There’s a popular adage which comes from the refrain of a 19th century poem that goes like this: “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”
Sometimes I wish the poet, William Ross Wallace, whose words were intended to praise motherhood as the preeminent force for change in the world, had found a greater number of followers who agreed with his premise as I do.
As we mark the first days of March, the month during which we annually recognize the achievements, legacies and sacrifices of women, I can’t help but wonder how much better both our country and the world would be if women were truly treated and respected as equals to men.
I wonder what changes we would witness if we revised — even overhauled — the countless, overtly oppressive patriarchal societies whose undergirding norms and beliefs have long dominated most of the world’s countries, including the U.S., and who have routinely and unflinchingly relegated women and girls to second-class citizenry and status, and made the playing field level without consideration of gender.
As the most recent presidential election cycle unfolded and while working on news articles about the various candidates, it soon became commonplace, at first much to my surprise, to hear voters, male and female, state that while they could stomach some of Hilary Clinton’s policies even though they disagreed, while they could accept the fact that she represented the old guard and the status quo while they’d prefer someone outside of “the circle,” it was her gender that bothered them most and dissuaded them from voting for her.
History shows us the impressive number of women of all races, religions and creeds, who have excelled despite barriers placed before them by men. Some of those women, from Cleopatra, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, to Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Obama and Dorothy Height, sometimes used those obstacles to their advantage.
Who are my sheroes? My beloved mother, only a few days shy of her 89th birthday and who remains my best friend. My mom’s mother and thus my grandmother who survived the streets of Baltimore after being abandoned at 12 and with only a sixth-grade education, turning obstacles into opportunities and eventually teaching her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, that by putting God first and securing a good education, the sky was the limit — all dreams had a chance to come true.
Some of the women who have found their place in the history books are also on my list. But when all is said and done, I realize that it’s the women who knew me by name — who helped me, encouraged me, chastised me, unconditionally shared their love with me and who helped me get up and shake away the dust whenever I would stumble or fall, who are my real sheroes.
Teachers, preachers, aunts, cousins, my big sister, classmates, political leaders, doctors, lawyers, stay-at-home mothers — women any of whom could have ruled the world. Imagine.