I believe in generations of women

Jennifer - Evanston, Illinois
Entered on April 20, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: courage, family, work
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I believe in generations of women. Within three generations, women have gone from primarily homemakers to presidential candidates. This remarkable transition is evidence of women’s strength and ambition. I have witnessed this transition first-hand. I was raised by a single mother. My mother, a lawyer, was the first in her family to attend college or receive a graduate degree. Because she was raising me on her own, her mother, my grandma, was my primary caregiver when I was a child.

My grandma is a Lebanese-American. One of twelve children. Her parents immigrated from Beirut and spoke little English. They were illiterate, unable to read or write in English or Arabic. Educating women was not a priority in my grandma’s household. In fact, it was forbidden. Books were not allowed in the house. Women were supposed to grow up, get married, and have babies. Men were supposed to make money. My grandmother loved reading to me when I was a child. Perhaps it was because she taught herself to read at 24-years-old that she wanted to instill a love of reading in me early on. Unlike my grandmother’s childhood, education was a primary focus in our household. I went to college at age 12 and it was my grandmother who drove me back and forth to class until I turned 16 and could then drive myself. Each day she would drive as I would study and would ask me what I learned or accomplished that day during our rides home. In many ways, she received a college degree along with me.

As we approach Mother’s Day, the journey that women have travelled is all the more salient. I accepted a professorship this year after spending the last four years completing a doctorate and post-graduate fellowships at top-tier Universities across America. A large part of my job involves writing – something my grandmother didn’t learn to do until she was a mere three years younger than I am now. She already had a child by then – my mother. I am fully aware that women continue to fight to assert their place in corporations, higher education, medicine, science, law, and government. I realize this because I work in a traditionally male-dominant environment and confront the challenges that accompany this transition daily. But I believe in generations of women because I see how far women have already come and am incredibly proud of this journey. I was so hopeful and excited about the prospect of a woman becoming president in 2008. Just like my grandmother did to me, I want to be able to tell my future daughter that she can be anything she wants to. And know that it’s true.