Skip to main content

National Women's History (Herstory) Month ~ March 2024

During this profoundly important month of celebrating women, I'm going to tell you my story; I hope you will tell me yours here where it is safe and remains anonymous, if you wish.

I grew up in a blue-collar family in a small-ish town in Indiana. I wanted to be a nurse but had expectations of studying at a hospital nursing program. It was just happenstance that I graduated from the Baccalaureate  program at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana in 1970

Married before graduating, Alan and I wanted to join the Peace Corps. My first plane ride ever was when we went to Los Angeles for our Peace Corps interview! My world started to expand from there!

With little more than six month's hospital experience, I began to run an out-patient clinic in our Honduran village of  Las Vegas de Santa Barbara. It is there that I learned a new language, worked with humans who looked different than me, and experienced a culture and level of poverty that I could not have previously imagined.

Dedication of my clinic

My Nurse's Aide, Pachina, and Me. I learned so much from her; and will never forget her!

During my two years of volunteer service (1971-73), I was oblivious to protests and political upheaval in the US. I learned about the feminist movement only because my sister-in-law sent me a copy of Ms. Magazine!

Upon returning home, we began our re-entry by seeking jobs. I landed a job working for the Illinois Migrant Council as a Public Health Nurse with migrant apple pickers. My resume with "Spanish language skills" acquired in Honduras was an asset! 

My husband's job led us next to Massillon, Ohio. There I answered an ad for a nurse at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Once hired, I was sent to train as a Family Planning Nurse Practitioner!

I worked, for the first time, with a group of strong women dedicated to serving the health care needs of women without prejudice.  The seeds of strong feminist views were being sewn in my world. 

Support groups that met in women's homes were evolving at the time. I attended some, but was saddened  to hear stories of defeat: abuse, verbal or physical; estrangement; lack of housing and education; low wages; lack of skills; inequality in the workplace! In these groups, espousing feminism as a solution to these problems was begi nning to become a movement. Fortunately, I didn't experience those wrongs; but by particpating I began to FEEL that equality should be the right of all women in all aspects of their lives!

Moving often due to steps in my husband's career,  Planned Parenthood had become the place I wanted work after my first  experience. I left a little piece of my heart in each place we lived; but I sought the commaraderie of like-minded women at those clinics whenever possible. If there was no job opening, I volunteered.

I am a proud alumni of many Planned parenthood facilities from Akron, Ohio to Quito, Ecuador and many in-between. I make no apologies for my beliefs that every women has the right to control, along with her doctor, what happens to her body! I believe Government interference in those very personal and sometimes painful decisions is ABSOLUTELY WRONG!

No one loves or enjoys an abortion! It is one of the many options in the life-long path that is women's health care. It MUST remain safe and legal; the repercussions of denying that right is devastating for women the world over. By the way, clinics I worked in did not offer abortions; I never assisted with one.

I have spoken my truth this Women's History Month; and my thoughts have been a long time coming.

I accept that you may have a difference of opinion and that I don't have to agree with you. Likewise I accept your opinions that may differ from mine. I welcome your comments here and "strive for civil conversation." ( Please don't judge me; I don't judge you. We all come from life experiences that shape us. Let's leave the judging to our wiser and gentler higher powers!

I will leave you with a partial book list suggested for Women's History Month by librarians at my local branch. I am confident that you, too, can research your own choices at home.

Allen, Jennie. "Untangle Your Emotions: Naming What You Feel and Knowing What to Do About It."

Conley, Chip. "Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life gets Better with Age."

Durrani, Pashtana. "Last to Eat, Last to Learn: My Life in Afghanistan Fighting to Educate Women."

Moore, Kate. "The Woman They Could Not Silence: one woman, her incredible fight for freedom, and the men who tried to make her disappear."**

Ponasse, Julie. "Our Last Innocent Moment."

** I am only 4 chapters into this "historical non-fiction set in the 1890s, based on careful research about how mental health can be used as a weapon. In the end, this book is about power. Who weilds it. Who owns it. And the methods they use. And above all, it is about fighting back."

160 years later, it is not overly surprising that we are still fighting back!


Anonymous said…
I am almost 84. In my 20s, several friends had back-alley abortions and two friends and I stayed with a friend as she aborted. We did not know what could have happened to her but medical student friends later told me about patients who bled to death after illegal abortions. I swore then that no woman should have to go through that again and still feel the same way. Abortion must be a legal option. It is not a recommendation…it is a choice.
Karen Kordisch said…
You look like a baby in the photo, Gwen! How did we get to be so old? And why are we still having to fight for things we fought for over 50 years ago? I stumbled on the women's movement in Denver after I'd graduated from college. I had felt like I did not fit the young lady with white gloves/happy homemaker stereotype. Women's liberation filled me with relief. There were other options! One of the things I did was help organize Denver's first pro-choice rally. I remember the excitement when Roe came out.
My mother told me that she had had an abortion in a hotel room when she was young. It was a terrifying, lonely and painful experience.
Anonymous said…
Over 35 years ago, I had a miscarriage in my 3rd month of pregnancy. I had a D & C after it. Now I read that in some states a woman must get permission from the court to have this normal, simple procedure done as it is considered an "abortion"!! How ridiculous can this be, people who have no knowledge of a women's body are making absurd laws in order to control women and their health. Every women has the right to decide what to do for her body and her health.

Popular posts from this blog

Craft vs. Fine Art: How is Crochet Blurring the Lines

I was awakening to the world of crochet in 1972,a time of immense artistic expression through fiber arts; and crochet was not the “ugly stepchild” at the time. In fact, Ferne Cone Gellar who I admire as a successful fiber artist said in “Knitting: The Stepchild of the Fiber Arts?” ( Fibercraft Newsletter 1978), “Has knitting been slighted among the areas of the fiber arts? The very word ‘knitting’ evokes images of the little old lady in tennis shoes. Over the years, I’ve learned to ignore all those jokes.” Cone Gellar went on to publish Crazy Crocheting in 1981 and encouraged her readers to create more than bedspreads, providing ideas such as “things to play with or to display on a shelf or hang on a wall.” A photo of single crochet from bread wrappers served as inspiration.  In 1972 in her book, Creating Art from Fibers & Fabrics , Dona Meilach wrote: “Why are fibers and fabrics becoming increasingly appealing to artists? Most artists agree

Wartime Crochet With Attitude, Part I

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 Karen Ballard and I have a mutual love of free form crochet. We met for the first time in a class taught by Prudence Mapstone of Australia at the Chain Link Crochet Conference 2011. I admire Karen's vast knowledge of needle work history and am grateful for her willingness to share with us as my guest blogger this week. Karen wearing a World War II-era knitting hat with stubby needles on top Karen's Heritage Heart,  with flowers symbolic of her heritage, is currently on tour with Prudence Mapstone's traveling "Hearts & Flowers Exhibition" in Australia and New Zealand   World War 1 Attitudes About Crochet by Karen Ballard In 2008, I coined that term, "Workbasket Campaigns" to describe the organized efforts during World War I (WWI) and World War II (WWII) coordinated through the American Red Cross {ARC} and the Navy League to create needle crafted items.  These items were mostly knitted but also sewn, qu

What is Free Form Crochet?

Monday, January 6, 2014 This topic came about from the title of my article recently in Fiber Art Now magazine.  "Crochet As Art: A Conversation with 5 Free-Form Crochet Artists." Yes, the 5 artists I wrote about, all of which are in  my book  The Fine Art of Crochet , are free-thinking when it comes to their creativity. They are free-wheeling with the hook and use unique fibers in many cases. Once you read the article, tell me what  you think? Are these artists doing free-form crochet? In order to define free-form crochet, we must look way, way back to it's origins: Irish crochet. A brief history of crochet, including the Irish method, written by Ruthie Marks is available through The Crochet Guild of America . Unfortunately, there are no images on the site. On her blog, Nancy Nehring has a beautiful montage of Irish Crochet in reference to a class she taught in 2013 at Lacis . I wrote an article in Old Time Crochet Magazine (Spring 1998), "History of Irish Croc