Mothers, Feminism and a Free Mary Beard Book Offer!

Marie Woods (Baker) 1929 – 2017

I’ve got a couple of stories for you in this post, so sit back and relax.

Last week I delivered the first of my two seminars in Bristol and (obviously I would say this, wouldn’t I?) it was so lovely to be part of it. Life enhancing and educational. We were a group of women discussing the status quo at work and looking at practical strategies to help themselves progress at work, which almost inevitably led on to a discussion about how to help other women working in a male dominated world. And the men, too. This was not an anti male session; they never are. We all need to change the system.

I ended with my ‘Support the Women‘ speech about trying to be aware of our own unconscious biases and how we have all been socialised in varying degrees to believe women are the second sex. In brief it goes, Cut others and ourselves a bit of slack, be kind, but always challenge inequality in whatever way you can.

This Sunday just passed was *Mothering Sunday in the UK. Inevitably I thought about my own Mum who died last year. My Mum probably would never have described herself as a feminist, although she was very fond of telling anyone who cared to listen that she took a job as a clippie on the Maidstone and District Bus Service because it was the only job that paid men the same as women, (1952 – go the bus company!) But she knew a lot about helping and supporting other women.

Last year, on Mum’s birthday, a card arrived from one of her old neighbours. “Damn”, I thought, “we missed someone”. I found her number and braced myself for making the call. At this stage of my grief I still couldn’t say the words out loud without crying, you know how it is. I did just about manage it, however, and then Mum’s neighbour (who was about 20 years younger than Mum) said:

Your Mum saved my daughter’s life. I am always telling Ella that without Marie she wouldn’t be here.

Obviously I was intrigued. Ella is now a high flying business woman. I remember her as a very young child, bursting with energy and clearly showing leadership skills from a very young age. This is the story Mum’s neighbour told me.

Things weren’t too great at home. I had two small children and I found Ella so challenging. I was exhausted and just felt like giving up. One day I was letting rip big time at El. Your Mum must have heard (small terraced houses) and just as I was screeching like a mad woman there came a knock at the door. It was your Mum. She just said, “Give Ella to me for an hour or so, you sit down and have a cup of tea and a bit of peace.”

My Mum was a huge believer in the restorative powers of tea.

So she took Ella next door and Ella had a great time. She loved your Mum. She used to say whenever we quarrelled “I’m going next door to live with Marie!”. Sometimes, I’d say, OK Go! I feel bad about that now although now we have a great relationship. I still often say to her Marie saved your life . But that day I was at the end of my tether and your Mum knew it. She didn’t judge me, she just gave me some practical help and support, and continued to do so throughout all the time I knew her. She was an amazing woman.

Obviously I was in floods of tears at the end of this story thinking of all the times Mum had helped us with our two, and how many acts kindness my Mum had given which I’d never know about. She didn’t talk about feminism, or anything ‘fancy’ she just got on with it. In her book you stood by other women because in her experience they had it rough. It would never have occurred to her to report the shouting episodes to the authorities. She just got on with it and helped out. And this week, when talking about helping the women, showing solidarity and support, the story came back to me.

We don’t all have to superwomen, having books published, going on marches, storming the Bastille (although I am all for that, too). In our own worlds we can all support and help other women still struggling in a world which is largely unfair to women. Kindness is hugely under rated. We can change the world with small acts of kindness. We must just do what we can.

History of Mothering Sunday

Another wee story, with a  Mary Beard book giveaway at the end.

*Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent. Although it’s often called Mothers’ Day it has no connection with the American festival of that name. Traditionally, it was a day when children, mainly daughters, who had gone to work as domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and family. Today it is a day when children give presents, flowers, and home-made cards to their mothers.

Most Sundays in the year churchgoers in England worship at their nearest parish or ‘daughter church’. Centuries ago it was considered important for people to return to their home or ‘mother’ church once a year. So each year in the middle of Lent, everyone would visit their ‘mother’ church – the main church or cathedral of the area.

Inevitably the return to the ‘mother’ church became an occasion for family reunions when children who were working away returned home. (It was quite common in those days for children to leave home for work once they were ten years old.) And most historians think that it was the return to the ‘Mother’ church which led to the tradition of children, particularly those working as domestic servants, or as apprentices, being given the day off to visit their mother and family.

Free Book Offer (but no gin, sorry.)

As they walked along the country lanes, children would pick wild flowers or violets to take to church or give to their mother as a small gift. My daughter gave me 5 gin cocktails and my son a copy of Mary Beard’s latest book which, rather gratifyingly he found in the Gifts for Mum section of a Sainsbury’s supermarket. I have drunk the cocktails but, at my son’s behest, as I already have my copy of Mary’s book (bought on publication day) I have one to give away! If you’d like it send me your details and tell me, what if anything, Mothering Sunday means to you, and I’ll pick someone to send the book to. I may even publish your stories on this blog, if you give me permission. In fact, send me your stories even if you don’t want the book, I’d love to hear them. Let’s celebrate a few unsung women!


Posted on March 14th, 2018 by

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