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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy International Women's Day!

Today - March 8th - we join women around the world in celebrating the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. In some countries, women will be marching in the streets; in others, they will be enjoying a day off (IWD is an official holiday in a handful of countries); in still others, women will be coming together to break bread and raise a toast to just how far we have come in the last century, and to just how far we can still go. Whether or not we are attending an official gathering - and you can read about events taking place near you, as well as catch up on the history of IWD, via this link - we can mark this important day in a more personal way too.

For example, in her Philosophy of Health class at Dawson College, Rona turned an examination of role models into a celebration of those girls and women in her students' lives who have been an inspiration to them. For her part, Rona told her class about her grandmother, Nan Brodie, who happens to be 2 years older than IWD and who continues to play an active part in her day-to-day life. As for Linnet, she is using the occasion to launch a recuperative family history project: finding out more about the lives of three female relatives who she never knew - Toronto-based librarian Doris Dignum, New York-based author Mary Graham Bonner, and UK-based grandmother Hilda Kerr Leaning - and is curious to learn more about.

All too often, women's histories and women's stories are lost due to name changes through marriage, to lines dying out when women do not bear children, or simply because nobody considered their achievements and their challenges, their joys and their sorrows, important enough to take note of in the first place. This means that when filling in the gaps in our fore-sisters' lives, we often have to abandon the "official" histories and turn, instead, to alternative sources: to diaries and letters, to recipe boxes and photo albums, to conversations with relatives, colleagues or friends who recall the person and can help you turn those little fragments of a life lived, into a more fully rounded picture.

So here is a call to action to wine women and philosophy members and friends: Let's use this 100th year celebration of IWD to spur us into bringing to light those girls and women who came before us, and whose histories and stories might be lost without our intervention. Sometimes, all we have to do is write or talk about a woman who has inspired us and share it with others - as Rona's students did this morning; as Ariana Huffington did in her piece about her mother in today's Huffington Post. If you are lucky enough to still have this woman in your life, why not tell her in person the difference she has made to you.

Pictured above are the Dignum sisters on holiday at a lake north of Toronto in the 1950s. From left to right: Doris, Larry (Linnet's grandmother), Nora, Edith, Evelyn and Gladys.