This is a guest post from Laura_Elsewhere in memory of 9/ll. Laura is a gifted writer who frequently posts the most utterly scrumptious odes to homemaking on my Vintage Housekeepers Circle, but this morning I felt that this piece deserved a much wider audience. Many, many thank you’s to Laura for allowing me to re-post it here.
When life is hard… we become Womankind…
What on earth am I on about this time?! I hear you ask?
Well, today is the ninth anniversary of 9/11 and that week was the most obvious example I have ever lived of how there is something about being a woman… I’m a fair feminist most of the time, and insist on my right to vote and my right to wear what clothes I like and my right to choose not to have children and all the other wonderful rights I have as a modern British woman.
BUT…. in the days following 9/11, several friends across the country and I found that we were spending as much of our time as possible in “traditional” woman’s pursuits. We were home-building – no, more than that we were battening down the hatches, we were stocking up for our families, even those of us who live alone.
Somehow, so vast a shock and threat to our safety resulted in our reverting to what women have done for thousands of years in times of danger – we made our homes warm and comfortable and full of food supplies.
We pickled and preserved – my friend E even went next door to her brand-new neighbour whom she hadn’t yet met, introduced herself and then ransacked the poor woman’s fridge and cupboards for jam-jars E could take! I found myself suddenly embroidering whitework onto a new bolster-cover – ha, that’ll see off the terrorists, won’t it? “Stand back, men – she has a bolster-case – and it’s embroidered!! Retreat! Fall back, fall back!” We knitted, we sewed, we darned, we patched. People who hadn’t held a needle in years went out and bought them and started making do and mending.
It comforted us, somehow.
Women have always been the ones to make the shelter into a home. Some of us do it all year round, some do it when we can snatch the time – but in times of fear and insecurity, many many of us found that it gave us strength.
So today as you wield your duster, or drive to the supermarket, or cut back summer’s faded flowers, just think how many millions and millions of women before you have done these things, or their contemporary equivalent.
You in your SUV driving to the out-of-town super-mart… the 19th-century Antipodean pioneer women gathering wild fruit… the 18th-century Jane Austen young ladies writing out labels for jellies and jams in copperplate script… the 17th-century womenfolk who left the island of Britain to sail to the Colonies with their packets of precious seeds to plant a new vegetable garden… the 16th-century young woman learning in the still-room how to brew home remedies … the 15th-century women who stored up their dried beans to eat in the winter… the 14th-century women who gathered and stored herbs trying to keep the great plagues of Europe from their doors… back and back and back… wherever you look in the past, you find traces of womenfolk working to make a shelter into a home.
We are part of a long, long history, and we should be proud of all who went before and will come after.
Our very womanhood is our strength…
In tribute to all those who lost their lives and all those they left behind.