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Mother’s Day  - And How We Know We're Civilized

I’m about to present a new idea to my domestic abuse intervention group – a different and probably unconventional reason to honor and respect women.  I wonder what discussion will ensue.
When famed anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked what was the first sign of civilization, she didn’t cite pottery or tools, weapons or art.  Rather, she said it was a healed femur.  In the wild a broken leg means almost certain death as the individual (person or critter) cannot hunt to find food or run away to avoid becoming food.

A human skeleton with a healed femur means someone else cared for the injured person.  Someone administered medical aid, brought nourishment, protected the injured person. Most of those tasks probably fell to women.  Lest you think I’m touting rigid gender roles – a known risk factor for domestic violence – I am simply thinking of the practicality of early people. 

Traditional thinking portrays men as hunters and, for whatever reason, warriors.  However, in recent years anthropologists have found female skeletons buried with tools used for hunting, with primitive regalia used in combat – artifacts that evidence women were also hunters and warriors. 

We can suppose, though with less evidence, that some men also lived non-traditional roles. But we know for sure that only women were having babies, followed by a period in the home recuperating from childbirth and nursing and caring for an infant.  

It is then only a small step to imagining that because those mothers had to be in the home space, it was they who also took care of others in their group. They provided the medical care and nourishment so that their comrade with the broken leg could heal. (As the primary healers, they were also the first drummers, but that’s another story.) After men’s essential contribution to conception, mothers were the reason for and the evidence of civilizations.

I am not under the illusion that all women are or should be mothers. I know my perspective above will not immediately make men more respectful of all women.  I am suggesting that just for this year on Mother’s Day we cherish mothers because they are responsible for the birth of us as individuals and probably responsible for the birth of civilization.  


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