Every time Women’s History Month comes around, there’s something I want to shout from the rooftop: When we honor this occasion, we cannot exclude disabled women from our celebration. And yet, too often, disability goes unrecognized as an identity that can and does intersect with all other identities. Instead, it’s left out of conversations, ignored or forgotten. But disabled women are part of history, too. Whether directly or indirectly, they are part of all of our histories.
This is especially important to remember when I think about who I am. I am not just a woman and I am not just disabled. I’m a disabled woman. One does not exist in me without the other. These parts of me are inextricably linked and I’m proud of that. But this pride is hard-won, and much of is it because of the disabled women who have come before me.
I’m truly lucky that there are so very many disabled women who have shaped my life, showing me a path forward, teaching me how to thrive on my owns terms. I want to celebrate one in particular who I honor not just this month, but every day, every month, every year, always: my mom.
My mom and I both share the same diagnosis, Larsen syndrome, which is a generic joint and muscle disorder. People often think it’s tragic that I inherited my disability from her, but I think of it as another layer of history that bonds us, a deep root that we both share. This is the history I’m celebrating.
In so many ways, my mom and I are each other’s teachers. My mom has shown me the ropes of being a disabled woman, and in some cases, I’ve had the opportunity to do the same for her. Fun fact: I actually became a wheelchair user well before she did. And now, my mom and I both navigate the world on wheels together.
Having someone in my life who just “gets” it is what I wish for all young disabled women. I understand, though, that what my mom and I share is quite rare, and ours isn’t the kind of experience that so many disabled girls and women have. That’s why it’s crucial that occasions like Women’s History Month include recognition of disability. To have fierce disabled role models ahead of you, to know that there is a whole history of disabled women behind you: that’s both powerful and empowering. Instead of erasing disabled women from the history books, let’s uplift and shine a spotlight on them.
About Emily Ladau: Emily is a blogger and serves as the editor in chief of Rooted in Rights. She co-hosts a podcast and has been recognized as an emerging leader in the disability community. Emily lives on Long Island and enjoys traveling and trying new restaurants. Click here to learn more about Emily.