My mom, Ann DiBonaventura, was a musical prodigy, just like her three brothers. She began teaching piano to the youngest of her siblings, Anthony, when she was ten and he was three and a half years old. A couple of years later, my grandparents put these four kids on a train from West Virginia, where they had a barber shop, to New York City. All four got full scholarships to study at a music school and conservatory there.
My mom had a quite a career as a choral director, violinist, and piano, voice and violin teacher in Baltimore. But it all came much later in life, after she’d largely raised us four kids. Like so many other women in countless other occupations, she put her career aside to raise a family. Myself the youngest, I was about ten years old when she restarted her career. She gave up a lot because, well, that’s what women and moms did.
On this International Women’s Day, I celebrate my mother’s life, but just as much, my daughter, Maria, who like so many young women of the millennial era, is piecing together a living out of several different jobs. She has a masters degree; she’s smart, creative and professional; and she’s white. Even so, it’s relentlessly challenging to make her way in this world. But she is doing it, and doing it well.
Women still earn less than 80 cents on the dollar compared to men in the same jobs, with the same experience. Women are overwhelmingly the victims of workplace harassment and discrimination, and of domestic violence. Women still face ridiculous double standards when it comes to sex and morality. And yet, women – like young people – are fighting back. In the streets, in the workplace, in electoral politics, and more.
My mom’s been dead for over thirty years; her fight was a long time ago. Surely by now we should be much further along when it comes to women’s equality. Let’s insure that this moment of women fighting for what they deserve becomes a sustained movement for real change.