Our foremothers paved the way for us; now we pave the way for the women now coming of age.
This was written by the author Saturday morning, after the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
I’ve been thinking about all of the stories of the strong women in my family today. This day. The day after Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died.
I come from a line of very strong women. My grandmother, Ora, died when I was very small, but I’ve seen pictures of her. She was tall, broad and her hands were well worn. My mother and her sisters used to talk about her with fear and awe and love in the same breath.
When Ora was raising her family, which included my mother and her two sisters, a cousin who was developmentally disabled and “the boarders” as my mother used to call them. It was the Great Depression, and she did whatever it took.
Sometimes that meant moving from abandoned house to abandoned house, where they would crawl in through an open basement window or maybe it was a window that my grandfather, whom everyone called Hap, broke. Yes, they were squatters. But, if you listened to the Hathaway girls, as my mother and her sisters were known, it was all a great adventure.
When the Hathaway girls grew up, they had babies. Lots of them. There were a few boys sprinkled in here and there, although not in my family’s case where four daughters were born. Our family has always been female-centric. My mother’s strength and certitude about who she was and how she would move through the world as a woman was formed during her childhood—coming home after school to find the family had moved one day from the house on Magnolia Street to one a block over on Maybrick—and later as a 20-year old mother when her first-born daughter, still an infant, came very close to dying. Toward the end of her life, she cared for my father as dementia took him and their love story faded slowly and painfully.
As the country mourns the passing of Justice Ginsburg and honors her legacy, I’ve been thinking about all of the women who have come before us in all of our families, in all of our circles, in all of our workplaces, and in all of our communities. All of the women who have made us who we are. All of the women who have made things possible for us that we never knew were once impossible.
I’ve been thinking about the thin—but strong—string that ties all of us together as women. I’ve been thinking about the paving they did for us. And the paving that we must do now for others. And about the paving that I will continue to do in memory of my grandmother, Ora, my mother, Katie, and the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg.