As I mentioned in the last post, I often think of the women who lived and worked in my house 150 years ago. Though I know nothing about them, I do sometimes wonder what their lives were like and what they thought about the world they lived in. Occasionally, when I am feeling as if the earth in my time is in too much trouble to ever survive, I imagine the world they saw when they stood at the same kitchen window I gaze out from everyday.
In their time, which was my great-great-great-grandmother’s day, not so far back, really:
• Americans held other Americans in slavery—buying, selling, and killing each other with no remorse.
• Women could not vote, keep their earnings or inheritances if they were married, serve on juries, follow a career of their choosing, or engage in most other activities that we take for granted.
• The genocide against Native Americans was in full swing and would continue for decades and decades.
• If you had a mental illness or a developmental disability, you would receive no treatment, intervention, or education, and may spend your life in an institution.
• You had a good chance of dying a painful, wasting death from tuberculosis and burying one of more of your children from infectious diseases.
• If you became too old or sick to work and had no savings or family, you would spend your last days in a poor farm, if you were lucky.
• And on and on.
When you look at the world from our ancestors’ perspective forward, we have come very far in 150 years. Perhaps we might come just as far or farther in the next 150 years.
I also realize that each of the changes has come about because someone or a group of people envisioned a different and better future and made it happen, even though in some cases it took many lifetimes to accomplish. We live in the utopian dreamworld of our ancestors. One reason why I may ponder those who changed our ancestors’ world is that I live in a town that is well-known for its Victorian reformers. Abolition, women’s rights, education, inclusion of those with disabilities, religious reform, labor—all these were passions of people who walked the same streets I do and were not so very different from me.
So, I have learned from them that it isn’t enough to have faith in the future, but we must also actively envision and create it. Then, in 150 years, our great-great-great-grandchildren will think about our world and celebrate us just as we do those who brought about a better world so many years ago.
But, you may ask, what does this really have to do with women’s spirituality? I believe that real change is only possible when people recognize and honor the sacred within all of us, all beings, and the earth. Until then, it is acceptable to treat others as less than human and ravage our home. What we do to bring balance, Goddess, and the Sacred Feminine back into our world is as essential as anything that has happened to make human progress in the past. The only difference is that now it is up to us.