watcher. I don't have the right attention span for TV (I can finish an entire novel in the time it takes to watch an action movie), so I multitask while "watching".   Wednesday, I recovered a decorative box with contact paper.  Thursday, I actually watched a show, or maybe three- it all blended together.

Cheesy plot aside, there was a line that really stood out in the pilot episode:" Do you know how many times I gave birth before the epidural was invented?"  It really got me thinking about how the women who lived before us lived, and as always, when I think about them, I can't help but admire their ingenuity, strength, and patience.

These women didn't have a selection of carefully formulated sprays to stain treat their laundry. They didn't have dishwashers (unless you count children and servants, but that is a totally different topic). They relied on herbs and tonics and common sense to nurse their families through illnesses (that were far more deadly to them than to us)that we whine and complain about, yet ultimately have the option of popping a pill to alleviate the symptoms.  A bath was rare luxury for many women, due to the fact that heating your bath water on the stove and filling the tub is both time consuming and exhausting (I know this from experience- my aunt and uncle didn't have indoor plumbing when I was a kids, so pumping, heating and hauling was how you got clean).  They didn't have pain killers for labor and delivery (I chose not to exercise my option for them, but they were still available to me), and the average woman probably spent a large amount of her time cooking (no food processors), cleaning (no vacuum), and mending (the sewing machine caught on very quickly after it's invention). They also, in many societies, had little or no say in politics, legal issues, or their communities (while I'm on the topic- has ERA been ratified in your state?).

The women of the past would probably say we've got it made.  This shouldn't distract us from the work of securing legal and political equality, not just for the genders, but for everyone. at the same time, it's very healthy to stop look around, and see how far we have come; it helps us gauge our distance and plot our course.  We can also learn from our foremothers, they were pretty amazing at getting things done and keeping households running with a lot less help than we have.  They were also pretty good at conserving (the kids and I have been trying out basin bathing to conserve water since California's drought is looking pretty grim), stretching resources (some of our best loved recipes stemmed from finding ways to stretch our food resources), and making do with what they had (eating seasonally and locally wasn't a choice then).  Today, I bless our foremothers, who have been the transmitters of cultures, domestic engineers, healers, environmental scientists, and caregivers to all of humanity while at the same time having been mostly written out of history.  May we appreciate their spirits, their troubles, and their contributions to our world and may we continue their work with gratitude, joy, and remind the world that women matter.




2 comments:

  1. That line stood out to me, too! I actually think about our foremothers often. LIke every time I use my washing machine. I think it's only fair to remember how privileged I am as a woman, in this time and place.

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  2. The washing machine is an excellent invention (having done laundry on a wash board, I can tell you it's not fun). I like to remind myself that I've inherited a lot of privilege, and an even bigger responsibility to make sure future generations have the same opportunities. Have a great weekend, Anne!.

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