Isn’t PBS wonderful?! Seriously, give me a good library, a good internet connection and PBS and I can find out whatever I need to know.
Anyway, a couple of nights ago, when the children had gone to sleep early (rare and appreciated!) Chris and I started watching this:
Not for Ourselves Alone
The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony
Of course I knew the basics of the women’s movement. I was a history major/minor in college. And I knew that Susan B Anthony was an important figure. I may have even heard the name Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but not known quite what her role was. But this wonderful program, brought to us by the awesomely talented Ken Burns, of course, helped to fill in the wide gaps of my knowledge.
(BTW, if you haven’t seen it, click on the photos of the ladies on the link above, it will start the program for you in your web browser.)
I didn’t watch all of it, as tiredness and a need to sleep before morning took over. But I intend to go to the site and watch the few chapters I missed.
I think all mamas and daughters will be benefitted by knowing this history, from within. All men and boy-children could learn plenty as well.
I learned that Lucretia Mott, well-known for her womens’ suffrage work, was also a fervent abolitionist. She was so firm in her beliefs that she refused to wear cotton or serve sugar…because both products depended on the work of slaves.
One of the many things that jumped out at me relates to my own live’s path. At one point the narrator was speaking of the life into which Elizabeth Cady (later to be Stanton) was born.
At the time when Elizabeth Cady was coming up and beginning her life as a young wife and mother, there was a phenomenon she dealt with called the ‘cult of true womanhood.’ (I am hoping I remembered that phrase correctly…I’ll come back later and correct if if I didn’t.)
Cult of True Womanhood had to do with the ways in which a woman had to behave in order to be accepted and respected. There were firm, even rigid, rules about what was appropriate, inappropriate, right, good, allowed and frowned-upon. Women had little power in these days, except over one another in terms of acceptance and rejection.
That got me thinking about a possible parallel to this time of mine…and the possible Cult of True Motherhood.
I see this in the ‘mommy wars’ that the media likes to make much of. I see this in the arguments about whether having a stay at home mother or working mother is best for children. I see this in arguments breastfeeding, co-sleeping, gentle discipline…
I don’t want to participate in a cult of mothering shoulds and reject or alienate women who are still learning, about themselves and being a mama. Nor do I wish to judge the choices of another mama, who has thought and learned and chosen what works best for she and her family.
Attachment parenting can sometimes be misinterpreted as a list of shoulds…instead of ideas about what other parents have found that work best for them.
Well, that’s where I am right now. I’m still thinking about this and thinking how I can be a better mama-sister to others, regardless of their family makeup or parental choices.
I’m thinking about how I can make sure that my choices are just that. They are not hard and fast rules about how other women must behave in order to gain my friendship or acceptance.
I feel that we, as mothers, as parents, are far stronger than we think we are. We are strong-enough to not let others (the media, outsiders, well-meaning relatives) pit us against one another.
If we remember that our group goal is to support one another on the path to making the best choices we can, individually, for the children…well, then they can’t touch us.
If we turn our backs on words of dissension and derision, ‘they’ will move on and we will be left to nuture our babies in peace.
ps — go check out the program…it’s worth your time. 😀