It was International Women’s Day on 8th March; a day of recognition and celebration of women around the world. I was unable to access the internet in a small town in the Wheatbelt so I’ve uploaded belatedly. The delay gives me more time to reflect on what this means. My thoughts though are relevant for the occasion.
In the early years my father worked away from home. Returning only for brief visits, I missed his absence more than a child could articulate and waited day after day, playing by the front door to be the first to greet him. Overcome by shyness on his return, my greetings were subdued but he knew I loved him dearly and had waited eagerly for him. Too young to think about the implications for my mother, I have time now to do so. She would have been a ‘single mother’ of sorts in his absence, no different to the wives of fly in fly out (FIFO) workers, albeit, with a household of home help. A cook, two cleaners, a laundry woman, a gardener, the standard army of home help for most families I grew up with. Known for her warm largesse, she had a community to call friend, but would have missed the companionship of a husband, and smiled through her loneliness, because there was only one.
The cook and one of the cleaners were sisters and as was their culture, were committed to marriage by their families, in early teen years. Both spent their late teen years, and beyond, in widowhood. And, as was their culture, raising children on their own, they never married again.
An aunt by marriage walked away in her youth from the man she loved, with three young children in tow. Unheard of in those days, she did it with dignity. But she remained a fixture as a loved member of the extended family so her children were always surrounded by numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
A neighbour, a woman who raised two children despite being immobilized by a physical disability, so strong was her resolve, I have never asked about the fate of her husband.
Another neighbour, widowed young with four children, worked hard and raised them well. They have contributed positively to society.
My former landlady who, having lost two little sons, husband, father and brother in World War II, found room in her shattered heart to nurture me like I was her own.
I had good role models in my early years. Women who put the welfare of their children first, who did not beat their chest and cry, “why me”? Despite all odds, they raised their children to be good people. Finding themselves in circumstances far beyond their control, they chose to work and support their families, some long before it was an acceptable thing to do for a woman from that cultural background. It was their priority and one that took precedence over finding another partner to share their life with.
These single women raised a community of hard working people with sound values who now live and contribute to their communities in India, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and United Kingdom.
These women were an integral part of my childhood and young womanhood. They illuminated my path, shaping and guiding me, into the woman I am today.
You will not see their names in print. They are not powerful women in the business arena or political world stage. They are not known for beauty or for marrying a billionaire. They were strong women. And, they would want to be remembered as such.
I celebrate their life and spirit with you.
a dawn bird