I Do Not Know My Mother’s Name #IWD2022

I do not know my mother’s name: she got it from her father,
and her mother, from her father before her.
Our herstory has been erased
by history,
records always follow the paternal line. Matrilineal DNA might help,
if we had all the samples
but most of them lie
a long-time underground
(or burnt to ash).
We silently accepted
an unspoken, acknowledged misogyny and had our story stolen
time after time
tacitly complicit
in our own self-erasure:

I took his name
but you will know of mine.

A Poem for International Women’s Day 2022

This poem is taken from my collection 40 Poems At 40, which is available from Amazon. Wishing you love, strength and endurance on this International Women’s Day!

44 thoughts on “I Do Not Know My Mother’s Name #IWD2022

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  1. Thoughtful poem, Ingrid, and congratulations on your book again. I just purchased it.
    I took my husband’s last name–it was just easier. Now I only have to spell my first name for people. 😏 But even if I kept mine, it was my father’s not my mother’s, and hers was her father’s–though anglicized I think. . .
    In my history writing, I’ve tried to amplify the voices of women when I can.

    1. Exactly my point, Merril, we always seem to use the patronymic. I believe Spanish/Portuguese/Latino and Scandinavian naming traditions are more equal…

  2. It’s true, Ingrid. This sort of gender parity and misogyny is largely evident in our societies. Women form an integral part of our societies and should by all means be part of it. There’re communities in my place like the Kikuyu that use their mother’s second name as the surname. And it’s greatly cherished!

  3. Names do define us, in ways we often don’t even notice. I kept my name when I married and my mother didn’t speak to me for months. To her marriage should have been my primary identity. Which only reinforced my feeling that I made the right decision, no matter that it was passed down from my father. But I had a friend change her name, precisely because she no longer wished to be identified with her father. There is no one answer. (K)

  4. I am very sad to report that I am the last female holder of my great grandmother’s mitochondrial DNA. All her daughters had sons except my grandma, and then there’s just my mum and me. I’ve only got boys so I’m a dead end.

    1. I’d never thought about this, but I don’t have daughters either. So I suppose that DNA from my mum dies out with me!

      1. If your mum had sisters or cousins from aunts it’ll be living on in their daughters. My greatgrandma had 12 children, my mum has 26 cousins, I don’t know how many second cousins I have but lots. Yet I’m the only one who can pass on Nana’s mitochondrial DNA, but there’s no daughter to keep it going.

  5. I love and appreciate your poem. How much this bothered me in my younger years, and how I am resting comfortably in the convenience of all that I couldn’t change.

  6. This is exceptional! Such an important, powerful poem. Wish every one reads it. Congratulations on such an inspired write, Ingrid!

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