It was with great sadness that the world said goodbye to three inspirational women recently all within the space of 10 days in late September. Each of them, although they led their public lives in different ways, was an inspiration to the end of their lives.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (affectionately known as RBG) fought to ensure equity for all. Until I saw the 2018 movie “On the Basis of Sex” an American biographical legal drama film based on the life and early cases of RBG, I did not realise that her first case on procedural fairness was not striking a blow for women’s equality. Rather she fought to ensure that a man who was a caregiver for his mother would receive the caregiver allowance and not be discriminated against on the basis of his gender (sex). (Caregiving of course only being a woman’s job!). RBG, who became the second woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court, was always a stickler for fairness in all things and maintained her acuity, grace and dignity in upholding the law right up until her death.
Prominent Australian politician and activist Susan Ryan died suddenly in late September and is to be honoured with a State funeral. She served in the Hawke government and was responsible for landmark sex discrimination and affirmative action laws. Susan was a women’s rights trailblazer and also the first female Labor government cabinet minister. She was installed as education minister and minister assisting the PM for the status of women in Bob Hawke’s government from 1983. She was an integral part of the creation of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and Affirmative Action Act 1986.
Later in life, Ms Ryan returned to fighting for the powerless as Australia’s inaugural age discrimination commissioner and then disability discrimination commissioner.
And the last of the three wonderful women to die was Helen Reddy. The Women’s Movement anthem in the 1970s was “I am Woman”. What a great shout out that was sung by the Australian Helen Reddy. Helen was another woman of that heady time when equal rights were being debated who believed in this cause. Sadly this fighter and mighty composer and vocalist died after an older age marred by dementia.
I’ve been contemplating what each of these three women had in common. The obvious answer is a sense of fairness for all, and in particular women. But, as well, they radiated purpose and energy. For them to be full human beings, they needed to work on what they considered to be important for others. And that is why we honour them.
I am Woman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rptW7zOPX2E