Progressive Revival

I am a feminist because of my mother.   Marylu DeWatteville Raushenbush showed me that a woman is capable of doing anything, and that she should have every right to do what she wants, in every society, everywhere – period.  


My mother was making more money than my father when they first got married but it was decided that my father would pursue his law career while my mother was charged with the more burdensome task of raising four rowdy, opinionated and sometimes reckless children.   I remember the first time hearing of the decision to put my father’s career over my mother’s and wondering what kind of life she would have had if my mother had stayed with her career and advanced in the field of advertising as she surely would have.  It is pure conjecture to think that it might have given a supplemental pride to the raising of her children – a task for which our appreciation at the time was muted – but she has never said that.


Instead my mother immediately involved herself in our local community of Madison Wisconsin.  So visible were her efforts that she was appointed to the Mayoral commission on Human Rights in the late 60’s – a distinction of which I was unaware of for the first 43 years of my life (I’m 44 now).  Marylu was part of the NAACP and fought for fair housing; and she organized the first Planned Parenthood chapter in Wisconsin seeking the right to purchase contraceptives which were illegal at that time.   While my admiring gaze was focused on the work of my father in his office of the Wisconsin Law School, my mother was in the streets and lobbying the capitol making Madison a better place for its citizens.      


I am a religious person because of my mother.  Marylu was a Presbyterian and she made sure that all of us went to church for the first 16 years of our lives.  If we chose not to be confirmed then we were allowed to stop going at that juncture, but because of her we would know what religion was and what a religious community could mean – a lesson for which I am eternally grateful.  My mother also taught me that religious formation is dynamic and never finished.  In her forties and fifties she began an exploration of other traditions and adventured into spiritual terrain that I have yet to travel.  Her life long passion for seeking and loving wisdom and inspiration fuels my own and informs my own work today.


What’s more Marylu Raushenbush was an artist.  She was a potter, then a metal worker, and finally hit her stride as a photographer.  One of her national shows was called Women of Consequence – USA-USSR.  It featured women from the United States and the then Soviet Union, including photographs of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and actress Julie Harris, as well as influential counterparts in the Soviet Union.   Her aesthetic eye formed my own as she took us to museums and to cultural events in order to civilize us and show us that a full life consisted of understanding and appreciating art. 


If you can’t tell, I feel so much love and indebtedness to my mother – Marylu DeWatteville Raushenbush. I appreciate you reading this post.  Everyone has their own stories about their mother or those people, male or female, who mothered them.  While we should send them a card and flowers (I did!), we should also remember that motherhood, and women’s roles are still a crucial issue around the world.  Women should be able to choose what kind of life they want to build for themselves.  Everyone celebrating mother’s day should be a feminist.  Until mothers have every right that fathers do, it won’t be a fully happy mother’s day. 

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