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REFLECTIONS: Women’s History Month becomes happily personal Bishop Woodie W. White, Mar 21, 2012
Bishop Woodie W. White
By Bishop Woodie W. White UMR Columnist
I have a thirteen-year-old granddaughter who is quite delightful. She is loving, easily trusting of others and in some ways rather naïve. Recently she entered an essay contest, sponsored by her school, at the urging of her mother, my daughter.
The students were to write about some famous woman who had inspired them. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners would be announced at a special school assembly.
My granddaughter was shocked when her name was read aloud, weeks later, as the 3rd place winner. She walked to the stage, embarrassed, to receive her certificate.
My daughter had been called by Shelby’s teacher and invited to the assembly, but was told not to let Shelby know she was one of the winners. She was there when the announcement was made, and as you can imagine sat with misty eyes as Shelby walked to the stage.
What surprised us all was that my granddaughter chose her grandmother as the topic of the essay! Not a famous woman noted for making some significant contributions to society or history, as the teachers, had expected. Instead, she wrote about her grandmother, an elementary school teacher.
Even this grandmother, my New England-born wife, Kim, who rarely shows much emotion, could not hold back the tears when Shelby later read the essay to her.
March is Women’s History Month. It is now observed in countries around the world. In the United States, it first became an official week-long observance in 1981 when a Republican senator and a Democratic congresswoman co-sponsored (remember those days?) a Joint Congressional Resolution. In 1987 Congress voted to make it a month-long observance.
So March has become the month when the contributions of women to society get highlighted. Especially in schools, women leaders are honored and their often-overlooked contributions and importance to society are emphasized.
Of course, the observance is not limited to schools, colleges and universities. Churches and corporate organizations and other institutions are noting those women who have broken or are breaking barriers that long held back gender. Publications feature interesting articles about famous women and their contributions to American history and society. With such recognition comes a greater appreciation of women’s accomplishments as well as the injustices faced along the journey.
So many `firsts’
Imagine all the women who have entered fields not open to them in the past. A lone woman becomes a “first,” in the office, factory, university or the Conference. A first time pastor, district superintendent or bishop. There are so many, many places where women have entered that were once male domains. They not only entered, they excelled. And often in spite of skepticism and other obstacles.
March is a great time to remember and celebrate the women who championed the cause of gender equality. But it is also a good time to celebrate the gifts and contributions of those not-so-famous women, including schoolteachers. I have a list I could recite from elementary school through seminary. But don’t forget other women workers who usually fail to get appreciation, such as school crossing guards, cafeteria workers and waitresses.
And you know, my granddaughter, Shelby, was right on! During this month when we remember the contributions of women, let’s not forget moms, aunts, sisters and cousins. Let’s not forget those women who became “mothers” to others. Their names will never be found in books or magazine articles, but are written in the hearts of countless men and women whose lives would have been far worse without them.
And oh yes, by all means, let’s not forget grandmothers! Or as Shelby would say, “Nana”!
Retired Bishop White is the denomination’s Endorsing Agent for Chaplain Ministries and bishop-in-residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, in Atlanta.