Women’s Rights and Mrs. Pankhurst

(I am sharing this post from another blog of mine.  I wrote it a couple of years ago, but the subject is as relevant today as it has been for millennia! )

As a baby boomer I grew up in the time of the Women’s Liberation Movement .   Bra burning, equal pay, “I am Woman, hear me Roar, etc”.   If you are younger than say 50,  you may not realize that as recently as the 1970s,  here in the US, women couldn’t get a loan at a bank by themselves,  they had to have a male family member co-sign the loan with them.  Apparently we were so feeble minded we couldn’t be relied upon to understand complicated business matters.  I was a young wife in 1975 when I got my first job at a bank.  The name of it was “The Women’s Bank of California”, and we prided ourselves on treating women with the same respect as we treated men.  My manager was a man by the way, no surprise there.

At any rate, as I am still working in the banking world, I often share this bit of history with my new tellers. They are usually young 20 somethings and are always amazed by this fact.  Of course, the 1970s probably feels like ancient history to them, but to me it just wasn’t all that long ago.

I was thinking about this the other day which then prompted thoughts of my grandmother’s day and the trials they had to go through.  She was born in 1896 and according to one of my cousins that grew up with her, she helped young women that were “in trouble” much the same way that Imelda Staunton did in the movie “Vera Drake”.  It’s hard to imagine now that a woman had no other choice back then, and they did what they had to do.

Thinking about the hardships of this time then made me think about the Women’s Vote,  which immediately made me remember  “Mary Poppins” and the “Votes for Women” scenes in that movie.  Mrs. Pankhurst’s work was mentioned here because Mrs. Banks was a follower.

I did some research on Mrs. Pankhurst and she was a pretty interesting woman.  It’s funny how in history one or two of the players will stand out and we don’t give much thought to all of the others that sacrificed and worked in the background, but those one or two are what make us know about it at all.

There were actually two different movements working for a woman’s right to vote in England at the same time.  I had never heard of the moderate one where intelligent women tried to get the vote through just by arguing the point.  The person that is most well known for this is Millicent Fawcett, and I would love you to comment if you have ever heard about her.  Perhaps if you did grow up in England you learned about her in school, but being an American, I had never once heard her name before doing my research.

One of the most famous woman that worked for women’s rights in England was Emmeline Pankhurst, who favored the militant approach.  She was born in 1858 into a family that had a long tradition of radical politics.  She married Richard Pankhurst, a lawyer and supporter of the women’s suffrage movement.

Mrs. Pankhurst formed the “Women’s Franchise League” in 1889 which fought to allow married women the right to vote in local elections.  In 1903, she helped found the more militant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), an organisation notorious for it’s activities.  This organisation’s members were the first christened “suffragettes”.  The British general public were astonished by the demonstrations, window smashing, arson and hunger strikes of the suffragettes.  The nation was appalled when in 1913, WSPU member Emily Davison died when she threw herself under the king’s horse at the Derby. She was protesting the government’s continued failure to grant women the right to vote.

Like many suffragettes, Mrs. Pankhurst was arrested on numerous occasions over the next few years.  I love this photo of her being arrested and the policeman actually having to pick her up and carry her away!

Can you imagine being a woman at the time and having to go through this kind of humiliation?

This period of militancy  ended abruptly at the outbreak of war in 1914, when Emmeline turned her energies to supporting the war effort.  She died shortly after achieving her dream of woman having equal voting rights with men at age 21.  It was 1928 before it happened!

I got this information from a history of Emmeline Pankhurst by the BBC.  I am really awed by the heroism of people in this age.  I feel like in today’s world, we complain loudly about the things we don’t like,  freedom of speech right? But how many of us would do something that would inconvenience us by getting thrown in jail for our beliefs?

Joy of Reading and the Small Town Library

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“Print is dead”, said Dr.Egon Spengler from the movie Ghostbusters.  You’ll never convince me of that. There will always be those of us that like the weight of a book in our lap.  I am more than a little appalled to realize that not all people share my joy of reading.  The only time in my life that I didn’t read book after book was when my kids were young and I just didn’t have time. By the time they were asleep and I’d straightened the house, made lunches, finished the laundry and put on my pjs, I was too exhausted to read .  If I did pick up a book, I would instantly fall asleep and wake with a jolt when the book hit the floor.  I remember the exact moment that I realized I could read again and it was glorious!

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This love of reading, thankfully, has been a part of me since I was very young.  When my mother would read to me, her voice like velvet, I would melt into her lap and dread the moment when she said “The End”.  

I have a vivid memory of the first time she took me to the library.  We had moved to the small community of Lakeside, east of San Diego, 1958.  The library was in Lindo Lake Park.  It sat next to where the current cement block, early 1960s library is now. It was a lovely one room schoolhouse from the 1800s.  At least that’s how I remember it, it may have just been an old house.  I can conjure up the smell of it if I try, old wood and that wonderful addicting smell of many hundreds of books.  Not knowing yet how much I would love it, I only chose two books. By the end of the afternoon I was begging my mother to take me back for more. Of course she couldn’t, but the next time we went I piled the books so high I asked her to carry half, only to be told I could only take as many as I could carry, her pile being at least as tall as mine.  That was 60 years ago and I still lament over the closing and moving of that library! I suppose the town council was thinking of progress and population growth.  The new library was fine, it was big, it was efficient, there were more books. I got as much enjoyment from the books there as from the old one, almost.  But it didn’t have the right smell or the warm ambience of that old library, the cement floors never made that comforting, creaking sound of the old hardwood.

Lakeside Library
Courtesy of Billy Ortiz

Growing up in Lakeside, reading was just one of my many pastimes.  I thought, at the time, there was never anything to do there.  The beach was too far, the shopping centers as well.  So we read, we walked, we explored, we play acted TV westerns, sang songs.  We were free to walk to the middle of town and play at the park,  fish for crawdads in Lindo Lake or buy penny candy at Sam’s Liquor Store.  There was a bakery, a cafe and the library. I consider myself lucky having grown up there and have fond memories it all.  I know I didn’t appreciate it enough when I was young.  I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could move away, anywhere else. But it was as real as anywhere and the people were genuine, it taught me to be curious and in the moment.

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Courtesy of Marcie Smith

My cousin sent me this picture of the 1960s library and let me know that it would soon be replaced by a new modern one.  It will be located away from Lindo Lake, and hopefully will be full of light and neat rows of bookshelves,  all of the new technology and the capability for readers to peruse the stacks online and then walk up to the counter and have their books ready and waiting.  After all, anything that helps people to enjoy reading is welcome.

The fact that there is a new library on the roster shows what a forward thinking American town Lakeside is.  It gives me hope, when all over the country you hear about libraries closing.  Where I live now, in the Pacific Northwest, many of the libraries have become volunteer run.  This means that the hours are sporadic and if no one is available to cover a shift, the library is closed.  This is a travesty when the powers that be hold back taxes from something as worthwhile to citizens as a lending library.

As Lakeside moves ever forward, the Lakeside Historical Society is preserving it’s history.  They hold some amazing photos of the town and run a museum and history center.  If you make it down to San Diego, take time to visit this ever changing place that still retains that small America feeling that is rapidly disappearing.

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The Older I Get

We’re all getting older.  The alternative sucks!  I don’t know about you, but time moves forward and I don’t really notice that I’m getting older.  I notice that my kids are aging more than myself.  When I look at old pics I think, wow, I was young then.   I don’t feel that much different.  Oh sure,  my joints are a little stiffer. I get tired earlier than I used to.  I eat well, not too much fat or sugar, rarely junk food, try to incorporate more and more fruit and veg into my diet.  I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, wine with dinner, the occasional margarita at the local Mexican restaurant.  I’m certainly not a fanatic about what I eat.  I can’t eat a lot of gluten, not because it’s a trend, but because it seriously plays with my stomach.

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I wrote before about getting rid of stuff.  I’m working on it because I look around and, man, we have accumulated a lot of stuff over forty two years of marriage.  I have to arrange it and dust it, etc.  Now is the time in our life where we’re actually thinking of simplifying and minimizing.  My oldest daughter finds it amusing, she told me about an article saying that baby boomers are trying to pass all of their stuff onto their children who do not want it.  I understand that.  There are a few family things that I explained they were going to have to share because it’s our history.  The rest is going on Ebay!

I am a thinker.  Not a genius, but I think about things.  All sorts of things, constantly.  My husband picks up on some of my ideas, not all of them.  Then he’ll think about them too, different scenarios about our future.  Last night he said to me these classic words, “Do you ever, in that squirrel cage of a brain of yours, ever think about…”.  And that’s it, in a nutshell (no pun intended).  My thoughts go round and round.  Not in a crazy sort of way and not in a brilliant sort of way.  They just don’t stop, one thought leads to another.  I used to think everyone has this thought process, but my husband, siblings and friends tell me it’s not so.  I don’t have ADHD, I don’t have rambling thoughts, they have a purpose.   I’ve thought about it a lot, haha.  It’s because I’m curious and interested in pretty much everything.  Even if I’m not at all interested in a thing, like sports say, I’m still interested in the history of it.  I find the personalities of competitive people very interesting.  Not so much sports for what it is.  My husband is a drag racer, but I think, who cares who gets to the end of the track first?  I would think building the car and driving it is the fun part.  The part that’s exciting because you came up with an idea for the car,  bought it,  modified it and get the joy of successfully driving it down the track.  Anyway,  I’ve just always thought about any sport as challenging yourself, to get better.  Not to annihilate the other guy.

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Now this may seem like a bunch of rambling thoughts put together in one post but it does have a purpose.  At this juncture of our lives, what’s on our mind more than anything else is the future.  Are we going to have enough retirement money?  Are we going to stay healthy?   I remember a dear aunt of mine. suffering from bone cancer, telling me that the golden years aren’t so golden.  My husband and I look at some of our friends that are now retired and sit at home all day watching TV with bottles of medication on the side table.  I also remember another aunt and my own dear father, losing their partner and then having to go on alone.

It’s all so sad and has made us want to do something with whatever time and energy we have left.  I am researching a temporary move to England.   My husband shares my love of the island for many reasons; good friends, familiar culture, they even have drag racing.  Now we are throwing around the decision to sell our home and find a place out of the chaos when we return.  When you get to a certain age, you start looking for a bit of calm.  (We live in the suburbs, but there is still a lot of traffic, high taxes, constant noise and sirens).  Should we rent it out for a year or just go for three months and rely on neighbors and our security system to keep it safe?  Then there are the grandchildren,  can we be away from them for a long stretch, knowing it’s temporary?

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It’s a big decision and a lot of research and questions to answer.  I’m happy that my husband feels the way I do.  We don’t want to become old farts, sitting in front of the TV eating our meals off of a tray and no gumption to go out and see the world.  England is the perfect place to use as a base and then spend a few days in France, Amsterdam, Spain,  or Italy.  We aren’t rich, but aren’t afraid to do something like work away,  where you go to someone’s house to work a few hours a day on remodeling or gardening in exchange for room and board.  I do have retirement money and social security to draw on and use for something that will enrich our lives, not wait in case one of us gets sick.  Most times people don’t do something like this because they want to leave it to their children.  I can thank my dad for this gem “I worked for it, why should I leave it to you”.   That may sound harsh,  but you are doing well by your children if they understand not to expect anything from you.  Then when you leave them whatever is left, it’s the icing on the cake along with your influence to live your life to the fullest!

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