Marlo Thomas—That Girl, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and “Free To Be…You and Me”—is on my mind today. I just finished her most recent book, Growing Up Laughing. If you need a pick-me-up, I highly recommend you run out for a copy. It’s her memoirs of growing up with her famously funny father, comedian Danny Thomas, and his legendary pals, which include George Burns, Milton Berle, Don Rickles, Bob Hope, and Red Buttons. She also interviewed present-day stars, such as Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Tina Fey, and Jon Stewart, to get their thoughts on how they ended up funny. I laughed out loud at the many anecdotes and jokes, and I have a new appreciation for the hard work it takes to be a successful comedian.
But what struck the deepest chord within me was a brief story about when Gloria Steinem, founder of Ms., asked Thomas to speak to a group of welfare mothers. Thomas was unmarried at the time, and childfree (she later became a stepmother to husband Phil Donahue’s four sons), and wondered what in the world she could talk about. “Trust me,” Gloria said. “They’ll love you—and you’ll love them. You’re all women.”
And I thought: “That’s IT!” That’s the one message I want to get out to the world through our site and through how I live my life. We’re not mothers and non-mothers, we’re not breeders and infertiles, we’re not with child or childfree. We’re all women.
Thomas bonded by sharing family stories. We can all relate to the antics of the eccentric grandmother, the regrets of aunts who shelved their dreams for the so-called security of marriage, the sisters and friends whose talents were “dismissed because they were women.” With her stories, childfree Thomas had the audience of mothers laughing and crying along with her. “Gloria had opened my eyes and my heart to the connections that we women have with each other.”
It’s so easy for me to obsess over other women’s haves versus my have-nots—or to gloat over the freedoms I enjoy that they have sacrificed for family life. Enough. Let’s focus on our common ground and celebrate and support each other, as women, regardless of the paths we follow.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She celebrates Marlo Thomas for breaking down barriers to gender equality.