I wove this tapestry in 1976 to mark International Women’s Day on March 8. It shows three generations of women sitting on the beach, Grandma in a cotton dress, daughter in a bikini and granddaughter au naturel. It was to celebrate the liberation of women in our society over the years in appreciating their bodies and celebrating them, along with the changes in the role women play in our society.
Tomorrow, March 8 we will again mark International Women’s Day and honour the strong women throughout the ages who contributed to changes in history and influenced society towards an equal appreciation of male and female in our world. I can appreciate the changes that have happened since I started celebrating this day.
I’ve been observing International Women’s Day since I was in my early 20’s. Then I was aware of how women had worked for the war effort on a par with men keeping factories, farming and other economic sectors profitable while men were away fighting. I was also aware how frustrating it was for women like my mother who served in the Land Army to be devalued and dependent after my father came home, and how it was not considered necessary for me to have a higher education, regardless of my achievements.
Throughout the years as I grew as a woman and an economic entity in my own right, I’ve always had my heroines in women’s history, from the Queen of Sheba in the Bible to the powerful abbesses like Hildegard von Bingen and the Suffragettes who fought so persistently.
This year I’m thinking particularly of the five years I lived in Sweden in my late 20’s. I encountered a whole new way of political thinking about women’s role in the family and their contribution to the workforce. Accompany this was the point of view that children were everyone’s concern, regardless of who their parents were, and that they should be nurtured by society as well as the family and encouraged to grow to their full potential.
One of my heroines was Alexandra Kollontay who lived in Russia at the time of the revolution and was instrumental in promoting equality for women in the new regime under Lenin. Of course she wanted them to be a bit too equal and eventually she was ‘banished’ to serve as ambassador to Norway and Sweden and kept well away from Moscow.
In her works she explored the role of men and women in marriage and in sexual relations and looked at the best way to organise family structures so that all members of the family were given due consideration.
I’m thankful to people like her that I have had the opportunities I’ve had. I’ve always worked politically to ensure that my daughter and granddaughters can be all they can be, and I will use my voting influence to make sure it stays that way and improves for future generations.