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Hurricane Irene - and a few other powerful women...

Hurricane Irene - and a few other powerful women...

After Irene passed through Connecticut earlier this week, many of us once again have power. We've gleefully flushed toilets, leisurely bathed and reluctantly thrown away anything suspect in our refrigerators. Our little town of Woodbury was shut down for four days, except for the Fire Department, where we were able to take showers. On 'Day Three of No Power,' something happened which made me think, once again, about the resilience of women. As I entered the steamy concrete Fire Department bathroom for my hurried shower, I noticed an artfully arranged basket of assorted shampoos, bath gels and lotions outside the shower stall. Such a small gesture, yet it was a much needed oasis of prettiness during a week of darkness. Women are good at that. That basket of feminine goodies and the woman who put it there have stayed with me all week. The next night, there was a bowl of tampons, a purple blow dryer and some gourmet chocolates.

I've been thinking a lot about women this past month because I have been researching the former owners of the 241 year-old home we recently purchased. Hours spent at Town Hall and the library have yielded a wealth of information about this colonial house we consider ourselves to be not the owners of, but merely the stewards. However, when it comes to specific information about the women who inhabited this house and helped build this town, the information has been much like that of the identify of the woman who provided the lovely basket of toiletries - absent. Apparently, we live in the 'Solomon Minor' house, yet further research reveals that Solomon's wife, Mary Root Minor gave birth to six children in this house before dying at age thirty-seven. She raised these children, all but one of whom survived to old age, in the years leading up to and during the American Revolution. Think of the conversations about the Stamp Act, the Tea Tax that must have gone on in this house - the 'Solomon Minor' house. Consider some of these disturbing death records of nameless women found in "Barnes' Mortality Record of the Town of Woodbury: 1672-1898" April 18, 1780 Benjamin Judson's wife; March 9, 1781 Israel Martin's wife; October 16, 1783 Widow Hurd; February 23, 1788 Child of Richard Peet (no mention of the child's mother). Certainly life is difficult today for women, but at least we all have first names! My family now lives in the 'Solomon and Mary Root Minor' home.

My thoughts return to Hurricane Irene and three female friends who have had an especially hard week because of her: Kate, Kathrin and Samantha. Kate can't leave her house because fallen trees have blocked both ends of her road. Her roof leaks and it's estimated that her electricity will be restored next Wednesday, that's eleven days without power or water. Kate is anxious to leave her Connecticut home so that she can fill her car with food and water and head to one of those isolated Vermont towns where she owns a house she suspects has been destroyed. The supplies are for her shell-shocked neighbors and friends, not herself. Kathrin, who moved to Connecticut from Germany three months ago, had a baby boy on Sunday at the height of the hurricane. She's home now with a newborn, two little girls, a husband, her in-laws, stacks of moving boxes and no power or water for the past six days! Samantha's Brazilian mother has been living with her, and her husband Jonn, for the past year helping raise their baby boy. They have all grown exceptionally close but visa restrictions required Samantha's mother to fly back to Brazil on Saturday. Her mother left and Irene arrived. She too, is on day six of no power with a busy toddler and terribly missing her mom.

Of course, countless women have endured far worse this week and throughout our nation's history, but these are the women in my life. Each night as I sat in our dark house I thought about the women who came before me. They didn't get that tingle of relief when the power finally came back on. Their power never came on. In my research I was astounded at the number of Woodbury women who died from scalding, childbirth and exhaustion. I was amazed that I found handwritten records of dog licenses from 1850-1880. (Dog licenses existed during the Civil War?!) I know the names and descriptions of the dogs that lived in this house, but not their mistresses.

Yet, women will continue to leave baskets of shower goodies because they are resilient and nurturing. They don't do it for the recognition, they do it because that's what women do - they make the world a gentler place and I'm proud to call them all my sisters.

Velya Jancz-Urban
September 3, 2011


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