"Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old
woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force." So wrote one of my
favorite mystery writers, Dorothy Sayers. Right on!
And recently I discovered Great Old Broads for Wilderness. Wow -- what
a wonderful name for an group of activist women who have been around
long enough to know how to get things done. This particular group of
great old broads got organized in the People's Republic of Boulder --
no surprise there.
But the idea was born out in the wilds of Utah. Some eleven years ago a
group of five tanned, dusty women with hair of varying shades of gray
finished a long hike. One of them was heard to comment as they reached
their camp, "Now there's a fine bunch of old great old broads." Susan
Tixier of Escalante Utah said later, "The phrase stuck in my mind, and,
like so many epochal ideas that are born late at night over a bottle of
wine, the seed for the hell-raising group Great Old Broads for
Wilderness was planted."
Broads. Had I used that word for a woman when I was young my mother
would probably have washed my mouth out with soap. Today I think it's
wonderful. We are finally strong enough to laugh at ourselves in
Young males can't wait to be old enough to be men. Females, on the
other hand, tend to head into womanhood with a few qualms, knowing that
age is not always an asset. There is a stretch in there when girl may
be better than woman , and it's hard to know just where the line is.
The Associated Press Stylebook, however, defines it quite clearly.
"Girl: applicable until the 18th birthday is reached. Use woman or
young woman afterward."
I was talking recently with a young woman (I mean really young,
twenty-something) about the words used for the female half of
humankind. She was wondering -- philosophically -- when she ceased to
be a girl and became a woman. She said, with a bit of wonder, "My
mother is a woman."
My answer to my twenty-something friend is that she is a woman. That's
a good, solid word that identifies her as an adult female person. As
Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote over a hundred years ago,
"Give us that grand word 'woman' once again,
Full of fine force, strong, beautiful, and firm,
Fit for the noblest use of tongue or pen."
And then when my young friend gets a lot older and a bit wiser and has
acquired some wrinkles and gray hairs and settled a little, she can
graduate and be an old broad.
A group of wilderness lovers has the confidence and the humor to call
themselves Great Old Broads for Wilderness. Organized in 1989 in
celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Wilderness act, they have
grown to include broads-in-training (women under 45) and a few savvy
men. Most of the members, however, are older women committed to
protecting wilderness areas.
If anybody thinks that activist women have no sense of humor, check the
web home page -- www.greatoldbroads.org.
Their newsletter is called
Broadsides and the lead article in the current one is titled "This is
the Place! Notes from a Broad." Each year the Great old Broads gather
for a Broadwalk in some threatened wild life area. Last year it was the
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.
Susan Tixier, Executive Director, writes, "The whole point is to have
fun while raising a little eco-hell for all the right reasons." Their
broad scale agenda includes placing as much open federal land as
possible into the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Take a bunch of "older" women with time, energy and a cause and stand
back and watch out. The GOB's bring wisdom, grace and humor (and some
wrinkles) to wilderness discussions. And they remember when the
wilderness was really wild.
I have joined. I'm now officially a good old broad.