Can You Keep a Woman’s Secret?

Self-Preservation in a Time of Misogyny: While International Women's Day honors the known as well as the unknown stories of those who have long kept a woman's secret, I believe we honor ourselves when we honor our mothers and grandmothers, ancestors, and women of all races, creeds, and eras. Therefore, I'm not content to confine this activity to one day, or one month: it is a daily practice of awareness. You may recall that the academic study of Women's History began in the 1970s, during a … [Read more...]

The Promise of Mothers and Daughters

...this is how you sweep a corner; this is how you sweep a whole house; this is how you sweep a yard; this is how you smile to someone you don't like too much ...   Jamaica Kinkaid, "Girl" Will you be there?  ...  Can you hear the truth?    Tori Amos, "Promise"   It's been a lovely meditation for me to sit down and write daily tributes for Women's History Month. Now, on the last day, I'm returning to the relationship with the most elemental power­: the Mother-Daughter bond. So … [Read more...]

Malala: Standard-Bearer for Girls’ Rights to Education

This month of honoring women may be coming to a close, but it's been an opening for me in a way I never dreamed. As a writer who is given to privacy, revision, and possibly overworked revision, this blog accomplished what my mother said the shift to watercolors from oil paints did for her. I had to trust my instincts, post it, and let it go. Your responses have been awesome, and I will not crawl back under that rock any time soon. Thank you for reading, liking, and responding. So, yes, I'm … [Read more...]

Virginia Tabor: Artist and Best Friend to Alice, Cape May

Today is day 28 of Women's History Month, and I'm beginning to panic. There are so many women on my heart and mind. I'm starting to think in categories, such as: Best Friends, Sisters, Aunts, Letter Writers, Diarists, Newly Discovered Relatives, Mothers and Daughters, Musicians, Asian Women, Latina Women. I only have three days left! I can't cover all the women or even the categories of neglected women! I choose the painter Virginia Tabor because she is an awesome artist, a surrogate "Mom," … [Read more...]

Three Women Docs Who Rock

Today, on the 27th day of Women's History Month, I'm honoring the countless women who provide care for family members, and three outstanding women doctors who touched my life as I cared for my mother and later, my uncle. According to a study by AARP, there are more than 65 million Americans providing $450 billion worth of unpaid caregiving for family members. In the not-too-distant past, women typically acted as nurses or caregivers, while men became doctors. When I grew up in the 1950s and 60s, … [Read more...]

Natasha Trethewey and the Practice of Poetry

    "I was asleep while you were dying . . . " from "Myth", in Native Guard, Pulitzer Prize 2007 ... about her mother, Gwendolyn Ann Turnbough   " will find the scaffolding of form to bear that weight– for yourself and for your mother." Inscription to me, on Thrall, August 2012, at Bread Loaf   Most daughters want to make our mother's proud, and I imagine Natasha Trethewey is no different. Except, her mother died before Natasha finished … [Read more...]

Terry Tempest Williams and the Legacy of Mother, Earth, Spirit

It's late on the 25th day of Women's History Month, and from amongst the crowd of worthy women and organizations on lists I wrote as I contemplated a month of daily tributes, I'm choosing Terry Tempest Williams. Reading her memoir, Refuge, in 1993, inspired me on so many levels. In luminous prose, she wrote of her mother's slow death from breast cancer, the loss of habitat of the birds of the Great Salt Lake, and the dark legacy of patriarchy and nuclear testing. Almost twenty years later, as … [Read more...]

Finding Our Great-Grandmother’s Stories . . .

For the twenty-fourth tribute of Women's History month, let's honor our great-grandmothers. Not one great-grandmother, but as many as we can divine, collectively, through letters, stories, personal experience, notes taped to odd and wonderful items handed down from generation to generation, and other methods our great-grandmothers found to leave something of themselves.     If you are reading this, you have four great-grandmothers to puzzle over. In my case, I met one, Agnes … [Read more...]

Cape May’s Avenging Angel: Carolyn Pitts

Well before Hurricane Sandy, there was the Great March Storm of 1962, a nor'easter that decimated the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. For the 23rd tribute of Women's History month, I'm smiling in gratitude as I think of Carolyn Pitts, an architectural historian who saved Cape May, New Jersey from the folly of urban renewal. Raised in Mount Airy, she graduated from Germantown High School, earned a bachelor's degree from Moore College of Art, and an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1962, as … [Read more...]

Virginia Woolf and My First Wave

  I can't say for certain when I discovered Virginia Stephen Woolf (1882-1941). Sometime during my teens I read her essay, The Waves, and felt relief as the stream of my own consciousness was echoed on the pages I was reading. I am not a Virginia Woolf scholar, and I don't own any fancy versions or first editions, but the well-worn paperbacks on my bookshelf never fail to bring me pleasure and renew that original sense of relief, validation, excitement, and energy that comes from … [Read more...]