A Reflection for Women’s History Month

Our Stories and Conversations with Her:

A Reflection
by Cathy Cunningham

The very word “History” suggests in our
society that it is the stories of men that take
precedence over anyone else’s stories in society.
That begs the question as to why there aren’t
required classes in school called “Herstory,”
“Their-story,” or even “Our-story” rather than
“History”. I would have liked to have taken
herstory, their-story or our-story classes in grade
school and high school. I did take gender
studies in college, but it was not a requirement.
And why do I bring this up?
As we celebrate, Woman’s History Month in
March 2023, I have realized that it has only
been through conversations with my
grandmother, my mother, and other women in
my life, in oral form, that my eyes have been
opened to stories that I did not know…stories of
women that have not been told or recorded in

our culture and society. For instance, several
years ago, my mother and I went to see the film,
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, at Woodland
Mall. I.G.E recently had a showing of this film
in the past year. After watching that film, I had
a conversation with my mother that I probably
would have never had if we hadn’t watched that
film together. She told me that in the seventies,
she secretly went to a few consciousness
awareness meetings for women. She did not tell
my father. After having been raised Catholic,
and still a practicing Catholic, she also shared
with me her struggles of conscience about
whether she ought to use birth control or not. As
a young mother, I’m sure these thoughts were
prevalent, because she first became a mother in
1963, two years before the ground-breaking
legislation, Griswold vs. Connecticut, 1965,
passed, which granted women the opportunity to
have more control over their bodies by being
allowed to use contraceptives.
Since my mother grew up in the fifties,
women’s primary roles still consisted of just

being wives, mothers, and homemakers.
Although my mother worked for the phone
company before marriage, and she taught piano
and religious education in the seventies, it
wasn’t until the eighties that she started working
outside of the home on a full-time basis. I also
once asked my grandmother if she had ever had
a job. She said before she was married, she had
a job at a department store, inspecting
Why is it so important to know these
stories? I often ponder what careers and what
opportunities women in previous generations
might have had without societal gender role
restrictions. However, women have come a
long way, haven’t we? Most of us work outside
of the home on a normal basis. Still, there
remains many stories that have not been told
and glass ceilings that have not been broken.
Although there are more women in leadership
roles in government, or working as CEOs and so
forth, they are a minority. Women still do not
on average earn equal pay with men. The

struggle to treat women in the military
respectfully without fear of sexual harassment
or assault continues. Although the MeToo
movement has quieted down, the struggle to
escape harassment goes on. The recent
overturning of Roe vs. Wade has put the debate
over women being able to have control over
their own bodies, and child-bearing decisions in
Recently, in one of the HULU documentary
version episodes of Nikole’s Hannah-Jones
book, The 1619 Project, Hannah-Jones
discussed the differences in opportunities
between her white, male grandfather, and her
African American grandmother. By sharing this
personal story, she made the point that her
grandfather had more opportunities open to him,
because of his gender and race. So, it happens
that when women of color continue to have
conversations with female relatives of color, it
opens their eyes to the disparities not just in
gender, but also with race in this country.
Overcoming these obstacles becomes that much

harder. Finally, I have been lucky to have
conversations with other women with
disabilities. I have a mild physical disability
myself. In these conversations, we discuss how
being a woman and having a disability can lead
to more battles for gaining education and
finding opportunities of gainful employment.
For a woman of color with a disability, it can be
that much harder to have doors of opportunity
As we celebrate Women’s History Month
and achievements in 2023, it’s important to still
discuss our stories and obstacles for living full
lives. It can be easy for younger generations to
take the opportunities and freedoms we have as
women for granted. Part of celebrating women’s
month vitally includes having conversations
with each other and acknowledging our journeys
in the past, present, and future. We can all
learn from each other by having conversations
with each other and with women from before or
during the greatest generation, the silent
generation, the baby boomers, Gen-X, Gen Z

and in generation after generation. This reminds
all of us of where we’ve been and how we must
continue to fight for freedom over our own
bodies, our lives, and our stories.