Guest Post: Michelle Obama and Me
The other day, I slumped into a comfy chair after getting my kids off to school and glanced through the Washington Post. I began reading an article about Michelle Obama showing up at a soup kitchen to help serve breakfast to the homeless. And suddenly, I was bawling. Really bawling. I was overwhelmed by the power of her gesture. A woman on the scene said, “It’s unbelievable for our guests that the first lady will be here. It reaffirms the notion they matter. That people care about them. For the most part, people ignore them. But today, arguably the most popular person in America is coming and shaking their hands. We tell them every day how much they matter. But coming from the first lady of the United States, that is a powerful statement.”
Wow. But why the bucket of tears? I believe it has everything to do with my love of women’s history. I couldn’t read about Michelle Obama without bringing along all the other historical gals that I know and love. Not only was Michelle so wonderfully Eleanor Rooseveltesque, but she wouldn’t have been there without the hard work of so many women who have gone before her.
Susan Anthony once said, “Young people think that all the privileges, all the freedom, all the enjoyments which women possess always were hers. They have no idea of how every single inch of ground that she stands upon today has been gained by the hard work of some little handful of women in the past.”
I’ve spent the last six years writing about America’s women with my sister Heidi. We just published a history entitled, Women Making America. What we hope that readers, young and old, will take away from our book, is that what they do and the choices they make every day really matter. It mattered that groups of women throughout the years got together to create playgrounds, start school lunch programs, and improve conditions in mental institutions, prisons, and hospitals. It mattered that Ida Wells carried on an anti-lynching campaign amidst tough opposition. It mattered when Iris Rivera refused to make coffee for her boss. And it matters what you and I do today.
This is one of the primary lessons I have learned from studying women’s lives. I am the maker of my own history. I have scores of women standing behind me reminding me of how much I matter. And coming from such a phenomenal bunch, that is a pretty powerful statement.
Julie Hemming Savage