The Wisdom of Anna

History is all around us and made daily in hundreds, if not thousands of ways.  So it may seem odd to think of something so common as being too precious to lose, but history is a record of the interconnecting chain of events within our world.  When that world is seen without half of its links, that world view is distorted.  When a history is written from that distorted world view, it becomes less history and more fiction.

But the greatest sins of all will be laid at the feet of those who knew but never shared and, hence, let those precious links fade away into obscurity.

And so, to widen the lens of history, to celebrate the missing links which are the extraordinary and ordinary but always under-recorded women that came before us, and to save my own sorry hide, I give you a book of advice by a housewife and mother.

A classic, is something of the highest quality and of enduring interest or style.  A sage is someone having or showing profound wisdom.  IT’S UP TO THE WOMEN is a classic, in the truest and fullest sense of the word.  Its author, First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, is every bit a sage for her time and ours.  Unfortunately, this book is long out of print and not yet available in a digital format.  A local university library maybe the only resource for a copy.

IT’S UP TO THE WOMEN was written, in the early 1930′s, as a clarion call for women’s political participation and activism, wrapped within a practical guide for women struggling to deal with the immense changes wrought by the Great Depression.

In and among simple recipes, homemade remedies, and advice on tending and strengthening a nation one family at a time, are the simple building blocks for the betterment of a nation and empowerment of women leaders.

Why women?

The author Anna points out:

“…women, whether subtly or vociferously, have always been a tremendous power in the destiny of the world.”

“When all is said and done, women are different than men.  Their physical functions in life are different and perhaps in the same way the contributions which they are to bring to the spiritual side of life are different.”

Women are the caretakers and early teachers of future generations.  Women, traditionally and  historically, are the ones to adapt in times of crisis.  Because whether through illness, death, or the call of war, women are the ones left behind to pick up the pieces and carry on.

“Women know that life must go on and that the needs of life must be met and it is then their courage and determination which, time and again, have pulled us through”

“…one thing is sure, the attitude of women towards changes in society is going to determine to a great extent our future in this country.”

And who better than women to ensure a healthy, fit, educated, disciplined, and involved American society.

“Out of all of this that we are going through will perhaps come to us the realization that we have to develop ourselves to the maximum of our ability and our natural endowment.”

“This country was founded on the theory that we must work together and help each other, and that each man or woman’s problems affected the whole community.”

A simple concept, but a telling one.  We are all affected, so we must all participate. That includes women having the “willingness to bear our proper share of the burdens of government.”  While that may seem rather obvious now, in 1933, when the book was written, women were still new and still wary voters. (The 14th Amendment gave women the vote in 1920).

So what simple steps did Anna urge women to take to strengthen their home and their nation?

Educate yourself.

“It is important that women think beyond the mere moment through which we are passing and acquaint themselves with all phases of life and conditions in our own country.”

“A vote is never an intelligent vote when it is cast without knowledge.”

Budget your time and resources.

“Over and over again it is said that women are the buyers of the country.”

“Keeping to a budget is one of the best tests of character I know of.  It requires sometimes self-denial, sometimes discipline of a very strict variety.”

Understand the value of money and how it works.  And make sure your children understand.

“I believe very firmly that every child should be given some business education besides ordinary standards of honesty.  They should be taught that you do not spend money until you have it, that money represents somebody’s work of the production of some material thing for which some human beings in some way have worked.

Money is only a token but it is a token which represents real things, therefore, if they expect to acquire it, it is only fair that they should give something in exchange.  Real work of some kind must attend the honest making of money.”

Develop independence of mind and body.

“Fear is a bad thing at all times and should be eliminated from our lives as much as possible.”

“I have always felt that one of the dangers which is most obvious in the benevolent work taken up by large companies for the benefit of their employees is that it encourages a sense of dependence on the part of the worker.”

“There is no question that a thing which you establish and work for means more than a thing which is given you. … paternalism of this kind is not conducive to self-development, neither is it really American.”

Participate in government.

“There is no question but that the most important work in a democracy is that rendered by the servants of the people.”

“We must have an occupation in life and take our public service, if it is of a political character, as a side issue… primarily we must consider it as a service to the country.  If we look upon it only as a means of earning a livelihood, we will probably be far less useful as public servants.”

Hold yourself, your party and your government accountable.

“We certainly will not have a woman president until some woman worthy of being president appears on the horizon.  In the meantime, men both worthy and unworthy will probably fill that office.”

“…occasionally when the need arises, women will reject their party and it’s candidates.  This will not be disloyalty but will show that as members of a party they are loyal first to the fine things for which the party stands and when it rejects those things or forgets the legitimate objects for which political parties exist, then as a party it cannot command the honest loyalty of its members.”

“One can have a bloodless revolution if one can count on leaders of sufficient vision to grasp the goal for which the mass of people is often unconsciously striving and courage enough in the nation as a whole to accept the necessary changes to achieve the desired ends.”

Yes.  I do believe Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt was right.

“In this present crisis it is going to be the women who will tip the scales and bring us safely out of it.”

Now as always — IT’S UP TO THE WOMEN.  If we dare.

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Related post:

~ Thank You Eleanor, I’m Still Learning
~ On FDR’s New Deal: The American People Sound Off
~ Savvy Bankers? Free-Markets? Populist President?

Comments

  1. says

    I didn’t just like this post, I loved it! If I can add a modern phrase to an esteemed woman of our history, “You go girl!” You opened the door. Now we need to pick up where your footprints left off and continue to forge ahead.

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