Mothers: Inspiring Feminists and Other Human Rights Activists in Many Ways

BlogHer Original Post

Like nearly every holiday in the United States, Mother's Day seems to be as much about getting people to indulge in commercialism (Buy Mom this! Buy Mom that!) as it is about honoring your mother. While I am very happy to give my mom and mother-in-law cards telling them how awesome they are and give them a small token of my appreciation, I also like to celebrate all the mothers who have birthed social progress and given me the gift of more human rights. Make no mistake about it: many of the bravest, loudest, pushiest social reformers were moms. They thought about their lives and their children's futures, and they knew that to give their kids the best chances for success, barriers had to be broken.

In fact, as Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff wrote at Women's Space:

The women most responsible for Mother’s Day were radicals; feminist revolutionaries. Julia Ward Howe, who penned the Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870, was an abolitionist, sharing leadership of the movement with the likes of William Lloyd Garrison, William Cullen Bryant, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. She was a playwright, a poet and a mother of six who once wrote of her abusive marriage under a pen name when her husband forbade her to publish. She was a peace activist who worked tirelessly for an end to war and for healing the wounds of war which were suffered by civilians and soldiers alike. She was a woman who began to see and understand the parallels between the institution of slavery in the United States and the enslavement of the people of women.

Maybe not all of our moms lead national movements for human rights like Julia Ward Howe did, but most of us were inspired by their every day actions. ACORN is asking women to participate in their I Remember Mama Voting meme:

...think about your own mother or mother figure and how she may or may not have influenced your political views and your attitudes about voting and civic participation. Next, write about how you remember this important woman in your life in relation to politics.

Please, share the I Remember Mama Voting link in your post about your mom and politics, http://acorn.org/moms.

Dr. Kim Pearson (also a contributing editor at BlogHer) wrote about her stepmother, Virginia Sampson Pearson, at Professor Kim's News Notes:

She taught me about voting first because she voted. Second, by talking about her employer, I learned how others used their votes to hurt us. And finally, when my teenaged indignation had me tilting toward militancy, we had conversations about how voting and other ways of working within the system were the ways to make real change. "You can't change the system because it IS," she would say to me. But, by her example, she showed me that little by little, through education and agitation, we could learn to bend the system our way.

Celeste, at Average Jane Blogs wrote about how generations of women in her family influenced her:

I may have some doubts about the power of a single voice in our electoral system, as did my mother and grandmothers before me, but I share their belief that it's still important to make yourself heard. They taught me that it's up to all of us to try to make this country work for everyone.

I can't wait until November.

In my family, my mom (and dad) worked hard to do the best she could for her daughters. I learned that even if a job is tough, one sticks it out so that she can take care of her own. From my aunt, I learned that it is also important to work on behalf of others who were less privileged than our middle-class family. My aunt was a VISTA volunteer with Haitian refugees in Florida, and went on an educational mission to Cuba. She dedicated her career as a teacher to children with behavioral and learning disabilities in the lowest income communities around Chicago. That meant speaking up when she felt other professionals were not working in the best interests of a child, even if it earned her enemies and made her own life more difficult. My aunt also took my sister and I under her wings, and is a fantastic mother to her own daughter.

While I meet my mother-in-law until I began dating my future husband when I was 19, I immediately bonded with her over feminism. When she noticed that I wore a women's emblem (the symbol of Venus) on a necklace, and asked me if I was a feminist. When I enthusiastically said yes, she gave me her full approval. A few years later, she wistfully mentioned that she was interested in attending the March for Women's Lives to protest the Bush administration's attacks on reproductive rights, and I said that we needed to go together. Attending the march with Pat (and about 1,000,000 other men and women) was one of the most inspiring moments of my life.

This Mother's Day, I give thanks to all the wonderful moms in my life. Now that my friends are starting to have kids of their own, too, I'm happy and excited to see the fantastic work they are doing in raising strong children who are as committed to making the world a better place for women (and men). Great moms are inspiring leaders for us all.

Suzanne also blogs about life at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch & Other Rants, about yogurt at Live Active Cultures, and creating social change at Just Cause.

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