Category Archives: activist grandmothers

Grandma is so ready for next wave feminism

It’s been a quiet few decades on the feminism front. Grandma used to feel sad when she heard that young women didn’t want to identify with the f word, even as they took for granted changes in the work world and on the home front that we, as young women, could only dream of seeing “one day.”

That day has arrived, with women in the Senate, in the Board room, in control of their careers and their personal lives. Sometimes. Or at least a lot more sometimes than back when we formed our young dreams.

But women are once again angry and proud. One of the reasons this current round of outrage has erupted now, is that enough women have enough power that they can stand up to the loathsome behavior that has been commonplace for so long. We, in the second wave of feminism, gave names to some of these behaviors — rape, sexual harassment. We spoke of them in public for the first time. But, in our focus on present and future, we were also well aware that we stood on the shoulders of the first wave of feminists, the suffragettes, who marched through the streets in their long white dresses, demanding that men give them the vote.

So let’s cheer on our daughters and granddaughters, and give ourselves a shout out as well. Each wave may wash out to sea, but another wave will be back, reaching farther up on the beach, bringing us all along with its force.


Raging Grannies Sing Along

A-group-of-protesting-old-033Wouldn’t we all like to be raging grannies, some days? The movement that began in Canada more than 30 years ago has spread to the U.S., the U.K., and beyond. This loosely-knit assortment of social activist specializes in writing songs of protest which they offer up at public events. Their in-your-face dress up gear, as well as their songs, take our old lady stereotypes and fling them them up in the air.

Over the years, they have gained enough cred to have been investigated by the California National Guard, and to have been the subject of  books, films, and academic articles.

But their signature remains their songs; close to 500 of which are available on their website. For example, the Anthem for Women begins, to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner: O-oh say there’s no way, Women get equal pay! Recent hits include Flint Water Atrocity and Come to Me: Song for a Syrian Refugee.


Grandmothers to Grandmothers

Headlines about the AIDS crisis in Africa have diminished, but orphans who have lost their parents to the disease continue to need care. This is where grandmothers have been essential.

(c) SLF/Liz Marshall
(c) SLF/Liz Marshall

Some 15 million African children live in households headed by their grandmothers. They bridge what has been called a missing generation. These households can have up to 10 to 15 children.

A Canadian non-profit, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, has made it a priority to support these overburdened women. And it has turned to Canadian grandmothers for help. Over the past decade, Grandmothers to Grandmothers has grown to more than 240 groups. They have raised over $21 million through bazaars, benefits, bake sales, beds without breakfasts, and beyond.

They provide support for health care, school fees, parenting and business skills, HIV awareness training, and much more. But the benefits go both ways. One Canadian group member said, “Those African grandmothers have done so much more for us Canadian ladies than they ever could imagine…”




Kayaking Granny Doesn’t Let Spine Surgery Stop Her Mission

kayaker072314.jpgWhen Dr. Deb Walters saw women and children making their living picking through garbage dumps in Guatemala, she decided to raise money to help them improve their lives. She was inspired by the mothers of the community, and by the model school started by an American.

So the 63-year-old grandmother came up with the idea of kayaking from her home in Maine, down to Guatemala; more than 2,500 miles. Her plan was to publicize her mission along the way.

One small problem: before she started out, in July of 2014, she had had some numbness and tingling. And, with all that sitting in the kayak, the pain intensified.

So, in February 2015, she pulled up her boat in South Carolina and had emergency surgery to correct what turned out to be a massively herniated disk. Recovery from such a procedure is not exactly quick.

Walters has spent the intervening time talking about her project in the U.S., and then catching a ride on a sailboat to Guatemala, where she was honored by the community and the school.

So far she has raised more than $141,000 towards her goal of $150,000.

Her plan is to kayak the remaining 1,000 miles this coming year. But wouldn’t we all count her trip already an incredible success?

Learn more about Safe Passage.


Elephant Grandmothers, Giant Concern

5342495338_fc63baee81_zYou have probably heard about the threat to African elephants: 17,000 slaughtered in 2011. And grandmothers are at the center of this crisis.

Elephants live in matriarchal tribes, headed by mature females. They are an extremely social species. The matriarchs know where the closest watering hole can be found, as well as who, or what, is the most potent enemy. Researchers have found that the older the matriarch, the more babies who survive.

Sadly, also, the older the matriarch, the longer the tusk: those pieces of ivory prized by poachers. So elephant grandmothers are valuable both to their own species, and to the humans who prey on them. And they seem to be aware of the genocide in progress. Scientists report that they are suffering from a form of ptsd, except that the danger is ongoing.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if human grandmother could help?


Grandmothers Saving Mother Earth

In 2004, 13 indigenous grandmothers heard the cry of Mother

Photo by Marisol Villanueva, courtesy of the Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers
Photo by Marisol Villanueva, courtesy of the Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers

Earth. She was in agony, they said. She needed them “to help to heal her and all her inhabitants.”

Since then the women, who call themselves The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers,  come together from their homes in North and South America, Africa and Asia. They meet at regular intervals to pray for Mother Earth and to bring attention to what can be done for her.

They have repeatedly petitioned the Pope. They have met with the Dali Lama. They have held a salmon ceremony in Alaska welcoming the return of the native fish. They have organized a seed temple in Mexico, linking the safeguarding of seeds with the birth of children.

“Ours is an alliance of prayer and healing for our Mother Earth, all Her inhabitants, all the children, and for the next seven generations to come.”

Their names are Aama Bombo, Agnes Baker Pilgrim, Beatrice Long Visitor, Bernadette Rebienot, Clara Shinobu Iura, Julieta Casimiro, Margaret Behan, Flordemayo, Maria Alice Campos Freire, Mona Polacca, Rita Long Visitor Holy Dance, Rita Pitka Blumenstein, and Tsering Dolma Gyaltong.