My great-grandmother lived on German Hill on Adrian’s east side. She was the daughter of German immigrants, a suffragette married to a German immigrant, active in the community and a devoted pillar of her church.
Their families arrived with nothing but hope. My great-grandparents worked hard from sunup to sundown. Their yard on Hunt Street featured my great-grandfather’s beautiful rose gardens and magical stonework. My great-grandmother cared for her own family and elderly relatives and neighbors. She took in laundry to earn extra money and raised a foster child. She made sure her children de ella had excellent educations beyond high school. She was a straight, white, Christian, married, urban mom.
From the turn of the 20th century until health care services changed, she was also a midwife, attending many home births. Male doctors at that time rarely involved themselves in “women’s issues” unless there was a surgical necessity. Throughout history, some midwives also supplied birth control and emmenagogues to make sure the monthly cycle occurred on time, because an early miscarriage that wasn’t immediately expelled properly could be fatal for the mother or cause her to be unable to have more children.
Sometimes midwives provided abortifacients. All these were made mostly from plants found along roadsides, in fields and gardens, and were used by Catholic, Protestant, religious and nonreligious, wealthy and poor, married and unmarried women all over the planet. Efficacy and safety depended on the midwife’s skill and other variables she couldn’t control. There were no safety standards or regulations.
She was highly respected because of the care she offered.
Some believe personhood begins at conception. Others believe that one individual person cannot be separated from the continuum of life, which began on earth in the primordial ooze of either a tidal pool or a volcano, when just the right mix of gases, water, nutrients, amino acids and electrical charge collided , and that each person is a combination of DNA that evolves over the whole of time instead of one discrete event. Judaism and Islam have their beliefs about the soul and when life begins. Even within Christianity, there are differences. The Presbyterian, ELCA Lutheran, and many Christian churches leave decisions about reproduction and abortion up to the mother.
Nearly 70% of Americans believe Roe v. Wade shouldn’t be overturned. Here in Michigan, the statistics are similar. Americans believe that privacy is a fundamental right, as is the right to individual religious freedom. The real question is whether or not one set of religious beliefs that most people don’t share can be made the law of the land.
We see the same desire for control over others among fear-mongers spreading hate for LGBTQ people by lying about progressives, liberals, school teachers, health care providers and Democratic Party allies, calling them groomers and pedophiles and shrieking about Sodom and Gomorrah. Or accommodating hate by falsely accusing schools of undermining parents, disingenuously complaining about “CRT,” and challenging any effort to make sure that past wrongs — slavery, Jim Crow, mistreatment of Indigenous people, immigrants and others — aren’t repeated in the future .
Promoting a master race of super-manly men and super-feminized women, all of the same color and pedigree and obedient to revisionist religious hokum that’s propagandized by the state isn’t American democracy. We know how that story ends.
The Republican Party that performatively drapes itself in Christian and patriotic flags and memes, the party of Donald Trump, Lee Chatfield, Dennis Hastert, Madison Cawthorn, Marjorie Taylor-Greene, Lauren Boebert, crazy conspiracy theorists, insurrectionists, and the Sedition Caucus, has no moral authority over anything. It’s incapable of good governance.
Instead, the people to listen to and emulate are those who quietly (in secret, as all good deeds and prayer should be done) feed, clothe, shelter and heal those who need help, who respect others’ rights. Like my great-grandmother, who blessed us all with her faith, decency, and compassion.
Pam Taylor is a retired Lenawee County teacher and an environmental activist. She can be reached at [email protected]