My great-grandmother died at the age of 114, or so they say. Her birth certificate wasn’t a reliable source to find out her age because children were inscribed on the Island’s registries in the later years of their childhood (8 or 9), her name was Maria Simplicia, we all learned to call her Mama Querida or beloved mother. She didn’t read or write and lived most of her life in poverty, she lived through the 1914 earthquake and several strong hurricanes that hit our Island at the beginning of the 1900’s.
What was her life like?
I know bits and pieces of it, but I do know one thing she was a survivor. She was a quiet and very reserved lady, when she’d walk she would place her right hand at the back of her hip and her dress would go up a bit. She never wore pants in her life (she missed on that one). Mama Querida could be described with one word “stoic”. Probably that’s who women in my family take after.
I first saw that gesture in my grandmother, she would press her lips and move her mouth toward the right side and simply say nothing, but if you saw the line of her lips you knew something was wrong. The only thing that brought her joy were her flowers, she would get up in the morning and still wearing her pajamas on, I would see her outside checking on her flowers. I never really understood that, why in the world doesn’t she get changed before going outside? Well as a very grown woman in my late 40’s I do the same. I caught myself sometime ago, roaming my back yard garden in PJ’s, I wanted a quick check on my lilies so I stepped outside. Probably that’s why she did it too! Getting dressed wasn’t a priority, going outside was, before the day began with its hectic display of the craziness of a full house.
My grandmother never used pants either.
Back in their day pants were only used by men. Decent ladies didn’t wear them and if they had to, let’s say because they were working in the coffee plantation picking coffee beans, and their pants would be worn under their skirts. That sure seems comfy! Pants were the symbol of who was in charge, you know THEM, but were they really in charge?
These two amazing women should have worn pants, if they wanted to. They were strong and most of all their will made it possible for them to raise large families (more than ten children each). They went into labor many times by themselves, until the midwife could come. My grandmother even had twins without proper medical care. She sewed, embroidered and worked the land to guarantee that my mom and her brothers and sisters had enough to eat. She complimented my grandfather, they were a team. Where did she learn to become such a strong lady? Well, obviously from her mom.
They stood strong knowing nothing about feminism. Those labels weren’t around back then.
What are labels good for anyway? I personally hate labeling things or people. Why do we have to give everything a name?
Were they feminists? A loud and strong YES would be the answer.
They didn’t participate in rallies, or marched down a city avenue, or burned their undergarments, or do anything outrageous. They simply lived their lives being strong independent women (even if they were married), in a world where men dictated the what’s, when’s, and who’s. They kept their families moving forward, never stopping until they relied on others to care for them at the end of their own lives.
We live in a world where women wear pants all the time, yet we still have women around that let men abuse and use them like toys or a useless object. Why? I don’t know and probably none of us ever will.
We can only look back in time and search our family tree to learn through the lessons are elders taught us along the way. My own personal one would be : you don’t have to wear pants to be strong and rise tall above your personal circumstances. We all have the capacity of change and that’s what keeps our world turning every day.
It’s more about doing and less about talking.