41: The Ruths
Updated: Nov 30, 2020
Today I am thinking of my Grandma Ruth Dixon Lowe.
And Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
And my own life with an assumption that I could live to be 80-something.
Of course, you have heard of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or RBG. She recently died in September of this year, leaving a seat open on the Supreme Court of the United States.
The early lives of both women fascinate me.
The two Ruths were of the same generation, born five years apart: my Grandma in 1929 and RBG in 1933.
Both women were taught the value of education and independence by their mothers.
Ruth Bader, a Jewish girl from Brooklyn, NY, graduated in 1954 from Cornell with a bachelor's degree before she got married that same year.
Ruth Dixon, a Mormon girl from Provo, Utah, graduated in 1951 from BYU with a bachelor's degree before she got married to Howard that same year.
This stuns me.
In the 50s, women were still expected to identify as wives and mothers, despite continued postwar employment.
When I attended BYU in 1995, most Mormon girls still had that same identity.
Both of Ruth's' mothers worked.
Despite being married, both Ruths got advanced degrees.
My Grandma graduated with two master's degrees after her five children were born and her youngest was six years old.
RBG's first child was two when she started at Harvard Law School with her husband. When her husband got ill, she continued her classes, sat in on his classes for him and continued to raise their daughter, Jane.
Both were teachers.
Until the 1850s, men dominated as teachers. This reversed by 1875 due to women like Catharine Beecher who argued women were better at teaching young children. Educated men veered toward the stock market, planning railroads and managing factories.
Young women flocked toward the profession for the chance of being independent, and marrying for affection rather than stability.
Though she was still challenged as a woman, RBG taught at Rutgers and Columbia from 1963-1980. She hid her pregnancy while teaching, so as not to be fired.
In 1970, Grandma Ruth worked as a school librarian for 21 years, and briefly taught elementary school.
By the end of the 1970s, RBG had argued six cases to the Supreme Court--for men and women.
By 1980, both were grandmothers.
The list of influence from RBG's career is lengthy.
Because of her, state-funded schools were made to admit women.
Women now can have a mortgage and a bank account without a male co-signer.
She worked to strengthen equal pay for women.
She influenced a woman's right to work with her doctor and choose her own care.
It is now illegal for women to be fired if she gets pregnant.
Women now serve on juries.
Because of her foundational work on the court with gender discrimination, sexual orientation equality was able to be realized.
I'm sure you have heard the saying, "Be the Hero of your own story." Having women as the heroes does not diminish the men. Men have had a voice for a very long time.
They don't have to sit down. Just let the women stand up, too.
Today's Deep Breath: here's a practical juju nugget, a collective Next Best Decision.
My Grandma's legacy to me is just as dear as RBG's list of accomplishments.
When I was adopted into the family, she immediately was mine. Every word I uttered interested her. Like her, I paint. Like her, I read.
She always had a stack of library books waiting for my son, which they started to read immediately upon arrival of our visits.
Both of my children were held by her, though she died too soon in 2002.
Too soon, but not before she had a great influence on me.
We have choices.
How do we choose to love each other, and support one another in our goals and accomplishments?
My birth grandmother was also a teacher in the 50s, in Michigan.
A psychic once told me that she was disappointed in me for not aspiring to "...be more. Women are allowed to do so much these days, and you are wasting it!"
I use the quote marks loosely.
Maybe she does exist on some other plane and she does think that is true.
The neglect and abuse I experienced from her own unprotected daughter spurred me to build love and family in my life.
I have the ability to pick myself up and move forward, despite road blocks and the actions of others.
I have an opinion.
I have desires of my own.
I have raised a family with love and attention: meals, homework and activities, mental health care and wellness exams, teacher meetings, costumes and school plays. (Can you diagram that sentence? So fun.)
I am proud of what I have accomplished and that I created two little humans who became adults who will dig out their own paths.
My baby girl's middle name is Ruth. She is destined for a great life, whether she realizes it yet or not.
One decision at a time. One day after another.
Hug your daughters. And help pay for their college.