The Stories Women Tell

Grandma, Mum and a baby, Great Grandma and Great Great Aunt Nin or possibly Great Great Aunt Emily

This month is Women's History Month: but for me history began with the stories of my mother, grandmother, great grandma, great great aunt Nin, who's fiance died in the Boer war. Grandma remembered the stories told to her my her grandmother; and she passed on the ones from hers, so even as a three year old I had women's history passed down to me from the 1780's.

Some was unimportant, like how to keep chooks in the early colony, and the poems or hymns they sang…what am I saying? Deeply important, as it was a heritage of how people lived and loved and thought, like my many times great Grandmother who wondered if it were a sin to love her husband so much. Surely love as deep as that should be kept for God.

Other stories contradicted the history books, or added to them: the Reverend Marsden who lived next door locking a child in the hen house for three days for impudence, the joy of a great great aunt being offered the role of operatic soloist, and three days later finding out she had TB and her singing was over. Cricket matches and universal suffrage and the right of women to be granted degrees, and for that matter my own stories of the late 1960's when I was paid 19.50 for a six day week with overtime each day, when a man in the same job, with the same massive overtime, received $160. (The basic wage was $56).

History is stories, and women's history, stories not just about women, but from them.

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© Jackie French