Wednesday, February 18

Turning the hearts of the children

I did not grow up in a feminist household. My parents (read: Dad) are strict conservatives, and would likely even call themselves anti-feminist. But while they may not call themselves feminist, something has definitely changed.

When I was in high school my parents were called to serve in the stake family history center. Their advanced age, lack of young children and my dad's moderate computer skills were big selling points and they remained in that calling for several years. In the time since then my dad has thrown himself into his family history with great gusto. After retirement he started spending 2-5 hours daily doing family history research.

Because he spends so much time working on it, family history is his favorite topic of conversation these days. In the past few months especially I've really noticed a trend, I would come home from visits to my parents house with stories about awesome women (women I'm related to!), and kept thinking to myself "I've gotta write a post about that!" Now, surely I have just as many male relatives as I do female relatives, but dad doesn't tell stories about them. This could be for several reasons; maybe the men in my family history are a very mediocre bunch, perhaps since women's lives were so constricted the awesomeness threshold is much lower for women, or perhaps my dad focuses on the women more than the men.

I think it all started because my dad prides himself on being thorough and meticulous. He likes getting *every* piece of information that he can. And due to the practice of women taking their husband's name, finding information about women is difficult. So in order to find out everything he had to do a great deal of research about individual women, and he's come to empathize with them.

Just the last time I was home he was talking about a particular woman whose name he was looking for, and he had nothing to go on. Even her gravestone called her 'Mrs. John Doe.' About which my dad exclaimed "That was a person for crying out loud! It's like she didn't even exist."

He also talked about how awful it must have been to have 11 kids in 11 years. Then we got to talking about insane asylums, and how women were put there whether they were insane or not, and how the definition of insane for women was "isn't happy about having 11 kids in 11 years."

All of this has softened his stance on women having jobs, how many kids they should have, and how society still doesn't do right by women. My dad's heart has turned, but not to his fathers; his heart has turned to his mothers.

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