Any celebration of women of the present should also make us look to our history, either as a people or individuals, and also to our future. What happens to the women of the future will as surely be influenced by us in the present day as we were by women of our past.
Others will make a far more eloquent argument than I as to the international standing of women and our role in the world so I thought I’d offer a personal perspective, drawing on the past and looking to the future.
As a young girl I suppose I lived in a matriarchal environment and never even realised it. My Mum, one of four sisters – the other three of whom were all regular visitors -somehow managed to feed my Dad, my four brothers and sisters and me on Dad’s hard earned wages. There was, however, much more to her than that.
Empowered and, yes, hardened by the miners strike of 84/5 she retrained as a hospital auxiliary worker late in life inspiring her daughters (amongst other things and in addition to bringing up their own families) to manage a brain injuries unit and enter local politics, to own their own business and even to emigrate to Canada to work as a Hospital Ward Sister.
However, external influences are massively important too. I recall in those dark days of the strike other women such as a young, feisty Nurse and Labour/Trade Union activist who supported my family and many other local ones. Her name was Suzi Armitage. She went on to serve as a Councillor of great distinction until her death and was a woman, I know, who inspired my Mother to inspire her Daughters. Not a household name in the Labour movement outside Leeds perhaps (where she’s a legend by the way) but a woman of great belief in the strength of her gender, and one who empowered others to feel the same.
The future looks bright. My own daughter, studying politics amongst other subjects at nearby Notre Dame, inspires me every day with her drive, confidence in herself as a young woman and understanding of both her own and other women’s place in the world going forward. I hope through my life as a working Mum and Councillor I inspire her too.
So, on International Woman’s Day let’s take a moment to reflect on those women close to home who inspire, empower, enlighten or just make us want to be better people. I’m sure we all have equally compelling and important examples and thanks for letting me share mine with you!
Janette is Labour Councillor for Headingley ward. You can read more about her and her work on our page – Working for You – Your Labour Councillors
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