Happy 100th International Women’s Day

Today is the 100th celebration of International Women’s Day. Why, you might ask, is this important to recognize? Most of you know me as an artist, photographer and writer. A few of you know that of the last 100 years I have spent more than 30 of those years actively and purposefully working towards women’s equality. I cut my feminist teeth on Dorothy Smith’s The Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology in university in the late 1980’s while raising two young children as a single parent. International Women’s Day is one of my most important holidays of the year. It is a time to recognize, reflect, rejoice and recommit to making the world a better place for women and children.

One hundred years ago today women in Canada did not have the right to vote. It would be another seven years before most women over the age of 21 get the right to vote in federal elections. It wasn’t until 1960 that First Nations people received the right to vote in federal elections. Even noting these complexities, it is true, we have made gains. Yet, our fight for equality is not over and in some areas it is backsliding:

At the end of 2010, full-time working women earned only 71.3 per cent of men’s average full-time income. In the late 1980s, women earned 77 cents for every $1 a man earned.

More shocking,[ Queen’s University professor Kathleen Lahey] says, are Statistics Canada data from December 2010 show that women with university degrees now only earn 68.4 per cent of men’s average university-degree incomes, as compared with 86.8 per cent in the late 1980s.

Read more: Why Feminism Still Matters by Daphne Bramham (Vancouver Sun)

As a 52 year old feminist, activist and woman, how has the last half of the last 100 years influenced my life? Steeped in women and gender studies, waged in income for women’s equality such as women’s shelters, women centres, women’s counselling programs and women’s leadership, the answers should come easily. You might even expect that they would flow out in graceful paragraphs – eloquent after years of study and practical experience. They do not.

The blog post article I published in May 2009 “Untapped ROI – Increase Women in Leadership 13 Myths and Facts plus A-G strategies is still as relevant in March 2011. Change is a slow process. But it is more than that. The clarity and contradictions about women’s equality are worn in layers of personal scars and successes only to then unravel again in my today – as an artist, as a feminist, as a wife, and as a woman who, for the first time five years ago, understands that sometimes financial independence is a barrier to love and mutual quality of life. I now experience the equality of a great love that, for the most part, renders gender differences invisible as two people equally work in harmony for what is best for each other and for self. Outside gender imbalances are successfully rebalanced in our day-to-day living. I have experienced nothing as powerful or leveling as deeply held human regard for another.

Today as I write this, my sweetheart is calling me to come eat the breakfast he has loving prepared. Today as I write this, I smile to myself at the involvement of my son and son-in-law with the daily tasks of parenting their children. At the same time, I remember a blog diary written last week by a woman volunteering in a health clinic where a young woman giving childbirth died on her clinic floor. She needed a cesarean delivery. The child was being born feet first. There were no such medical services available. Human life is not equally valued the world over. There is still much to do.

Today as I write this, I revisit my own struggles resulting from a history of childhood trust broken with inappropriate touching of my innocent child’s body and violence handed out by men who should have been the ones I could count to stand beside me. The details are not important. Many of us – many women and a few men – have our own experiences of being treated with less than regard and loving respect by those closest to us. We can instantly provide our own details, often with undesired vivid clarity.

Yet, as my being, my body and my spirit remind me of these passages in living, I wish better for others. I have worked tirelessly for more than 30 years to create the change I want to see in the world. Now I paint. Now I slip down by the sea and I photograph. I seek healing serenity in the bodily memories of these contradictions that we live as we celebrate the 100th International Women’s Day. My eye finds a particularly powerful reminder that we are one.

My brush strokes link us to our human vulnerability.

My work towards women’s equality is not done – it has only changed. For now.

My sister, may you have the opportunity today to give yourself a hug for being the incredible woman you are.  My bother, may you know that you are an equally part of what will make a difference in the lives of the women you love.

Happy 100th International Women’s Day!

Sprout question: What woman has been your greatest creative influence?

To learn more about my work towards women’s equality visit Terrill Welch – A Woman Behind Women.

© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

18 thoughts on “Happy 100th International Women’s Day

    • Thank you Maureen. I am not surprised if I do speak for a few of us from our generation. At the time though, it seemed like only a small portion of women called themselves feminists and were working on these important issues. It is kind of like my daughter asking me in a rather puzzled way “was there a time when you were having children that women didn’t breastfeed?” I took a moment to pause before explaining. Women did breastfeed when I was having children but only a few women, like me, breastfed past the child’s first birthday and we were often called “hippy moms.” It was odd back then – like yoga and meditation was odd. Also, the formula companies gave free formula to the hospitals and to put in our take home packages. Plus women were entering the workforce in greater numbers and there was no maternity leave. On top of that some our mothers had been encouraged not to breastfeed because science was able to create the perfect formula for your baby so we had no role models or support for breastfeeding from our own moms. Then there was the whole breastfeeding in public issue. Fortunately, my daughter and I come from a long line of breastfeeding mothers who believed that this was best for our children. Equally fortunate, we were not exposed to poisonous “stuff” that would then get into our milk, an issue which is now often a worry breastfeeding moms around the world today.

      Addressing women’s equality and breastfeeding have always been present over the past 100 years, but not all of us have had the same experience and the issues impacting both are complex.

  1. Terrill, this is quite profound. I would love to read your memoir someday around these topics — you shed light on subjects of depth and importance, as your creative instincts take ideas to the next level in wonderfully unique ways. I went to a college for women in the mid 70s and my mother had gone there, so I am also a firm believer in gender equality. Then, studying sociology during my early 30s, I considered social issues in depth, deciding the world was quite complex. In my 40’s and early 50s (up to now), I worked for many nonprofits and saw firsthand how extremely difficult change can be. My expertise is in organizational development. But power and politics often get in the way of true growth and forward movement. At any rate, now, I also find solace in creativity, writing, poetry, art, spirituality. This trajectory must be a shared path for many of us and I have to wonder what that says about the world as a whole. I’m not sure. Do we finally get to a place of peace because we’ve lived through all of these experiences? Would we find it any other way? I’m not sure. Tolle would say (and he lives in your part of the world, I think, Terrill) that life is supposed to frustrate us so we can achieve spiritual realization. Maybe he’ll drop by, leave a comment! Otherwise, thanks as always for this corner of the world that I enjoy visiting without fail. Your vision is strong and well-earned. With peace, Daisy

  2. At 61, there have been so many women that have influenced my journey, I could not list just one. I will say that nearly every time my feet were involved in political action they drew others to the experience with boundlessly good outcomes.

    I have been very moved by the women doing battle against the “budget” cuts to women’s health care by the US congress….What makes me sad is that most of the workers are older women and the younger women are not involved. One activist said she thought the younger woman had grown complacent and had never experienced life without good health care. I remember life with lots of underwear, runny stockings, dresses and uncomfortable shoes…and no good sanitary supplies…My mum mailed me tampons to college, because the town I was in was too conservative to carry them – then I sold them in the dorm to cover the cost and postage!!!

    I hope we can continue to keep moving in support of all people and respect and kindness – oh what an amazing world it would be.
    Wonderful words here and thank you for sharing

    • Thank you Patricia for sharing the depth of your experience with us. Made we want to laugh and cry at the same time. I think these final words are worth repeating…

      I hope we can continue to keep moving in support of all people and respect and kindness – oh what an amazing world it would be.

      I couldn’t agree more Patricia.

  3. What a wonderfully graphic post Terrill. Thank you so much. I look forward to reviewing it as soon as I am out of the E.R. w/my laptop. I’m dialing in on my slomo MAC at the moment, praying for beyond the best diagnosis of my beloved.

  4. Alison – I just saw your comment come through to Terrill’s post. Please know I’m holding HeartLight for your beloved. I lovingly refer to that as being “zipped in the pod.”

  5. This is a remarkably brave and profound piece. I applaud you Terrill for being open and sharing some of the wonderful and not so wonderful details that shaped your life and your prominence as an artist and as a proud woman. I was both touched by your words and dazzled by these ravishing compositions.

    The most profound creative influence I ever received from a woman (mind you I loved my mother more than I can relate here, but will go the academic route with this question) was Professor Kathryn Smith, an earthy college instructor who taught two semesters of children’s literature at the then Jersey City State College. She was a tireless and passionate teacher who left an incomparable impression on me.

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