Thursday, March 8, 2007

Happy International Women's Day

A day to celebrate how far we've come and to contemplate how far we still have to go.

I've been using today to think about some of the amazing women I know (or have known). In Women's Studies 100 (at least mine) one of the assignments is to write about a woman who has influenced you. When my cousin took the course she interviewed a prominent political figure for the assignment. A brilliant idea that I may have stolen had I taken the course after her not before her. For me the assignment was more personal - I had great difficulty narrowing down my subject matter. I could write about family members - my Mum, my Grandma C (who is somewhat of a legend in our family), childhood friends who had shaped and changed me - Jenn with her ability to capture everyone in her realm with her warmth, Nancy for her rebellion and her humour, Adrienne for her incredible strength even as a young girl. Being in my first year of University I hadn't even had the privilege of really knowing any of the amazing women I had met and would meet in University because that would have made the task even harder. Ten years later, it would be a million times harder.

Ultimately, I ended up writing about Jean Stuve, my first boss and one of the most intriguing women I have ever had the good fortune to know. Jean was in her seventies when I knew her and was incredibly giving and open-minded. I think I knew her at the right time in my life, though, because she was also incredibly stubborn and had I known her as an adult we may have butted heads more and I'm afraid that may have meant that I didn't listen or learn as much as I could have. As it was, I learned a lot. I knew Jean for about three years and picked up bits and pieces of her history in that time - it was obvious through her stories that the heartbreaking challenges she faced in her life were the very things that contributed to the tremendous woman she was. I find it reassuring to know that personal tragedies and challenges have the capacity to immeasurably improve who we are but I'm also happy to report that there are less painful ways to sculpt ourselves and that is through the people we meet in our lives. Jean passed away a couple years ago and I have a couple of regrets about the paper I wrote about her: one is that I didn't phone her and interview her because it would have been a great opportunity to learn more about her and when it came right down to it I didn't feel that I knew nearly enough; the other is that I didn't send the paper to her or at least tell her how much knowing her meant to me.

In honour of Jean and of International Women's Day I'm going to lay down my first writing challenge to my fellow bloggers (and myself). Write a blog entry about a woman who has influenced who you are. Better yet, do this more than once.

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