A Facebook post featured a newspaper clipping from way back when. Printed in 1960 it provides a fascinating look into what was happening, a window to a past that isn’t all that it cracked up to be. Sure, in some ways it offers nothing new. The tribute to a citizen who had died is touching, but it’s something that, sadly, will always be newsworthy. Also consistently newsworthy are the updates on local affairs. Knowing what’s happening in the clubs and organizations in our community will always be important.
As interesting as this newspaper clipping was in terms of providing a window in to past current affairs, what was really fascinating was the unspoken message in the caption provided for the single image that appeared on that day.
It was a picture of the local Legion Ladies being honoured for their years of service. Great! Local history revealing the faces behind the story and bringing it to life. The caption helpfully identified the women and that’s where I found a sudden, huge disconnect between yesterday and today.
That disconnect was in the way the local Legion Ladies were identified. Or, more honestly, unidentified. The naming was not of the women, but of the husbands. The caption did not read “Mrs. Jane Doe” but “Mrs. John Doe”. I suppose it was the cultural norm of the day, but even having grown up way back when, I was shocked. Maybe it’s my more modern perspective, but it was as if those women were all but erased. They were not people without their husband’s names being attached to them. Marriage, it seems was all about the man in the relationship. The female simply didn’t matter.
While in many ways women are still second-class citizens in our society, they are at least themselves, in print or in person. We would no more think of calling a woman by her husband’s name than we would calling a man by his wife’s name. Women are named for who they are and in that naming are given both their full identity and power.
That newspaper clipping was enlightening. It speaks to why things must change, to the progress made so far, and the long road still ahead for women to be fully appreciated, honoured and empowered to their full potential. What’s especially curious to me is how, in a time when the Bible featured much more prominently in society, that text didn’t devalue women in quite the same way. While not necessarily a paradigm of women’s rights, when it came to naming women, it got things right. It was Sarah, not Mrs. Abraham. It was Mary, not Mrs. Joseph. It was Priscilla, not the wife of a prominent early Christian. When it came to naming women, the Bible got it right most of the time.
We must get it right. God did not create women as second class citizens. They are a specific expression of God’s image, each with their own name, gifts and purpose. They do not find their identity in anyone but God, and even then, their identity is not subservient or secondary. Women are fully children of God, blessed creations who need no man to be fully known and appreciated.