Written March 8, 2016, but just couldn’t stay awake long enough to publish it until now. My apologies for the delay.
In many ways, I’m sure, all of us measure our considerations of women based on theology (the Virgin Mary, Parvati, Shakti, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kwan Yin…the list is endless, of course); but it starts with our mothers.
For me, as my years with her drew to a close, I recognized and saw her as all of the above. She was the best friend I hadn’t realized I’d had for all that time; but my teens–as many of us had–weren’t the most pleasant for her. Nevertheless, looking back, I see her today as I had always known somewhere inside me–as the epitome of woman, the woman to be honored and revered, to be treasured for the life she gave me, and to be perceived in awe for the accomplishments she not only made but knew I could or would achieve. Somehow, she believed in me even when I couldn’t believe in myself.
She Walks in Beauty
Lord Byron (George Gordon)
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
The Brookings Institute has several especially outstanding articles posted today that might interest you. While I’d planned to write about another special lady and hope still to do so, these articles are also well worth considering: What does International Women’s Day mean for the future of gender equality?
Julia Gillard’s article in the Brookings Institute International Women’s Day series offered today. Considering the disparities between the genders, Gillard examines the root of the inequalities traced, she says, to early childhood and education. I have to agree with her:
Women have been raised differently than boys, and this has been a generational thing. Here’s where Marlo Thomas’ “Free to be You and Me” was so important in starting to tighten that enormous gap that had once existed. While there have been some improvements, we still have far to go. Gillard encourages us to celebrate the strides we’ve made while not lightening the effort to do more.
Obviously, the gender pay gaps are yet one more issue, and Richard V. Reeve and Nathan Joo cover that in Occupational hazard? The future of the gender pay gap. They point away from any suggestions that their level of education or skills are not as sound as men’s are and, in fact, they urge the reader to take note of women not outpacing men on the educational front. Nevertheless, they suggest that “sexism is getting more subtle.”
And if you’re interested in sustainable development goals, you probably will want to read “No girl or woman left behind: A global imperative for 2030” by John McArthur, one more in this series. Among the targets in those goals for 2030, eliminating child marriage and protecting mothers’ lives.
I especially loved Mr. McArthur’s closing words, “On this International Women’s Day, we all need to recommit to break from business as usual. Our mothers, sisters, daughters, and partners around the world all deserve nothing less.” Amen to that, Mr. McArthur!
The women in the family in which I was raised tend to be strong even when we haven’t realized it. My grandmother–the woman who bore my mother–wore slacks before it was generally accepted clothing for the female born in her era. And yet I never saw my mother in slacks! She never felt comfortable doing so. Each marched to her own beat and gave me this much sense of being my own person, hearing that spirit inside me that makes me who I am although I didn’t always understand what I was hearing inside.
I’ve been especially intrigued by the story of Anandibai Gopal Joshi who was incredibly strong in what was a very short lifetime. Married at 9 (no error in typing there!), she was the first Hindu woman to come to America–and she did so to enter medical school.
Although she was so young and already married to a man twenty years her senior, he had the sense to insist Anandi take her studies seriously, and then made sure she went off to medical school since this was her field of interest. I won’t give you all of the details of her life since Scroll did an outstanding job of it in her story. But I am interested in sharing her chart with you since it reveals–even untimed, what a truly remarkable woman she was –and at such a young age!
Her Sun (2°40 orb) and Pluto (1°14 orb) sit in undecaquartisextile position to Saturn. There are a few added twists here with Mercury in opposition to Saturn which may have inclined her to much sorrow, of course, but also could have bestowed her with the attraction to serious thought and challenging subjects.
And then there was the matter of her placement of Pluto which fell in a 3°06 orb to the North Node… I think of Pluto as one of the key planets associated with medicine, most likely because of the association to surgeons and life-saving measures. The strength of this kind of positioning seemed to indicate to me that the Pluto-North Node connection was her destiny, a still unfulfilled highlight she would need to accomplish. Yet her medical studies also came after the birth and death of her son when she was 14 (Pluto rules the 8th–a terminal house–in the natural chart.) which, of course, offers one more intriguing connection for her in paving her path to medical school. Medical school didn’t begin to tell the story, however: She was studying to become an obstetrician. Everything she’d been through in her life already fully lived had taken her down the path to the point where she could help other women to bring their babies into the world with better chances for survival.
How can I ignore Ceres, the nurturing mother, in this chart? It fits! While you, dear reader, can’t see Ceres in the chart, Pluto forms an 18-minute partile conjunction to Ceres. I normally don’t even consider Ceres because it’s not one of the basic foundations on which I focus. But I can’t ignore it this time.
One site belonging to an organization called Long Island Cares describes Ceres in a way I think offers the perfect description of Anandi Joshi:
“Ceres was the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain, and the love a mother bears for her child… Ceres was a kind and benevolent goddess to the Romans and they had a common expression, “fit for Ceres,” which meant splendid… She was beloved for her service to mankind… Ceres was the only one of the gods who was involved on a day-to-day basis in the lives of the common folk. While others occasionally “dabbled” in human affairs when it suited their personal interests, or came to the aid of “special” mortals they favored, the goddess Ceres was truly the nurturer of mankind.” Now consider how Pluto, or as some know the myth–Hades, kidnapped Ceres’ daughter Proserpine. While it seems odd that Ceres’ daughter’s kidnapper stands so close to her in the chart, perhaps it makes sense when we remember how she–Anandibai Gopal Joshi–ended up devoting herself in service to humanity through her having become India’s first female doctor. In some ways, perhaps we can say we have Pluto (Hades) to thank for that too.
As that Blooming Undecaquartisextile from the semisextile of the Sun and Pluto/Ceres to 7th house Saturn goes, she dedicated her life to what she could do for humankind. Sadly, her life ended too quickly: She graduated as an obstetrician in 1886 at the age of 20 and returned to India to work in Kolhapur at the Albert Edward Hospital, but she contracted tuberculosis the following year and died a month short of her 22nd birthday.
By the age of 22, my mother had become a concert pianist and had been performing with another young, rising star, a violinist named Florence Stern. Playing in Berlin, Munich and then on to New York City’s Town Hall, the two reveled in sharing their love of music with their audiences. I suppose by the time my mother finally married, she was ready to settle down with babies and moving into the life of the nurturing mother.
But in comparison when I look back, I’m actually amazed that my grandmother never nurtured the Divine Feminine in me. She treated me as if I had been an unwanted intruder in her life. (Perhaps I was. Who knows?) And while I was my mother’s only daughter and the baby, she did all she could to nurture, nourish and afford me everything she could to enrich the life I would have. But she never told me until I was fully into adulthood that girls were harder to raise than boys. I’d like to think that made me blessed.
She brought music to the world yet never sang her own song through public speeches, preferring to ask me to write what she wanted to say and then ask me to deliver those speeches myself while she looked on. That seemed so curious to me about this woman who had been in the public eye as she had me do all of my life as well. But she was the Divine Feminine because she nurtured the spirit in me.
And despite all of the mistakes she made and I continue to make in my life, as we all do, somehow I guess I came out on the other side of it all since I’m here to talk about it. I may never know how–or why. Anandibai Gopal Joshi, आनंदीबाई गोपाळराव जोशी in Marathi, was born Yamuna, which means Holy River. To her, to my mother, and to all of the women who have celebrated this day in celebration of International Women, may all of us continue to be able to move through our lives and those of others, inspiring, enriching, nourishing and bringing the quiet spirit of the Divine Feminine to the world beyond.