This day has been significant for me since I was living in Italy at the age of 20. I remember walking around Perugia during my lunch break from school, shopping and getting coffee, and a couple of men handed me some flowers. It was a bunch of purple flower and something else that reminded me of a daisy.
At first I said, “No grazie. Non ho soldi.” (No, thank you. I don’t have money.”
But the man insisted, “Prego, prego. É la festa delle donne.” (Please, please. It’s Women’s Day. )
At the time, I didn’t understand. I had never heard of “Women’s Day.” I had to ask a shopkeeper what Women’s Day was.
“You Americans don’t know International Women’s day?”
And I hadn’t known. It was never something that was ever mentioned when I was growing up (or if it was, it wasn’t made enough of a big deal that I remember it). I remember thinking at the time how great it was to have a day that is recognized internationally to celebrate women.
As there are many influential women in my life, I would spend some time celebrating them here. Please be aware, this will not be an exhaustive list because time and practicality dictate that I will not get to them all.
However, before I start, let me briefly share a short history of International Women’s Day from Wikipedia. The first women's day was observed in February 1909 when 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York demanding improved pay, shorter hours and voting rights. The day was mostly celebrated by socialist movements and communist countries in the following decades. In 1975, the United Nations proclaimed the year International Women’s Year and christened March 8 as Women’s Day. There is a much richer history of this event, but you can find all that information on the Interwebz.
Influential Women to me:
1. My Grandmother, Leslie Jagiello: All the women in my family are amazing and I am proud to know them. However, if you want to see someone that has a fire burning inside her, you just need to turn to my grandmother. She is over 90 years old and keeps saying she’ll live to be 100. She is stubborn, silly, intelligent, a hard worker, and very loving parent & grandparent. She loves babies and bourbon. She took me on so many adventures when I was a child from cruises through Annapolis harbor, to farther away retreats in the Bahamas.
She has showed me just how strong a woman can be even after enduring heartbreaking hardships. She inspires me every day with her actions – she never acts her age – and her (sometimes) outspoken-ness. She is never afraid to be herself. And, even at 91, she is beautiful. I am looking forward to being a feisty, whisky-drinking, laughing, travelling old lady, just as she is.
2. My Mom, Marian (Jagiello) Clark: If knowing my grandmother wasn’t enough to understand the strength women have in my family, then knowing my mom would hit it home. She is definitely one of the strongest women that I know. I mean, after all, she had to deal with ME as a child. :P As ½ of the pair that raised me, I learned a lot from her including how to be open-minded, tolerant, kind, loving, fashion-forward, and to take care of myself (emotionally, physically, and in life). Her continuous challenging has made me strive to be a better person and has set my own expectations of myself high. She’s silly as hell and I kind of love it when she gets drunk at social gatherings and dances. She’s also seriously good at sewing – a trait that I unfortunately didn’t inherit. Again, she’s beautiful. I got good genes!
3. Women Fighters: I want to say first that I am always in awe of women fighters (fencers, heavies, martial artists, MMA etc.) but I would like to highlight three in this post from the SCA.
- Tatiana Bonieux (Goss): Tatiana is an inspiration for so many reasons. She is a five-foot-nothin’ fencer who is just totally fierce. She will stab you in the face before you realize she’s even moved. More than once she’s stabbed me and I have fought on for a few moments before I realized that I was dead. Much how I imagine a real sword fight going with her in fact…Recently, she got her Master of Defense peerage and since then she has just exploded. I am so excited to see her living up to the role with both her mentoring and her personal growth. Not that she didn’t have these qualities before – she always has – but since the MoD-ding she is no longer just a (very) skilled fighter but has grown into a peer. Her support of the fencing community and fencers individually is inspiring. Every time she says “Good job, Lana!” I know she means it. And every time she apologizes for maybe missing something, I know she means it. Tatiana, in addition to being fierce & fast, is also earnest, humble and very positive. All of these qualities are those that I fully admire.
- Mahara Vandale (Jennifer Thomson): Mahara has been an inspiration, not only for me, but for an entire household. House Vandale was formed in 2013 but the formation was really only official in name. Before that time, people flocked around Mahara and her husband, Tom, and they created a community. Any who knows me, would know that community is something that I value very highly. Mahara is inspiring because she is always welcoming to anyone who wants to be a part of her life. She is also a talented fencer and artisan. She’s always willing to help and support her friends and even her acquaintances. The most notable thing about her personality is that she is easily delighted and excited about the cool things in the world, and that her friends are interested in. I have learned a lot from her in her prowess and positive attitude.
- Yazida bint Zarif (Yaz Ostrowski): A true renaissance woman: talented, creative, martial, generous, sarcastic, and kind. She taught me so much when I was a punk kid just starting out. To this day I still have some of her hand me down garb! She showed me the joy that was the SCA with a healthy dose of reliquaries, cooked babies, cat training, and other shenanigans.