How Feminism Made Motherhood What It Is Today
The story on how women changed our history
For any of you who watched the PBS broadcast this week of Makers: Women Who Make America, this concept isn’t going to be too shocking: You couldn’t be the mother you are today without feminism. There! I said it. No matter what your life is like today, feminists paved the way so you can be a single mom, working mom, and stay-at-home mom or stay-at-home dad. It has influenced whether you have maternity leave and a job to return to, your ability to make health care choices, buy diapers with your own credit card or rent your own apartment. In fact, the National Organization for Women (NOW) was originally created as a way for women to combine motherhood, marriage and working.
That may seem like ancient history to some young women, but let me tell you, it wasn’t all that long ago that social norms mandated that if a woman had a job, she had to give it up when she got married and had children, no matter if she needed that job to support her children. Age, race and gender discrimination were A-OK in most corporations, industries and trades. In fact, it was normal until women stepped outside the norm and demanding an equal share of humanity.
As we head into March, which is Women’s History Month in the United States and when we celebrate International Women’s Day, think about what your life might be like if certain women hadn’t busted out of their shells and decided they wanted more than the life they’d been assigned. Check out these women in history who helped make you the mother you are today:
Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967, essentially opening the doors for women to participate in sports on an equal footing as men. If you’re reading Fit Pregnancy, we assume you’re into fitness, sports and the joy of using your body. Thank you Katherine for paving that road for us.
Dusty Roads was the first stewardess to take the airline industry to court in the 1950s for its policies of firing stewardesses who airlines deemed weren’t available and attractive. For example, a woman was fired if she married. If she gained weight—fired. As soon as she turned 32, she was deemed too old and unattractive to be in the public eye and was fired on her birthday. If you’re among Fit Pregnancy’s target audience, you’re probably about 32 yourself. Thank you Dusty for making sure that women of all ages, body types, marital statuses and mothers can continue to work.
Judy Norsigian and Miriam Hawley created the Boston Women’s Health Collective and wrote Our Bodies, Ourselves in 1969. At that time, 98 percent of OB-GYNS were male, and women were routinely treated with disrespect and condescension. In fact, married women didn’t even necessarily receive their own healthcare information. Instead, if they had anything serious, their husbands would be notified and he would determine whether or not to share that information with them. Before Our Bodies, Ourselves, there were no resources available to explain to women how their bodies worked, didn’t work and how to protect themselves. If you value evidence-based obstetric practices and have a female doctor who talks to you as an equal and tells you everything you need to know about your health, you have Judy and Miriam to thank.
Aileen Hernandez was the only woman on the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (EEOC) when it was first formed in 1965 to consider workplace complaints about gender-based, racial and minority discrimination. In fact, she sat on that committee when Road’s complaint about stewardesses’ rights was heard. Because the EEOC was primarily focused on race discrimination, the guys on the committee weren’t concerned about “female” issues and cases that involved gender were stalled, ignored or not considered. Aileen was instrumental in the formation of the National Organization of Women to focus more attention on women’s working conditions. Thank you Aileen for your role in making sure women can apply for and obtain the same jobs as men and for making sure we aren’t barred from employment based on our age, weight, appearance, race, marital or maternity status.
We are all the women we are today because other women have taken steps on our behalf. But women’s history hasn’t stopped and, in fact, many of us believe we’ve suffered some significant setbacks lately. No matter who you are and what you believe, you are creating a path for the next generation. Makers is available online, and I hope you’ll watch it because women’s history may only get one designated month of the year, but our stories have always been integral to making the future.
Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and children. And co-author of, The Complete Illustrated Birthing Companion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating the Best Birthing Plan for a Safe, Less Painful, and Successful Delivery for You and Your Baby. Got a question for Jeanne? Email it to email@example.com and it may be answered in a future blog post.
This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.