The writer with her grandmother

celebrating powerful women of all ages on international women's day

by Joanna Litingtun

International Women’s Day has, since 1911, been an occasion to celebrate the contributions and achievements of women.

Many of these celebrations focus on the young, dynamic generations of women who continue to carry the fight for equity forward with their powerful voices. And, of course, these women and their allies will continue to break through barriers and achieve wonderful things. But it’s equally important to remember that we stand on the shoulders of giantesses. That we, today, owe much to the women who came before us.

To the suffragettes who marched for women’s voting rights, where in some areas of Canada to this day, it hasn’t yet been a century since women were granted full voting equity.

To the women of WWII—women who organized for home defense, who served in auxiliary forces of the air force and the army as laboratory assistants, tradeswomen, nurses, drivers, mechanics, switchboard operators and more.

To Black and Indigenous women, and other women of colour, who have had to advocate for their own rights in an unfriendly world, who have survived situations of systemic injustice and fought for their own seats at the table, and sometimes even for their lives. They paved the way for future generations to join them in the fight for a fairer world, and, equally, in their communities of joyfulness and ease.

To the women pioneers who pushed their way into spaces where no women had gone before, and who dared to innovate and find a path forward where there was none.

To the women who dedicated themselves to raising and feeding their children and families, who took on the role of the caretakers, nurturers, and strong loving hearts of the family homes.

On March 8, and on all days, we acknowledge them, we honour them, and we thank them.

Expressing gratitude for senior women

The theme of International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge.

In a study conducted in 2012, 80% of Canadians agreed that adults 75 years and older are seen as less important and are more often ignored than younger generations, while 51% felt that ageism is the most tolerated social prejudice when compared to gender or race-based discrimination.

So, we #ChooseToChallenge ourselves, our readers, our community and our world to remember and to celebrate the senior women we know and care for, some whose minds may no longer be what they once were and some who continue to be exactly as sharp as they ever were, all of whom remain fully-realized human beings with their own rich inner lives and emotions.

We #ChooseToChallenge ourselves and others to look not only forward but also into the past with gratitude and admiration.

Whoever the important women in your life are—mothers or aunts, grandmothers or great-grandmothers; mentors or teachers; friends or neighbours; found family or sworn sisterhoods—show them you care. Write them a letter telling them you love them in so many words, send them a meaningful token to remind them you are thinking of them, give them a call.

However you choose to celebrate the powerful women who came before us, we wish you strength, hope, and love as you carry forward the work these extraordinary individuals began.

A contemporary photo of a granddaughter kissing her grandmother making her smile.
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