Women in the Time of COVID-19
April 1, 2020
Back in 1965, future British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously declared, “If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.” Years earlier, Eleanor Roosevelt opined that “Women are like tea bags. You never know how strong they are until they are in hot water.”
We are all in hot water today as the Novel Coronavirus wreaks havoc in South Carolina and throughout the world. But I’m heartened by the women who have stepped up to lead during this terrible crisis. They are not asking if you are a Democrat or a Republican. They are not asking for publicity. As women usually do, they help fix things quietly and efficiently, without fanfare.
I’m thinking of women such as Melanie Huggins, executive director of the Richland Library, who spends untold hours finding ways to continue to deliver services (washing stations, etc.) to the homeless who congregate near the main library on Assembly Street in Columbia. Or women like Teresa Wilson, Columbia City Manager, who works tirelessly to ensure that our city services continue without interruption. Or women like SC Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, who works long hours finding pro-bono attorneys/notaries to help worried seniors write their last will and testament.
There are the heroic doctors and nurses and other health-care/social workers across the state who are unselfishly (and at potential risk to their own lives) taking care of South Carolinians ill with Covid-19 disease. Most of these medical professionals are women; globally, women make up 70 percent of workers in the health and social sector.
Let’s not forget our majority-female cohort of schoolteachers and administrators who are doing yeoman’s work teaching our kids online now that the schools are shuttered. And there are the moms (and dads), many of whom are doing double and triple duty: working from home while also caring for their kids and helping them with their schoolwork.
Most supermarket cashiers and pharmacy clerks and bank tellers and house cleaners and personal care aides are women. Most of them are continuing to work during this crisis so the rest of us can buy our groceries and do our banking and continue living our (constricted) lives.
In this time of radical political polarization, women are providing a much-needed elixir to help reduce these poisonous divisions. “Women like you drown oceans,” writes the young Canadian poet Rupi Kaur.
Indeed, they do.
Jan Collins is a Columbia-based journalist, editor, and author. A former Nieman Fellow at Harvard and former Congressional Fellow in Washington, D. C., she is the coauthor of Next Steps: A Practical Guide to Planning for the Best Half of Your Life (Quill Driver Books, 2009).