If you need any proof that humans are one big, messy family, just think of how tough it is for all of us to get along! We pick at each other over what we believe (and don’t believe), squabble over resources and power, and turn misunderstandings into all-out feuds.
But this is not a story about sibling rivalry as part of the human condition. This is a story about sisterhood in action.
This week, I attended a meeting of the Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary (along with Title IX). The gathering brought together women of all ages and backgrounds. We sat together around a large, sunny conference table in downtown D.C., sharing stories, struggles, and visions of the future.
As my colleague and I arrived we were given deep red roses, symbols of passion and sacrifice. For these women are nothing if not passionate. (Several proudly dubbed themselves “troublemakers.”) And each has sacrificed a great deal for a seat at every table.
In fact, due to these women, not only do we now have seats at many of the tables previously reserved for men. We are now envisioning what it might be like to transform the decision-making table itself into a more open, collaborative space.
As one of the women reflected, explaining what it was like at the beginning of the Women’s Rights’ Movement:
“Those were the days of working together in the dark.”
I think she meant that, in the early years, there was no recognition of what this handful of pioneering women were doing. And if there was recognition, it usually took the form of derision or disbelief. As another woman recalled, a potential employer once looked at her and said, “Well, I hope you can type. Because that’s what you’ll be doing.” This – to a graduate of Radcliffe (once Harvard’s women college). She turned on her heels, and left the premises.
In their workplaces, homes, schools, sports arenas, and slowly in the halls of Congress, these women set in motion what we now take almost for granted: honoring and advancing women’s lives and potential.
But I took something else away from this event. I took the clarity and encouragement that working together in the dark – and alone – does bear fruit. Real, positive changes in how we think, act, and treat each other are the results of decades – centuries – of slow, painful slog.
At the same time, it is not only the results that drive us toward justice. It is not only enacting better laws and policies that ignites our consciousness. Rather, it is a deeper search for finding our self-in-community. For each of us desires to share our wisdom and humanity, gained over years of hard, invisible work.