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Feminism … I think the simplest explanation, and one that captures the idea, is a song that Marlo Thomas sang, ‘Free to be You and Me.’ Free to be, if you were a girl—doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. Anything you want to be. And if you’re a boy, and you like teaching, you like nursing, you would like to have a doll, that’s OK too. That notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents, whatever they may be, and not be held back by artificial barriers—manmade barriers, certainly not heaven sent.
Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God’s spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts: I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts.
When I approach a more mature age, I am not going to live in America. Visiting my grandmother, when she was 94, which is a very long life in Cambodia, I saw how important it was that she was in a community with my sisters, brothers and all grandchildren were so involved in her life. I liked that experience so much more than visiting my sister-in-law’s grandparents in a nursing home. It’s about looking at a community through your window versus being part of a community that’s alive, that is youthful and old and hungry and smelly and loud, where everything is vibrant and colorful.
I beg of you, you who could and should be bearing and rearing a family: Wives, come home from the typewriter, the laundry, the nursing, come home from the factory, the cafe. No career approaches in importance that of wife, homemaker, mother — cooking meals, washing dishes, making beds for one’s precious husband and children. Come home, wives, to your husbands. Make home a heaven for them. Come home, wives, to your children, born and unborn. Wrap the motherly cloak about you and, unembarrassed, help in a major role to create the bodies for the immortal souls who anxiously await.
Great cycles of history began with vigorous cultures awakening to the needs of children, but collapsing with frayed family ties. Have we failed to learn lessons which Ancient China, Greece and Rome learned too late – about day care and death houses for old folks? Do we without protest accept accelerating preschool and nursing home cultures which warn ominously that the earlier you institutionalize your child, the earlier he will institutionalize you!
I think the most enduring lesson I was taught through my experiences of being a Girl Scout was that I was a member of a larger community. I out-grew my uniforms and badges years ago, but the memories of visiting nursing homes or organizing Earth Day tree plantings or my summers camping with girls from all different backgrounds will stay with me always.