“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colours of a rainbow.” –  Maya Angelou 

To try and encapsulate Motherhood into one idea is like trying to describe all the worlds colours in a single word.

There tends to be one image that dominates our imagination, an image often crafted from superficial aspects of the experience, whilst the rest is rendered invisible. Left out is the endless labour, the profound patience, the grit and oftentimes the revolutionary act of motherhood.  The experience is so varied that we could never articulate all that it means to mother. Here we would like to honour this vast tapestry by sharing a collage of experiences, acknowledging the ever evolving role of raising children. 

We honour the first mothers

Expecting mothers from Djap Wurrug traveled to a sacred tree to give birth in the same space that their foremothers had. This sacred tree is 800 years old and carries with her the birthing stories of more than 50 generations of Djap Wurrung mothers. We honour the mothers, who were the first peoples to give birth on this land and whose sovereignty was never ceded. 

Mothers who fought for their right to work

Pictured on November 3rd, 1919 in Washington DC, is the International Congress for Working Women.
On November 29th, 1919 the International Labour Organisation called for 12 weeks maternity pay, free medical care during and after pregnancy, job Guarantees upon return to work and breaks where one could nurse their children. 

Mothers who were called to action

Angela Davis, activist and former black panther, describes how 66% of their membership were women & mothers.

“There has been a tendency to forget that the organising work that truly made the Black Panther Party relevant to a new era of struggle for liberation was largely carried out by women.”  – Angela Davis

Above, a 1969 Black Panther Party poster calling for the release of fellow imprisoned female party members  – three of whom were pregnant.

Pictured, second to the left is a young Ericka Huggins, who was widowed with a three-week old daughter. Huggins soon moved to her husband’s home town in Connecticut where she organised a new branch of the Black Panther Party alongside Kathleen Cleaver & Elaine Brown.

Black Panther community initiatives, included, the ‘Free Breakfast for Children Program’, the ‘People’s Free Ambulance Service’ and the ‘People’s Free Medical Clinics’.

Mothers who are fierce defenders

Jaha Dukureh, UN Women and Regional goodwill ambassador for Africa, is a mother and leader in a movement to end female genital mutilation (FGM) & child marriage.

Dukureh founded the NGO “Safe Hands for Girls” that provides support to African women and girls who have faced FGM and addresses its life long effects.  She has also contributed to the Gambian governments banning of such acts against women and girls.

“It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my daughter, that I started to speak out against FGM. I didn’t want my daughter to ever have to go through what I had. I also knew there were millions of girls out there, just like me and my daughter, and no one was speaking for them. If it wasn’t going to me, who else would do that?” – Jaha Dukureh

 Mothers who painted themselves into history 

Throughout western art history, Motherhood and pregnancy have been rendered almost completely invisible. Picturing children, motherhood and pregnancy is a radical act of reclamation. It is a rewriting of motherhood in our own image.

“Twenty years ago people still felt it indelicate to talk about pregnancy—even using the word pregnant was problematic,” Karen Hearn, Art Historian.

Pictured is a painting by Frida Kahlo.  The artwork is a self portrait  in Henry Ford hospital in 1932.

and finally,
an ode to the every day of motherhood

We would like to honour the resilience of mothering each and every day.

The profound patience, the sleepless nights, endless labour and the marathon of waking up and doing it all over again.  We know that everyone has a unique experience and no one’s world is perfect. We want to send our love every one of you, in all your glorious complexities.

Cecil Howard – Mother & child 1918 – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cecil_Howard_-_Mother_%26_child_1918.jpg
International Congress for Working Women – Tamiment
Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, via New York University
‘Women. Free our Sisters’ –  Library of Congress Catalog: http://lccn.loc.gov/2015648047
Angela Davis  – ca. 1965  Library of Congress
Jaha Dukureh – Portrait  taken at UN Women Headquarters in New York on 16 February 2018. For more https://www.unwomen.org/en/partnerships/goodwill-ambassadors/jaha-dukureh
Australian Eucalyptus tree. For more about Djap Wurrung birthing trees visit – https://dwembassy.com/
Frida Kahlo, 1932, Henry Ford Hospital