Celine parachuted into France ten days before D-Day to courier and train maquis groups in weaponry behind the lines (Invisible Women Episode 7). In 2005 she told me that in training with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) she jumped the least number of jumps required to get her wings and never admitted to anyone that she was terrified of heights. Celine passed all her SOE training requirements along with a few other women and their male counterparts. However, although the men received their parachute wings badge to display on their uniform, the women did not. This symbol of flying freely was embroidered for Celine by a friend.
Although military protocols and cultural expectations have shifted since the 1940s, it is only recently that these courageous, intelligent and strategic women who worked behind the lines performing some of the most dangerous jobs, have been acknowledged through articles, books and film. But, even seventy years post WW 2, the historical record is slow to correct. For instance, it’s still not widely known that two million women worked in WW 2 war industries and thousands of women performed espionage tasks such as, wireless operating, couriering, sabotage, reconnaissance and more. Their intelligence roles were invisible to the enemy due to cultural norms . Unfortunately, these women’s contributions (and training feats) post-war along with their risk-taking, independence and creative problem solving has also remained invisible until recently.
It’s not only important to give credit where credit is due that is, for brave, selfless work and deep commitment and actions against a formidable enemy. It’s not only to correct the historical record about the societal barriers broken and the contributions that all women in war performed but rather about continuing the conversation forward. Women are still thwarted in western society across many professions and even more so in leadership positions. They are still controlled by a culture that does not wish for women and others to flourish, create and to gain power yet at the same time traditional ways of thinking/being are not improving our lives in any way. In fact, our lives are being diminished. We need to break existing barriers to women and others, encourage and not be afraid of those with initiative, drive, and the capacities to make a difference and role model for others regardless of gender. We should be beyond these stigmas, racism and discrimination by now. We need to be.
As I write this, the heavy rain and wind against my living room windows remind me that in the last month we’ve had warnings of atmospheric rivers, waterspouts, cyclone bombs, and last night, a tornado ~ most for the first time on the southwest coast of Canada. And, last summer the sea lapping up on the shoreline was hotter than ever and the land so dry that my ‘rainforest’ cedar trees are predicted to die. Climate change is dramatic, dangerous and anxiety provoking. We’re all living in a much different world than in the 1940s — yet crises are mounting on our doorstep along with the need to respond quickly and creatively.
On this Remembrance Day, as we recall those dedicated and selfless women and men who sacrificed so we could live freely, let’s also remember to free ourselves and all genders from the controlling and debilitating societal structures that still exist and are assimilated into the tapestry of ourselves/our lives. By unbinding ourselves individually and collectively from this traditional irrational hold, and inviting all genders with their pantheon of creativity and ways of being to engage more fully, we will create potential openings for healing. Portals for change, founded on a continuum of creative lenses will invite hope, inspiration, optimism and action helping us deal with present crises and avoid others including world wars founded on the one-sided thinking of patriarchal western views.