Women Must Work!

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” setting out a practical basis for extending human and political rights to women.

Sojourner Truth – an African American woman born into slavery, made a famous speech in 1851 – “Ain’t I a woman?” A white man said to her that women were inferior because Christ was a man! Such idiocy. You’d think those days were long gone, wouldn’t you? But they’re not.

Elizabeth Blackwell 1821 – 1910 was the first American woman to become a doctor, and we all know of Marie Curie and Helen Keller. But wonderful as these women were, they were only a few.

Someone de Beauvoir wrote the wonderful and fascinating book, “The Second Sex”. All girls and women should read this book. It certainly opened my eyes.  

How much has the world lost because women learned to sew and sing? To bring forth children; to care and love and bow their heads; to cook and clean and iron? How many frustrated brains wearied of the struggle to be heard? Their opinions scorned; indeed forbidden, their menfolk outraged if opposed.

Women who could have been great healers, artists, musicians, scientists, were all lost to the world and posterity. So, women must work, develop their talents, contribute to the world, live their lives.

But . . .  children, and this is a big but! What about the babies, the small ones who cling to mother? All children go through separation anxiety at some stage during their early months. I live beside a creche – I’m sure it’s a good creche, but every morning around 8.00 the children start to arrive. Some of them don’t want to go in. I hear their cries, on and on and on . . .

“I don’t want to. I don’t want to.”

“Daddy, Daddy.”

It seems a lot of fathers have the job of leaving them at the creche. You wouldn’t know who to feel sorrier for; it must take a heavy toll on them. Later in the morning there are only happy sounds. There are swings and slides and bikes and scooters, and several minders. The 3 and 4 year olds are perfectly happy to be there. But there are babies inside, who never get out for air, aged from 6 to 18 months. They are rarely seen, too small to be risked in the play area. Very occasionally the babies are wheeled out and around for a short while.

From 5.30 parents begin to arrive to collect them. Some of them are still there at 6.30.

Women must work, so is there an answer? For society this is the conundrum. Women will always be on the back foot until the structure of society changes completely. It needs to be deconstructed completely. All workplaces should have creches; all workplaces should have facilities for breast-feeding women, or women going through the menopause who need a break, or women with severe period pains. The workplace should encompass and accommodate all, women and children as well as men. Otherwise we will continue with guilty, overworked mothers, children with attachment issues, and men who don’t know how to solve the problem.

Any solutions? Anyone?

A few words on “GOD, A USER’S GUIDE” by Seán Moncrieff

When this book was first published, I couldn’t wait to read it. World religions and all the various creation myths fascinate me, which is surprising as I’m an atheist. (I grew up in a deeply religious home and traces of those old beliefs surface from time to time.) I had to read the book twice as I gobbled it up so quickly the first time and I have referred to it many times since. The first chapter is Rastafari and the book works it way around the continents and finishes with Christianity. There’s an index at the end which I always appreciate. Here is part of the introduction:

“However, writing this book did present me with one problem; particularly the ‘How they came about’ explanation for each belief. All religions, by definition, claim to have been divinely revealed by God; otherwise they wouldn’t be much of a religion. Depending on the religion in question, adherents can be horrified, and, yes, even offended by the suggestion that their belief was influenced by a pre-existing one.

Yet if you view religion from a solely historical point of view, this does seem to be the case. And not just for one or two.

Thus, for the purposes of this book I am, for the record, dealing with Religion, not Faith. Faith is belief in God and an after-life; religion is the all-too-human business of figuring out what God wants us to do, and organising the worship.

Not everyone will agree with this division, and it is far from perfect. But humans, unlike deities, are imperfect creatures.”

The author also says in the introduction that he does not want to cause offence to anyone and that he remains objective throughout. However, his cynicism, and amusement even, does show through now and again. I think the reader would be better served without this personal attitude. All the same, it’s a small enough fault in a very well researched and informative book.

Seán Moncrieff is an Irish journalist and has worked in many radio and television programmes. He has also published the book “Stark Raving Rulers”.

Time Out

Small windows, deep-set

In a whitewashed wall

Cobbled, dung-splashed

Yard, fiery red-topped

Roosters

Pecked unwary legs

Crusty, griddled bread

Thick with yellow butter

Our towny tongues unsure

Of still-warm milk

Cool, beaten earthen floor

Rough on shoe-soft feet

At night the whisper

Wheeze of bellows

Turf smoke burning eyes

Murmured prayers before

The lamps, blood-red and

Phosphorescent blue

My mother’s mother nodded

Black-robed in the corner

Her father sang us songs

Threaded laces in his boots

And shooed us, lit by candles

To the quilted, feather bed.

A review of “Blood in the Valley” by Jean M Roberts

I was sorry to come to the end of this book. Although it finished in exactly the right place I was loathe to leave behind all the characters I had come to know. This is a story about the birth of the United States, and although I briefly studied the American War of Independence at school (a long time ago), it was so interesting to read about it in a novel, and to see what it must have been like for the families who lived through it.

When we first meet Catherine, the main character, she is minding her baby brother, so we see her first as a loving, caring and kindly girl and as she grows to womanhood her personality doesn’t change – although during the war she taps into parts of herself she didn’t know existed! Her husband, Samuel, is a decent, hard-working man who loves his family, and when the war begins he proves himself to be brave, steadfast and intelligent and plays an important part in the outcome of the war. The other characters, their family and friends, are people anyone would like to spend time with.

The narrative drive in this book is very strong and I was drawn into it straight away. The writing is clear and precise – there is no padding here. You can see the families and hear them talking and you understand how they feel. There are also some beautiful descriptions of the countryside:

“The falling water sparkled like gems reflecting the early morning sunshine. The river flung itself over the falls, cascading seventy-five feet or more into a boiling cauldron before rushing away in swirling eddies toward the Hudson.”

God, religion and the community is of extreme importance and the base of all social life for these pioneers and settlers. It’s where Catherine met Samuel, and there are some romantic occasions, which I loved, and which make you aware of how different life and language was then. Samuel says to Catherine:

“Miss Wasson, I have had a delightful day . . . I hope you will allow me the pleasure to call on you.”

At the advice of Catherine’s uncle, three related families decide to move to New York where land is “plentiful and cheap“. These are big families with a lot of children, many of whom bear the same names. I could easily imagine the family gatherings with all ages present; the feeling of belonging to a clan; everyone with the same objective – to live and love and farm and bring up their children in peace and safety.

The journey to New York is long, dangerous and arduous, by land and sea. But they make it, and eventually Samuel builds a wonderful house in Cherry Valley where they settle down and run their farm. But there is now the threat of war and I’m aware that some of these familiar and well-known characters are going to die. I read on with trepidation . . .

The families are separated by the war but for me this was one of the most enjoyable parts of the book – so many letters going forwards and back, so full of love and hope and encouragement. There is a fantastic occasion (referred to above) when Catherine takes to the ramparts of the fort where they are staying, with a rifle, an unheard of thing for a woman to do, and she earns herself a place in history.

And so, to a perfect ending when the war is over: The United States comes into being and American citizens can rebuild their houses and their lives and their families again.

I  would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical novels and family sagas, and a book with a strong narrative drive. The pace and shape of the book is so good; there is no slump in the middle, no part is too long or too short.

I give this book 5 Stars.  

Elizabeth Merry

09/06/20