Cel­e­brat­ing the un­sung hero­ine

China Daily (USA) - - SECOND THOUGHTS - Contact the writer at ce­cily. liu@mail.chi­nadai­lyuk.com

2018 is the cen­te­nary of the Bri­tish suf­frage move­ment, and walk­ing through the streets of Lon­don, I feel I’m con­stantly re­minded of this sig­nif­i­cant his­tor­i­cal era.

From suf­fragette-themed tours at the Mu­seum of Lon­don to posters in the win­dows of Water­stone’s book­shops, the leg­endary sto­ries are sung with joy of how Em­me­line Pankhurst, Emily Dav­i­son and their peers used rad­i­cal tac­tics of protest, civil dis­obe­di­ence and hunger strikes to win an equal voice for women. Hear­ing many of these sto­ries for the first time, I felt moved and amazed.

Nat­u­rally, I also started to think about the hero­ines in Chi­nese cul­ture who paved the way for a young girl like me to live with con­fi­dence and in­de­pen­dence to­day.

Af­ter some deep re­flec­tion, I must ad­mit that the two ladies who have in­spired me the most are my grandma and mom.

My grandma was born in 1932, as the fourth child in a poor ru­ral fam­ily of 13. She lived at a time when ba­sic food and medicine were scarce, and ed­u­ca­tion was a lux­ury for most ru­ral girls. Harsh liv­ing con­di­tions en­cour­aged her to de­velop emo­tional ma­tu­rity and learn crit­i­cal life skills at an early age.

For in­stance, at the age of 8, she en­dured the grief of watch­ing her 2-year-old sis­ter die in her arms from ill­ness. Hid­ing away her bro­ken heart and sad tears, she knew that her pri­or­ity in that mo­ment was to com­fort her mother and take care of her younger sib­lings.

In 1941, af­ter much plead­ing, her par­ents fi­nally al­lowed her to at­tend classes at a pri­mary school. She said those years were the best mem­o­ries of her life, de­spite the phys­i­cal de­mands.

Af­ter class ev­ery day, grandma would rush home to help with the cook­ing, clean­ing and laun­dry, and to play with her younger sib­lings. It was only af­ter putting her sib­lings to bed ev­ery even­ing that she could fi­nally spare some mo­ments to re­view her class­room notes and com­plete her home­work.

Al­though grandma re­ceived no for­mal ed­u­ca­tion beyond pri­mary school, she never al­lowed that to limit her ca­reer. She later be­came an ac­coun­tant in a fac­tory and grad­u­ally learned the skills of the trade from long evenings of self­s­tudy and from watch­ing older work­ers.

By the time my mom was born, in 1964, China’s stan­dard of liv­ing and ed­u­ca­tional re­sources for girls had much im­proved.

Still, univer­sity was only avail­able to a frac­tion of the pop­u­la­tion, so, af­ter high school, at age 17, my mother started her first job, also as an ac­coun­tant.

She treated ev­ery task with Ce­cily Liu in­cred­i­ble ded­i­ca­tion and hard work. She was of­ten the first to ar­rive and the last to leave, but never asked for any ex­tra pay for her over­time. In fact, she was work­ing in the of­fice just as nor­mal hours be­fore she gave birth to me. Two months af­ter giv­ing birth, her boss asked her to cut short her ma­ter­nity leave be­cause work needed her, and she hap­pily com­plied.

Away from the of­fice, mom looked af­ter my father and me with de­vo­tion and love. She at­ten­tively nursed my father for years dur­ing an ill­ness. Dur­ing the years when my par­ents lived in an eight­square-me­ter apart­ment with a sin­gle bed, she in­sisted that her hus­band sleep on the bed, even when she was preg­nant with me.

Grow­ing up, I watched how my grandma and mom pur­sued their dreams with per­se­ver­ance and wis­dom.

They have never called them­selves suf­fragettes or fem­i­nists; in fact, I don’t think they even know what those words mean. In­stead, they em­braced life’s op­por­tu­ni­ties with en­thu­si­asm and will­ingly made sac­ri­fices for the peo­ple they love.

Liv­ing in the mul­ti­cul­tural city of Lon­don, I feel that per­haps ev­ery woman around me has hero­ines in their own hearts, who they ad­mire and draw in­spi­ra­tion from. Siva Sankar

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