It’s not unusual for my daughters and me to talk about women’s history at home. We all read a lot, and we all find history fascinating, especially when it comes to the lives of women. What is unusual is that this past holiday, when we were all together (I think we were straightening up the living room), I had a moment of illumination and insight so powerful that I wrote it down on my arm: “We are the dream they dreamed.”
I couldn’t even talk about it in the moment, since it was such a powerful vision.
The moment went something like this: I remember folding a blanket; Maya was discussing a book she was reading about how hard women had it in the past. And here I am, a divorced mother of three children (from two different fathers; one born out of wedlock), supporting myself and my family with a job (running a company), living in a home I own and can decorate however I want. A woman free to travel, write, create scandalous art, have affairs if I want to, and dream a new dream. My realization was immediately accompanied by a vision of one of the many women from history we admire sitting on a couch, forlorn and dispirited and thinking to herself, if not saying out loud: “One day…”
“One day, women will have the right to vote and it will just seem normal.” I imagine suffragist Alice Paul thinking this while imprisoned for relentlessly battling for women’s right to vote, perhaps while being force-fed raw eggs during her hunger strike.
“One day, women will be able to go to college just like men.” I’m sure women’s rights activist Margaret Fuller had this thought many a time as she watched the men around her (many intellectually inferior to her*) go off to Harvard then get jobs while she was trapped reading at home.
“One day, women will be able to marry for love, divorce by their own choosing without losing their children and home, and love whomever they want” was a dream held by Victoria Woodhull, the first female stockbroker and the first woman to run for president.
“One day, women will be able to wear whatever they want, whenever they want to,” thought a 19th-century woman as a servant stuffed her into a corset, which prohibited her from making easy movements—other than waltzing.
“One day, women of all races, colors, and religions will be free to live a life of their own choosing, in public,” I imagine civil rights activist Harriet Tubman saying as she hid in a dark barn, tired after a long night of walking, dreaming of a day when freedom would be inherent to all.
“One day, women will be able to own their own property, their own homes, and decorate them however they want to!” Many women still dream of this today. Some of us take this for granted, but it’s not a reality yet for many women around the world—especially in Africa and the Middle East.
It’s really not about “equality”; it’s about freedom. Freedom. FREEDOM. The freedom to live a life fully and without fear, no matter your gender. Women today, especially in America, are living a dream that our foremothers dreamed for us. And they have passed the torch to us.
So now, what is our dream?
Here are two of mine:
One day, all children will be able to grow up healthy and strong, in loving homes with enough for everyone to eat, without being poisoned by toxic chemicals in their food or the environment. One day.
One day, women around the world will be able to express their love and sexuality without fear.
What is your dream?
* I am currently reading Megan Marshall’s Pulitzer Prize–winning book, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, a beautifully written biography of this impressive woman’s life.