This is a postcard that Kayla’s grandfather sent home to his family in Scotland, just after landing in America. It reads:
Arrived safely. What a journey. It was great. We are just touching New York. Will write soon.
The postmark tells that the year was 1963. The stamp reveals that it cost a mere five cents to mail. A small note in the margins, presumably from Kayla’s grandmother Jean, adds “Tom’s first card after leaving Scotland.”
Unlike Kayla, I don’t have such proximity to my own roots. I know we are from Bluefield, and Clayton, and Raleigh, and Tazewell County. I know we are fair-skinned. I know that we made the trip across the Atlantic, but that was in a century long, long ago. There are rumblings of rural towns in Wales or Ireland. Possibly a German connection. I know that my last name is of English origin. That’s about all that I remember off the top of my head, although there is more in a family tree, in a binder, somewhere. Even so, it’s distant.
In a way, this is what drove me to earn a degree in History. I’ve always been fascinated by people and by their narratives. I’ve been desperate to unearth mine. What could be more important than understanding where you come from? What could be more vital when choosing where to go next?
This is also why, I think, I so fiercely belong to the feminist movement. Studying women in American history has provided me with a lineage. I may not know the name of the first Strickland to set foot on the shores of the United States, but I don’t need to.
I know the names of the women, to whom I bear no relation, who fought for my future as if I were their own daughter. I know the names of the women who rose together against injustice. I know the names of the women who led others to freedom. I know the names of the women who wrote beautiful books about ugly experiences. I know the names of the women who accomplished things they were told they could not. I know the names of the women who wanted more for me. I know the names of the women who marched for me, who lobbied for me, who were jailed for me. I know the names of the women who appeared in court on my behalf. I know the names of the women who practiced peaceful resistance for me, even in the face of overwhelming aggression, so that I would not be eternally marked by violence that I did not condone or commit. I know the names of the women who organized and educated and supported one another, so that I could live my life without ever having to give a single thought to feminism, because all the work had already been done for me. I know the names of the women who taught me the importance of bravery and sisterhood. I know the names of the women I will never meet, but to whom I owe every ounce of my enfranchisement.
Womanhood is the only real heritage I know. But what a rich one it is.
Daily Post Photo Challenge: Heritage
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