I’ve started following a site on Facebook called Mighty Girl. It’s a great site. It highlights all kinds of girls and women doing interesting things to change the world in big ways. I think in these days of closet feminism and entitlement, this kind of information is important.
This week, however, I’ve been thinking about those women in my own family history that did their small part to change the world. These women, and so many others, are largely ignored but for the few who remember them. And, at least in the case of my family, those memories are growing dimmer.
The cottage has been a busy place this week as we play host to extended family. They are here to rest my dear departed Great Aunt. She died this winter quietly in Calgary, her later life diminished by a failing memory and lack of direct descendants. She never had children, choosing to maintain, what in her day would have been called, a spinster.
Despite her rather lonely final years, the life Willie (Wilhelmina, but I was told NEVER to call her that) led was dominated by service to others, particularly those most vulnerable. She trained as a nurse, largely in part to get out of the poverty of rural Nova Scotia where she was raised.
Willie took that new profession and did something unexpected however, especially for a girl from Advocate Harbour. Willie took work with the federal government and spent years flying into communities in the high arctic in bush planes helping aboriginal people who likely had never seen a Western medical team like the one she and the doctor she accompanied comprised. She spent years doing this and only much later in her career did she moved south to Calgary where she chose to work almost exclusively with the troubled aboriginal communities in the Southern part of the province.
Willie earned the respect and gratitude of more of this country’s aboriginal people than most of us will ever have the privilege of meeting. Though we heard many of her stories years ago, most of us gathered for her memorial could not remember the details of her time up North, just that it was remarkable. She changed this country one day at a time, one soul at a time, and despite some beautiful thank you gifts of art we are lucky to be left with, most of that legacy will go unremarked upon and unremembered.
This week as we laid her to rest (well, not really, but the story of the empty grave and the lesson of trusting the cremated ashes to a less-than-reliable cousin will have to wait for another day) I find myself thinking of all those other largely forgotten women who blessed this world in ways we will never really know about.
Feminism, Justin Trudeau’s outspoken statements excepted, may be dying but strong women are not. The so-called weaker sex is anything but weak and I am pledging to remember them. I hope you will too.