In the late 1920’s, my great grandmother quit her job as a nurse at Swedish hospital in Englewood, CO to mother her young child while my great grandfather traveled the country building grain silos for the government. During that same period and through the 1930’s, she voluntarily constructed a small tent city in the land behind her house to quarantine and care-for dozens of TB patients in Englewood and South Denver. MY GREAT GRANDMOTHER IS A FEMINIST!
In 1942, my grandmother began working as a recruitment clerk for the U.S. War Department office in Littleton, CO while my grandfather served overseas as a bomber tail-gunner. By the end of that year, she had saved $300 which she used to buy a one-acre lot in downtown Englewood and basic construction materials. This land purchase was kept secret from my grandfather, even when he came home for a brief medical leave in 1943. Shortly after he returned to the European war theatre, my grandmother continued to work at the War Department by day, and on evenings and weekends she mixed concrete and poured two-foot by one-foot blocks into forms she made from scrap lumber that her father had given to her. Every night she went to sleep in a tent she had erected on the lot – one of the same tents her mother had used a decade earlier to house TB patients. This daily routine continued for two years including nine months of pregnancy and child birth – My mother spent most of her first year of life living between that tent and my great grandmother’s house. With the help of her father who had retired from the silo construction business, my grandmother completed construction on a 700-square foot house just in time for her husband to come home from the War in the summer of 1945 – Boy was he surprised! My grandparents spent nearly 60 years in that house and today it is part of the Englewood Historical Registry. Fortunately, my grandmother wasn’t finished. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, she was one of the first female department store managers for Neusteter’s Department store. In the late 1970’s and into the early 1980’s, she was the first female Chairwoman for the Arapahoe County Republican Party. During these same years, she taught me how to cook, play the piano, the love of classic American literature like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Tobacco Road, and the quintessential American work ethic – whenever there was a lull in productivity she would tell me “Get-to-doin!” MY GRANDMOTHER IS A FEMINIST!
My mother was born with the same pioneering spirit as her mother and grandmother. She was the first person in the family, male or female, to go to college. Her first job after college was as a bank teller – she started at the bottom. While five months pregnant with me and the bank manager by this time, she was held at gunpoint in the bank safe during a robbery attempt while the other employees hid under their desks. After nearly twenty years of hard work and promotion she made it all the way to Senior VP and Chief Operating officer. She served in this senior capacity at three different banking institutions breaking all kinds of glass ceilings along the way – and these were not her greatest accomplishments. While tackling the corporate world as she did 60 hours a week, nothing at home was neglected. She cooked all the meals, did all the laundry, helped with all the homework, and attended all the countless extra-curricula’s in which I participated. She taught me to shoot a lay-up, hit a one-handed backhand, and throw a baseball. On top of all that, our house was always spotless. My dad worked a manual labor construction job and earned in two months what my mother earned in one week. After work each day he did pretty much nothing but watch TV, fish, and gamble. She was both the “Bread-winning executive” and “Susie-homemaker” all wrapped up in one – the iconic picture of a “Woman who can have it all.” MY MOTHER IS A FEMINIST!
I met my wife at work in 1998 while she was in the midst of ending her first marriage. We became fast friends and quickly more. Eventually we moved in together – “Living in sin.” She was generous enough to work full time and allow me to work only part-time and continue my education. I kept dragging my feet on marriage and kids but she never gave up on me. Even after I was diagnosed with cancer, Lisa never bailed – she continued to work full time so that everything was covered and I had medical insurance to cover the four operations, three radiation treatments, and four experimental procedures needed to get me back in shape. For two years, she took care of me and we weren’t even married – That’s how I knew she was the one. She was under no obligation to stick with me; she could have said “I’m out” at any point and I wouldn’t have blamed her a bit – But she didn’t, she worked, on me. She shared with me the Gospel, taught me how to love, and to this day is still trying to get me to operate more in balance between Truth and Grace. Shortly thereafter was marriage and kids and things normalized – we were Ward and June Cleaver. I worked 80 hours a week or more as a C-Level executive and she was at points a full-time stay at home mom and at others a part-time stay at home mom (let’s face it, as much as I was working and traveling, she was a single mother) and she was the best. Lisa mothered our two boys like no other could, teaching them to be curious, silly, and to not take life to seriously; And I never had to lift a finger at home. However, in life, the only thing constant is change; And three years ago, we decided to uproot our happy life and we began homeschooling our two boys. Lisa voluntarily left behind her “Perfect” life of motherhood and went back to work full-time so that I could work part-time and homeschool much of the day. At one point, early on, she worked three jobs just so that we would have health insurance and so that ends could meet. For all intent and purposes, she is the working woman “Bread-winner” and I am the “Stay-at-home” dad. MY WIFE IS A FEMINIST!
Through the writing of this piece, I discovered a profound common thread. That thread was not something that was stated – all four of the women in my life have had different events and experiences within their lives. The common thread is something that I left unstated – All these struggles were overcome without complaint; All the accomplishments were made without special acknowledgment or a hand-out from the government. My great grandmother was not a “Flapper” of the 1920’s, my grandmother was not a “Hepburn Hellion” in the 1940’s, my mother didn’t waste any time burning her bra in the 1960’s, and my wife didn’t spend this weekend on the steps of the capitol screaming about the government being in control of her vagina. They were all busy with family, career, and community – sounds a lot like feminism to me.
So, forgive me Madonna, Ashley Judd, and Gloria Steinem if I am not “Down with your struggle.” Fortunately for me, the bar measuring effective feminism was set far higher than either of you will likely achieve. I want to thank my grandmothers, my mother, and my wife for imprinting on me the mark of truly effective feminism. It allows me to more easily ignore the invective, hyperbole, and false narratives that encompass much of the ridiculous modern feminist movement on display today.
The four feminists in my life have some advice for you young women (and you young men guilted into participation) feeling pulled into the “struggle” today – Take off the pink pussy hats, drop the nipple-shaped umbrellas, and throw away your homemade “I’m a Nasty Woman” signs. Pick-up your toolbelt, stethoscope, law books, brief bag, spatula, apron, iron, or diaper bag and listen to grandma – “GET-TO-DOIN!”