“While the future remains unknown, we can still ground ourselves in the steady rhythm of Mother Earth. Hope is handed to us in small pleasures.”
Every woman alive is an expert on living as a woman in patriarchy. We each cope in a variety of ways. We adapt. We each carry a memory bank full of sights, sounds, juxtapositions. Each of these are colored by our own interpretations.
I’ve long wanted to write about all the “twists and turns” my life has taken in the last seventy-four years. But there have always been many, many distractions. Actually sitting down and writing consistently has not happened. Now I am writing. I encourage all of you to consider writing about your life too!
Today I am sitting at the huge vintage 1934 roll top desk that I believed, in 1978, would turn me into a woman who took the time to write about her life as it was unfolding. I remember thinking that once I had this wonderful writing space, I would be able to sit down and write about all that was going on in my life as a passionate participant in the women’s liberation movement.
I knew then that what we were doing was important. Mostly I was busy working as a flight attendant for TWA and scheduling my work life there around all the activities associated with the KC Women’s Liberation Union and the New Earth Bookstore and our feminist theater group Actor’s Sorority. The roll top became the place to sit down and pay bills.
Spring of 2020 has limited the distractions. Spring 2020 has brought limitations, yet if offers opportunities to rethink priorities. We are “sheltering at home”. We are sheltering at home in the house Jeanne and I built in the mid 1980s with help from women carpenters.
Now I have an opportunity to record and to interpret all my years of living as a woman in these times. Yes, we have a big garden to maintain—it helps us feed ourselves. Yes, I have a mountain of fabric to inspire more quilts. But I want to do this project—I am excited about the prospect of looking back, of opening the numerous scrapbooks I’ve kept since 1962 for clues and detail no other biographer could know about or interpret correctly. I want to be in control of my own life story.
I wrote my first blog post seven years ago with the intention of writing about creativity and about inspiration. Six weeks ago I was inspired to write a blog about working as a TWA flight attendant and our history as women workers in the male corporate world. In spring 1969 at the age of twenty-four I began my sixteen years of flying. Known first as air hostesses, by 1971, with the addition of males, we became flight attendants. My real education about the ways of the world began with this job. Looking for a job with adventure, and expecting a living wage inspired me to become a local union officer. Four other blog posts about the early years of aviation and the role of air hostess followed. I’m pleased and excited about this opportunity to write my life and to place it in a context as a working woman.
My computer and its keyboard are perched on that same oversize roll top desk made in Kansas City, MO. I do my online research reading the life stories of other women who inspire me on many levels. I see their pictures. I can search for examples of their work. They become companions of a sort! The women I admire help keep me alive. Our stories are ours—we do not want them corrupted or co-opted or distorted by others. Girls and women desire to know how other women survived girlhood and navigated the world as adult women.
Every time women speak the truth about our lives, the world can benefit. In recent months I’ve been drawn to reading about women working in the early 1900s in archaeology and in aviation. Women were avid participants in both. Living in a system that highly favored males, women archaeologists and women fliers faced opposition from all the institutions set up to enforce male supremacy. When I learn about their achievements and their struggles I feel an intimate engagement with each woman. Her strengths, her accomplishments give me courage. Feminism and quilting have been two grand adventures I’ve quite deliberately chosen. Each has enriched my life. Quilting and feminism have always overlapped in my world. Many of my quilts contain strong feminist content. Most of my life I have played with fabric and needle.
Today I am working on a TimeSpan quilt I’ve decided to call “Nesting Time or Sheltering in Place, 2020”. At the center is a wool crewel work embroidery I did in the early 1970s while sitting in hotels and flight attendant lounges all across the US. A small brown critter is nestled in a cocoon of curving leaves and branches.
“Happiness is having a very special home of your own” is printed by the kit manufacturer Columbia Minerva Corp. This design by Erica Wilson kept my mind and my fingers engaged during those hours of enforced waiting nearly fifty years ago. In the early 1970s I could not afford a car. To buy this kit, I boarded a bus to a suburban Kansas City shop. I didn’t have “a very special” home yet, but I had dreams of one.
The larger border is fabric I salvaged from a gored skirt. I was drawn to that soft green color, the large graphic butterfly (long a symbol of transformation) and the graceful lettering on the skirt fabric. The critter in the nest is seven inches across. The top measures twenty-one inches across.
The curved shape of the bottom border is a result of the shape of the gored skirt. I decided I did not want to trim it square and lose more of the butterfly image. I like the graceful flourish it adds. Please know that I’ll continue to write about my quilting adventures too. Each time you open my current blog post you will see what subject has engaged me that week.
Writing about my life has now become a priority, a redirection. Choosing the right words, phrases, examples and photos to string together for a pleasing whole is rather like selecting fabrics for a colorful quilt. I’m trusting that connecting each small segment day-by-day will succeed in creating an accurate picture of my life. I invite you to join me on this journey.