Write Her Story

Marilyn’s mother Jean with her grandson Cameron

You do not have to submit a story to our Archive in order to write about your mother. But we would love it if you did.

You do not need to tell anyone you are writing about your mother. But later on you may wish to share.

Why Write Your Mother’s Story?

  • to engage your creativity
  • to honour your mother
  • to lay her memory to rest
  • to chronicle her life into stories you can share
  • to remind yourself/your mother how feisty/loving/fearless/gracious/funny she is/was
  • to separate her experiences and perspectives from your own
  • to bring to light the truth of what happened
  • to document the times she lived in and the choices she made
  • to acknowledge the legacy she gave you through her thoughts, words and deeds

Why Share her Story?

  • it initiates and enriches family discussions
  • it’s a great team building exercise
  • if you don’t share your mother’s story we won’t have any stories about women and we will have to watch car chases in movies forever and ever

The Mother Taboo is strong. Many people hold an unconscious but powerful fear that if they say anything about their mothers, she and everyone in their family will suffer great shame. The result of this has been that throughout history women have led secret lives: undocumented, unrecognized, undervalued.

It has also resulted in many people realizing they never knew their mothers, never bothered to ask, or remember the details of her life. Without examination these women remain shadow figures whose only value is determined by how good they were at mothering.

We will never know the history of women until we start talking about our mothers. Some women were bad mothers, but lovely people. Some women got lost in their own lives. Some women were heroic without validation. All of these lives deserve to be acknowledged and remembered. Unlike in our mothers’ time, we no longer have an oral tradition: today, if stories do not get written down, they will be lost.

All stories contained in our Archive follow a single recipe – the facts of one woman’s life from beginning to end (or the present) where the writer is just a footnote. As narrow as you might find this recipe, there are many ways a story can be told within it (browse the Archive to see) and we have found the benefits outweigh any feeling of restriction.

Recipe

  • Write your mother’s story – where she was born, to whom, and what happened next – in less than 2000 words. The facts, ma’am, just the facts.
  • Put in all the names and dates you can remember.
  • Try to follow the sequence of events that happened in her life, the milestones, what she thought of them, and the choices she made.
  • Remember: keep the spotlight on mom. This is not a story about you, or dad, or the town, or the times. If you describe an event, what did mom think about it? What was she doing there?
  • We found it best to go fast, just splat everything you remember on the page, and then hone it to under 2000 words (that’s about 4 pages).
  • Remember: this is not the definitive statement on your mother. It does not need to be perfect, well rounded or objective. This is your story of her.
  • After you’ve finished your first draft, if you discover there are things you don’t know, ask someone. This assignment is a great excuse to ask questions you never knew needed to be answered. Or you can write your questions into your story. However be respectful of your voice, your perspective.
  • Respect the word count: it forces you to consider what’s most important. (If you submit your story to the Archive and it’s more than 2000 words we will send it back).

Once you’ve finished your story to the best of your ability, read it to someone – a friend, your family, your group.

If you need to write your story again, go ahead.

If you like your story and want to submit it to our Archive, go to Submissions.

If this feels too daunting or you need more encouragement, check out the questions and writing prompts in Writing Women’s History or one of our workshops.

All you need to write your mother’s story is the assignment and a deadline.  You have 2 weeks to write.  Go.