Bring Back Our Grandmothers

World Design Action: Bring back the Grandmothers

Requires: pens, paper, voices, actions, media shifts, editors of papers, employers, new cultural paradigm AND grandmothers; British Grandmothers, Iranian Grandmothers, Japanese Grandmothers, American Grandmothers, Argentinian Grandmothers, Indian Grandmothers, Welsh Grandmothers, Scottish Grandmothers … 


The Council Of Grandmothers

Ads and I were driving home from the cinema having a conversation about the Hobbit.

“I once took The Hobbit out from the school library,” Ads told me, “because it looked really grown up and chunky. I then had it for months and never read a page.”

“My friend Julie took out a book just like that,” I laughed. “It was about this Native American called Hiawatha and the whole thing was told in poetry. We used to crease up at the pictures and generally use it as a source of amusement when we were supposed to be quietly reading. Neither of us found out who Hiawatha was.”

Following that car convo, something really bizarre happened.

I was reading a book that someone gave me for Christmas and there was a whole segment on Hiawatha and who he was.

So, long story short, there was this dude called “Confluence of Two Rivers” who, back in the 1400s or 1500s brought together six warring Native American tribes, to form the Iroquios Confederacy. Hiawatha was the negotiator who brought the tribes together.

Via this umbrella (under which sat the Mohawks, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca tribes) these six diverse nations found a way to live in peace and harmony.

One of the things that I was most interested to find out about the Iroquios was that in their society they believed that authority came from the ground upwards, not from the top down. In Europe at that time, it was the law of the King and of the Church that delegated power and the people at the bottom had no choice but to comply. Yet the Iroquios believed that the need for government “arises from equality sovereign citizens who enter into a compact to ensure a mutually beneficial and thriving community.”* They also said, “power is breathed into leaders by people and those leaders then exist on that support. When the support no longer exists, then their power ceases to exist”.

So different to how our world is governed today…

The final thing I wanted to tell you about re. the Iroquios was the role of women in their tribe – and more specifically the older women. The native society had no kings or upper class, but what they did have was a group called The Council Of Grandmothers.

The Natives, like many indigenous tribes, believed that Earth, plants and the land were feminine in character. Because the oder women in the tribe were closest to the basics of life, eg. preparing food, growing food, midwifery and rearing of children, the men naturally acknowledged women’s fundamental power.

The Native American clan, for this reason, was usually headed by an older woman. These older women, the Council of Grandmothers, assumed the political power and they possessed sole authority to choose a new chief or to impeach a chief for wrong doing. Women also made the final decision as to whether to go to war. Having said that, the men were sometimes reluctant to give women this right and they complained women wanted to go to war too often.

When women were past childbearing age they would become clan mothers, or even warriors. Beautifully and amazingly, the female/male equality in Iroquios culture may have sparked the Women’s Revolution in America, for in the late 19th century, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, had “early and influential contact with Iroquois women”.

Incredible that women of a “civilized” culture had so much to learn from a people portrayed for so long as savages.

All of this had led me to think again about the place that women have in our society today. Young women of childbearing age are sexualized and celebrated, strewn across TV sets and held up as the role model to become. Yet as a woman becomes oder, her chances of finding work become less and she is gradually faded from the TV screen (apart from the odd news reporter of course).

Where are our Council Of Grandmothers, the older women who are sassy, wise and rich in their experience and knowledge of the world? Where are our women who are no longer of child bearing age and should be stepping into their Great Space Of Contribution, but instead quietly shuffle into the menopause and off our screens forever? Where are our Grandmothers? Where are they?

Cuban Grandmother


18 thoughts on “Bring Back Our Grandmothers

  1. This is a great read, Bethan.
    I have to agree competely with you. Having a 12 year od beauty, under my wing, I find tha keeping her sheltered from the disgust of the rest of the world is….well….impossible.
    I’ve never had the joy that having a”grandmother”, but I have many women role models….young and old. Bringing back reverence to these women is necessary. Our children have lost RESPECT along the way. Instilling the wisdom of these “grandmothers” is a perfect way to reap tradition! Also, we know that a womans gratiousness and comfort supercedes those of the men in our lives. It’s on a different playing field, actually.
    Ha! Sorry for the typos. Grrr…

    • I have a 12 year old too. It’s a crazy age. I feel massively honoured (and often challenged) to be part of this liitle girl’s/lady’s life. Who were your female role models are – young and old? Were they people in your community or part of the wider world? On my FB page for Grow Your Own Gorgeousness we had a little project where people were posting their role models -although these were often people from the media as opposed to normal, “every day” people … Would you share one of yours with us? xx

      • My Mother, being one of them.
        She lost her husband at a young age, with two babies….she needed a miricle. I suppose that came in the form of my father. It feels like a gorgeous love story, yet I lived it….
        Its tricky, see. Now, being a divorced single mother, marriage scares the shit out of me, regardless of my parents’ seemingly perfect marriage (although, I know the truth). I will not digress, here. 😉
        I’ve always wanted to know what it felt like to have grandparents. I bet it’s enlightening and comforting.

      • Thanks for sharing, my lovely. It’s strange that I lost my father and my brother young, yet still have both sets of grandparents! (My paternal grandmother is German, my grandfather Welsh and on my mum’s side my granddad is Indian and my Gran from Yorkshire.) My parents were married until my dad died in 2005. I was married to my husband for 7 years but with him for 14. We’re in the process of getting divorced and it is a horrible thing. Marriage? t’s not black and white, is it? I might do it again one day … but if I did I’d keep my own name in tact. xx

      • I’m sorry to hear of your impending divorce.
        I’ve been divorced for 10 years…I married very young (19) and divorced young (23). At times, I forget about the vows I made to this now-stranger. Weird how time flies and before we know it, it’s like “who the fuck is this guy?”. I’m reminded, only through similar body language he and my daughter share.
        I, too, may marry sooner than later. It’s a touchy subject with me, indeed.

      • Hello S&C, I was young when too and eventually it was me who initiated the break. It’s bitter sweet really – a life changing move into truth and independence for myself, but a soul crushing time for the other person. Touchy subject agreed. Hearts can be raw things especially around love and grief. Probably not something to discuss on a blog, but sending you some cooling balm for any injuries (whilst rubbing it on my own little wounds as well). Hope your painting went well last night. Love to you. x

      • 10 years have brought up much healing for me. It was I, who initiated the divorce. He was heartbroken, as he was obviously “hit by my Mack Truck”, out of our adolescent blue.
        Since then, I have felt cursed. 10 years of heartbreak, and falling for those who are unable to love…..
        In essence, leaving me feeling completely empty, in love.

      • That’s a really sad story. I’m so sorry to hear it has been tough for you. Sounds like it is time for the blessings to come in. Do you feel ready for blessings and fulfilment in that area of your life? x

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  3. Becoming a Grandmother took me completely by surprise – I was ready for it…. struggled with what to be called – but have borrowed a title from a friend’s mother and I am now Grannie Grannie…. so good – they named it twice. It is indeed an age of enlightenment and power; a time to share wisdom; a time to reflect; a time to be seen and heard. Let’s embrace all women, but at this time in our evolution listen carefully to the Crones (unfortunate word) – think Cronie ; think (Buddy).

    • Hello there Lizzie and thanks for popping by! To me becoming isn’t even about being a grandmother as much as reaching the third, empowered phase of a woman’s life (whether you have children, grandchildren or not). I’ve got to say I also like the word “crone”. Eek! I reckon it can be transformed into a really positive word. That reminds me of something interesting that relates to the whole Native Culture and the meaning we attach to words … We’ve all grown up referring to Native American women as Squaws, right? I was once told that squaw is the Native word for a woman’s vagina. The white man in their beautiful, civilized fashion referred to Native women in the same way some American’s refer to women as Hole. Another little illustration of how language evolves through the tongues that wield it and how words change and can be used to white wash or demean.
      CRONE – let’s make it mean “Containing Revelations On Next Evolution” … or something like that.

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