It’s National Nurses Week – A Nurse for all Seasons
A Nurse for all Seasons
In honor of the first earthday in 1970, Margaret Mead wrote of the essence of women’s work as the framework for creating a resilient community. Florence Nightingale’s Notes on nursing, written for all women, brought to light the taken-for-granted art of care in attaining, maintaining and regaining health.
Here are exerpts from Margaret Mead’s article in which she explains the fit between women’s work, and creating resilient families, communities, and conserving the earth’s resources.
What we need beyond anything else, is a frame of reference, a model of cherishing care for the earth and all human needs. … Have we, then, another model? I believe we have. It is women’s unremitting care for their families and homes. Age after age, women have learned to conserve, to plan for the next day and the next season, to use carefully whatever they had and to keep a continual balance between giving and meeting the needs of everyone in the home. Women’s conservative tendencies were born out of the limitations of the household, a small, closed universe. They have always had to think: So much food to lay away for the winter and the distant spring, so many mouths to feed each day.
As long as the peasant farmer remained close to his land, feeding and tending living things day by day, plowing and harvesting and husbanding, he played a nurturing role, just as his wife did at her indoor tasks of childrearing and house keeping. In spite of the face that men won more and more from nature, their continuous care gave back what they had taken away.
Man the cultivator is an ancient image of nurturing care. … At best, looking back, we can reassure ourselves that human beings, do have the capacity to cherish the earth as well as to exploit it.
… women have almost always been familiar with closed systems and understand very well that survival within them depends on continuing care and the continuing performance of the same tasks over and over again.
Women’s conserving habits …, have everywhere gone almost unremarked. They have been conservators without conscious thought, and as in so many other things, usually without the supporting formal rules and ceremonies that characterize men’s important activities. But at this critical moment, while women are pausing on the thresholds of there homes, homes in which there is no granary, no storeroom, no milk shed, no harvest of beans or peas to be shelled, no ham smoked for the winder, homes from which their two or three children eventually depart, it may be well to ask: Can women make articulate their understanding of the takss they have traditionally performed, the tasks they learned, however reluctantly and rebelliously, from their mothers?
These modern women still are, as women always have been, caretakers of persons and, equally, caretakers of the things that are essential to those they love and for whose well-being they are responsible. And it is just this – responsible and devoted caretaking – that is the key to the future. It is this capacity to relate things to the needs of many individuals that makes possible vigilance over a lifetime and for generation after generation.
Women who have taken the most opposing stands can find a common bond in a commitment to the conservation of our planet. They have a difficult task ahead of them. They must make articulate to themselves and others what they know at deep levels about conservation. They must make a tremendous leap in scale from the closed system to a single come to the closed system of the whole world. They must make a translation in terms from housekeeping for a family, each member of which is known as an individual, to housekeeping for all people, most of whom are strangers to one another. Above all, they must somehow convey the belief they sometimes accept and sometimes doubt 00 that responsible caretaking is a central value of life.
This means that women, within and outside their homes, will begin to develop new kinds of partnerships with men in which each can inform the understanding of the other.
Such a changeover from a focus on their own homes and their own small communities to concerned for the whole world, in which their homes and families are included, involves long-range thinking and planning on the part of women together with men. It involves a process of self education in knowledge we already have and the indcorporation into this knowledge of attitudes toward protective care that women have not yet extended to the larger world. This is the first step toward partnership in decision-making that must be shared more equally by men and women for the safekeeping of the future. Shared responsibility for the protection of our planet is the goal we can best support with our belief that the world is a home for humankind.”