Supporting creative work by women
Last night, I spoke with my 91-year-old grandmother, and was particularly struck by this conversation. One of my cousins had brought her three-year-old daughter to visit Mimi (what grandmothers are often called in the South) in the afternoon, and Mimi remarked with pride, “Alyssa is so smart. At three, she’s smarter than I was as a child. She’s been exposed to more than I ever was.”
My grandmother (pictured left) grew up in a farming family in rural Mississippi, one of 20 children. Her father determined that it was more important for girls to work on the farm than gain a high school education. Mimi didn’t make it past the 8th grade. She did, however, watch my great-grandmother, who knew a thing or two about giving birth, become a very well respected midwife. In fact, as a child, Mimi assumed that babies came from black bags. She saw her mom leave the house with a black bag and return with the news that a baby had been born.
I am particularly grateful that in just two generations the expectations for me — a girl — were much different than they were for Mimi. My parents pushed me to excel in school, and exposed me to the arts from a young age. They wanted me to have a choice — to be whatever I wanted to be (even a farmer, if that were my dream). Mimi was instrumental in this. She encouraged her three daughters to follow their dreams, and largely, they did. She didn’t begrudge them opportunities in life.
Change can happen. We still need it to. My grandmother was born a year before women were granted the right to vote in the United States. In her lifetime, the 19th Amendment was ratified, World War II was fought, Sally Ride became the first American woman to enter space, and women began outnumbering men in college.
What Works by Women and many other groups are working for — 50/50 in 2020 — may feel a long way off, but I look forward to finding ways to bring the goals of the initiative to fruition. To finding parity in the theater before Alyssa, who is now 3, turns 91.
As Sam Cooke, who was born not far from where my grandmother grew up, sang in one of my favorite songs of all time, “A Change Gonna Come.” I look forward to it. Hope you do too.