Learn to Make Jewelry Because You Can: Celebrate Women’s Equality Day
“You’re a girl,” the mantra went. “Why should we give you a place when you’re just going to get married and have children?” That was a widely held belief about women and higher education in the early 1960s, before the ‘60s really happened and began redefining cultural norms. Offer a seat at that table to a woman? Waste of the opportunity! So I was hardly surprised to see that idea pop up again in “Live It & Learn It,” a feature story about jewelry apprenticeships past and present in the new Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist (September/October 2019). I’d heard it before.
In the early 1970s, in high school and in the spirit of social upheaval still raging, I created a little upset of my own. Defying expectations long held of me by my parents and myself, I announced that I wasn’t going to college. A shrewd woman, my mother listened but didn’t really believe me, and didn’t rise to the bait. My father, an academic, went right for it. But when my mother told me that not many years earlier my father had been among those who believed there was no reason to send girls to college, I was absolutely appalled. I started rethinking my plan immediately.
A Work in Progress
Although I was unaware of it, as I was declaring higher education “irrelevant” to my parents, U.S. Representative Bella Abzug (D-NY) was campaigning to establish a Women’s Equality Day. Her efforts finally resulted a couple of years later in the passage of a Congressional resolution to that effect. Honoring the August 26, 1920, signing of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which grants women the right to vote, the first Women’s Equality Day was observed on August 26, 1973.
That was also just about the date I arrived on my college campus for freshman orientation. I was still unsure I wanted to be there. I was also still unaware that an event was then celebrating, among other rights, my right to be on that campus. Long story short: I stayed, I loved it, and I’ve since spent a lifetime appreciating my education’s relevance. I’m also thankful for my parents’ forbearance and support, and for the efforts of all the other women and men who made it possible for me to go.
Long before Women’s Equality Day was declared or the 19th Amendment became law, in 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott had organized the milestone Seneca Falls Convention, where a broad spectrum of women’s rights were the hot topics and had been for years. The right to vote was recognized as essential for progress on many fronts, and a national Suffragette Movement coalesced from there. It was a singular moment not only for women’s suffrage, but also women’s rights in general, and civil rights as a whole.
Whoever you are, it’s difficult to overestimate the importance of having a say in the laws that bind you if you want some say in your own destiny. But you need more than a say in matters. Learning about the world around you is critically important, too, in deciding everything from how you want to see the world governed to what your role in the world should be. Then you need the particular know-how to fill your chosen role successfully.
Always More to Learn
I believe that nothing we learn is ever wasted. The exercise alone is worth the effort. Long after I might have forgotten this detail from class, or new knowledge has supplanted another detail I once learned, I’ve continued to remember how to explore a topic, consider its context, hone in on its fine points, and practice, practice, practice a developing skill. Opening up new vistas gives each of us the chance to enrich her or his own life and improve the quality of life for us all. Formal or informal, covering art, craft, trade, science, history, current events, and more, education ought to be a right, and sometimes is. It is always a privilege.
Learn because it’s useful. Learn because it’s fun. Learn because you can. Do it now. Then look back with a sense of accomplishment at what you’ve added to your understanding by the time the next Women’s Equality Day rolls around.
Merle White is Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.
P.S. Congresswoman Bella Abzug certainly was not known for her glamorous looks or for her jewelry, but she was famous for her determination, her championing of women’s rights, and for wearing memorable hats. PHOTO AT TOP: haidi2002/Pixabay
P.P.S. Many women other than those whose work is seen above create outstanding jewelry designs and show great generosity in sharing their knowledge of jewelry making. Here are just a few more:
Learn About Apprenticeships in the Latest Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist
This centuries-old practice is changing with the times. Find out how apprenticeships benefit mentors and students alike, plus much more in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist September/October 2019.
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