By RL Witter
The year 2020 was undoubtedly one for the history books. Around the world, nearly everyone and everything stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While many took the mass quarantine as a time to slow down and take a breath, women around the world—especially women of color— were forced to spring into action to keep their families and the world on track.
During a time when millions lost their jobs, women found themselves working two and three jobs to make ends meet and make it through this unprecedented time. Frontline workers in the health, medical, retail, food service, and delivery fields were deemed “essential” — as though they hadn’t always been exactly that. Suddenly, they found themselves working additional hours and fending for themselves regarding protective gear and childcare.
Those who were able to work from home were reminded of just how essential their roles were, not only doing the daily work that earned their paychecks, but doing that work while homeschooling their children, cooking three meals daily, cleaning the house, and helping with homework, too. One friend of mine, a teacher by trade, had to teach from home via the internet while caring for her grandchildren because daycare was closed. And when classes were finally finished she had to load everyone into the car so they could stand in line at the grocery store and hope to find toilet paper, diapers, etc. before returning home to help with homework and then grade papers and prepare lesson plans.
March is recognized as Women’s History Month. It began as Women’s History Week in 1978 in Sonoma County, California and was given national recognition by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. Now, it is commemorated around the world (although Australia celebrates it in October) to highlight the contributions of women in history and to contemporary society. I find a certain irony in the fact that the global pandemic began in March 2020.
I’ve been amazed and impressed by my sistas’ entrepreneurship. I know women doing hair and selling plates out of their homes, some cleaning and sanitizing other people’s homes, and others doing laundry from their homes because folks just didn’t trust the local laundromat or couldn’t get there during the often-reduced hours of the pandemic. I’ve seen moms coordinate their schedules to take turns homeschooling their children in “learning pods,” as well as online videoconferencing tutoring to keep kids up to speed with their schoolwork. I know women who have created food pantries from what they and their circle can spare, and let’s not forget that Stacey Abrams and Black women across the country —but especially in Georgia— SAVED this country from another abominable four years and many more unnecessary COVID-19 deaths. And did I mention Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, the Black woman scientist instrumental in developing the Moderna vaccine?
Yeah, I think March 2021 should have an asterisk next to it as SUPER Women’s History Month because while sheroes have been shedding their secret identities and doing the impossible in our communities for years, the past year has been unprecedented. Oh, and we also need to sweep up that broken glass because Kamala Harris shattered that ceiling.