On the afternoon of the day, while I did some tidying in the garden, I listened to National Radio here in New Zealand.
The announcer gave the day good coverage and asked people to send in nominations for the woman they felt deserved more recognition than she received – presumably in her lifetime or since.
Names were forthcoming and, while busy with trowel and rake, I heard of women who invented things, who worked for reform in a specific area, or otherwise made some contribution to the world. That’s great, they should all be remembered for what they achieved – often against the odds because of societal pressure.
At the same time, I felt a growing sadness that maybe we were partly missing the point. The women nominated are remembered. Knowledge of them lives on in records. We know their names. Most likely, they could act as they did because they were privileged women – educated, in a situation where they could make some mark and be acknowledged for it.
I found myself thinking of the millions of unnamed women we will never know anything about – women who toiled all their lives just to survive, and probably to ensure that others did also.
Perhaps I’d nominate the pioneer woman who accompanied her husband to an unknown land away from all she knew and bore the brunt of the hardship. A woman who had 15 children, one a year, without any relief from pain or release from the day’s work, who watched the majority of them die of various illnesses, and who herself died, worn out, in childbirth.
Who was she? I don’t know. That’s the point. There will be not one but many whose life followed a similar pattern.
And across the globe, over centuries past, millions of non-privileged, ordinary, women lived lives marked by other circumstances we might now consider extraordinary. We don’t know the names, but they too deserve more recognition than they have received.
So, here’s to the unnamed woman who…