When I was asked to suggest a weekend read in honor of International Women’s Day, I couldn’t help but think of the before times (re: December 2019), when the New York Office Women’s Network livestreamed the keynote speakers from the Massachusetts Conference for Women — and ordered far too much Murray’s Cheese (if you know, you know). The speakers that year were Malala Yousafzai, education advocate, and Tara Westover, author of the book Educated. The overall message was clear: the education of girls and women matters.
That day I ordered Westover’s book, Educated — in part because I found her keynote speech to be relatably awkward, but also because her story intrigued me. It was hard for me to imagine a world where one’s parents didn’t make them go to school because when I was growing up, my parents told me going to school was my job. They told me my education mattered.
Westover’s story also caused me to reflect on a conversation I had with my own grandmother many years ago. My grandmother (Yia-Yia) was fortunate enough to attend the University of Illinois in the 1950s. Yia-Yia told me that when she decided to go to college (and her parents decided to let her go), other family members questioned the decision: “What’s the point of sending her to college? She is just going to get married.” To which her mother replied, “She is smart, and if she goes to college, she will marry a different kind of man.”
Both Westover’s and my grandmother’s experiences with education were drastically different from my own, and upon reflection, have caused me to realize just how much I took my own education for granted. It wasn’t that long ago that the merits of my grandmother’s education were called into question, and girls have education denied them to this day. So if you are looking for something to read this weekend, consider picking up a copy of Westover’s Education. Alternatively, consider calling your grandmother and asking her about her experience with education.