The Greatest Generations
Published September 30, 2022
By Lib Campbell
Tom Brokaw wrote his book, The Greatest Generation, about the men of World War Two. They rose up to defend a nation under attack, with great resolve that our United States would survive and thrive. There was great service on battle fields and oceans around the world. A grateful nation still gives thanks for their sacrifice.
It occurred to me at a funeral I was officiating for a dear friend’s 95-year-old Mother, that she was one of the greatest generation of women I have known. When her granddaughter offered words of eulogy, the one word she used to describe her grandmother was, “fierce.” Her grandmother fiercely loved her family, fiercely loved her church, fiercely loved her friends. In every aspect of her life, her fierce presence and determination clothed her with dignity, so the wisdom of Proverbs teaches us.
Tom’s Mother was fierce; my Mother was fierce. Many of the women of that generation that I have known in the church could be described as fierce. They cooked three meals a day, tended children, canned foods, did church work, wore red lipstick and painted their nails red. Many of them held jobs outside the home. And when the work was done, they played bridge and held book club meetings. They were heroes of the household and the PTA.
Queen Elizabeth II was of that Greatest Generation. Her steadfast duty to service was fierce. She never wavered from her charge as sovereign. Her belovedness by most people of the UK is evident. Everybody admires steadfastness.
For many of the women, they ran the household when their husbands were away in the war. I remember the cannery that was built in my hometown. Produce from the farm was preserved for the coming winter. I remember dishes collected out of boxes of washing powder and glasses to be washed after all the jelly was eaten. Both Mother and Tom’s Mother talked about the Great Depression and the rationing, and the sense that everybody was in this together.
I grew up in the 50s and 60s. I remember the women’s liberation movement, the bra-burning, the protest for equal rights under the law. The words of the Constitution say that all “men” are created equal. It is because literalists forgot that women are part of humankind, co-equal with men, part of the editorial mankind, that women in the 1970s struggled to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA is still not ratified. I remember asking my father-in-law, who was in the NC Legislature at the time and voted against the ERA, why he did not support it?
He gave me the pat answer of politicians who thought the Bill of Rights already gave women equal rights. If that were the case, why have women been paid about 20 percent less than men doing the same work? Thankfully, women’s soccer has won a score in the equal pay column. Domestic work done by women in the homes has never been valued the same as men’s work out on the job. I’m not sure we have done ourselves any favors working outside the home, then coming home to do the housework.
Women’s Rights are under assault like at no other time since the 1970s. Even the call for gender neutral language is waning. We are in a regressive time for women. Who will bear the cause going forward? Who are the next great generation of women on the horizon who will carry the flame of equality forward? Who are those who will remember and emulate all who have given themselves to the work of voting rights, equal pay for equal work, choice over reproductive rights, childcare, availability for insurance, maternity leave, and all the other causes particular to women?
Women are fierce. Fierce regarding their children. Fierce in supporting their husbands and families. We need to be fierce, dogged, and loud in preserving the rights that are God-given, not Congress given. Waking the sleeping Mama Bear will be a sight to behold. Thanks to all the women who have worked to change the world for good.
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist Pastor, retreat leader and columnist who blogs at www.avirtualchurch.com. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org