This is a blog about Kids with Chronic Illness and the parents who care for them. Today, though I’m going to talk about the mothers,both in history, and my understanding of being a mom.
For those of you who don’t know, I teach at a small college, Mount Ida, in Newton, MA. I teach history. I think I’m the luckiest person alive to get the opportunity to interact with students on a daily basis and help them to become better readers, critical thinkers, and better citizens. I teach a whole range of classes, different topics, different genres, pretty much anything they ask me to teach I will do it, because it gives me an opportunity to look at a topic in a whole new way, and help guide my students through the tricky parts of history.
The other day, in my American History 102 class, from Reconstruction to the present, we were talking about how Jim Crow Laws created the Great Migration. Jim Crow laws were laws designed to oppress former slaves and their descendants in the south after the Civil War. They included separate schools, separate doors, and restricting the use of public facilities like bathrooms, pools and water fountains. These were the laws that the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 sought to abolish, and what Brown v. Board of Education reversed. It took a hundred years from the end of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s.
How did families react to the Jim Crow Laws? Well, if they had the means, if they had the ambition, if they had the guts, they left. They moved to northern cities, got factory jobs, and set up a whole new life in a northern city. Thousands of black families travelled from the rural south to the Urban centers of the North in the early 1900s. They used their feet to voice their unhappiness, to make a better life for themselves and their families.
Women played a central role in this movement, because they wanted a better life for their kids. When you stop to think about it, when mothers get involved, it’s almost uniformly because they are thinking of their children. This is true for the Great Migration, where mothers travelled with their kids, or sent their kids on ahead to uncles, aunts, or grandparents, and then followed behind.
It’s also true for the bread riots across the centuries. When mothers see their kids hungry or in pain, they go to war. Literally. That maternal instinct kicks in and they are fierce. They fight for their kids. Here is an article about the Richmond Bread Riots from the Civil War, but it’s not an isolated case. You can google mothers and bread riots, and you can find any number of examples.
You will also hear tales of heroism about mothers who go to extra lengths when their child is sick, it is a hallmark of many moms. Moms will learn everything they can, they will be tenacious in their pressure on medical providers, or insurance companies. I have been inspired by many women in the work that I do as a volunteer at the hospital or in talking with other moms of kids with chronic illness. We became mothers not knowing what it is all going to entail, and it’s a lot more than we ever thought, but those are our kids and we are going to fight for them.
I recently went to the Women’s March on Washington, not to protest the presidency of Donald Trump, but because I was worried for my daughters and their future. I was worried that access for their healthcare would be limited (especially my daughter with chronic illness,) that they would have fewer choices for their reproductive rights, that they would face opposition if they chose to be journalists or would have their free speech curtailed, that the planet upon which they live would be more polluted.
I do not have a statistic, but I would say that many women at the March on Washington were mothers. Many of them brought their children. Why would so many women take the time, make the trip, knit the hats, write the signs, and march?
The answer is because they felt threatened, both for themselves and their children. And they were there to show the world that they weren’t going to go backward in time. Even before the March, I was asked why I was going, how I felt about the iconic Pussy Hats that were created, and my answer was that I was going for my daughters, and I wanted to be a part of history.
Speaking of history…..
Many people wonder what effect this will have, and I want to leave you with one more history story. One hundred years ago, after the election of Woodrow Wilson, on the day before his inauguration, Women Marched on Washington. The Suffragettes took to the streets with banners and signs.
This was 1913. It took seven more years for women to earn the right to vote in 1920. When women were “roughed up” by men along the parade route, and they asked police officers why they didn’t help, the police informed them that “If they had stayed home, this wouldn’t have been a problem.”
My point is, we don’t know yet what an effect this will have on policy, but we do know that with that many women, that we are there for our daughters, and for generations to come, that we are not backing down and we are not going away.
It’s a moment in history that future history teachers will be teaching, and my daughters and grand-daughters will be able to say that I was there.
And, I hope it will embolden them to be active in what they believe in too.
***If you were a woman who marched and would like to donate your Pussy Hat as a historical example of craftivism, the Fuller Craft Museum is looking for donations.
If you have a handmade knit or crocheted Pussyhat to donate, please contact Beth McLaughlin, Chief Curator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508.588.6000 for information.