By LUCETTE LAGNADO
No one who knew my mother Edith ever thought of her as an icon of American feminism. Yet with the passage of years I have become convinced that this is exactly what she was, though she never attended a protest or held a placard.
Small, shy, seemingly passive, she was for decades a “stay-at-home Mom,” that now-searing term used to describe what women have done for generations: look after a husband and children and a household. Unlike most American women, though—including those who figured in the recent contretemps between Democrats and Republicans over the choices Ann Romney made—my immigrant mother never had a choice.
Not a hint of one.
For a young girl coming of age in Cairo of the 1930s and ’40s, whether you were Muslim, Jewish or Christian, rich or poor, society didn’t allow any options. Marriage was the only possible goal. It was what a friend of mine, an elderly Egyptian woman, calls the “yallah phenomenon.” Yallah is an Arabic expression used to mean, “hurry up, come on, what are you waiting for?” A young single woman in Egypt could expect to be constantly harangued by her parents saying, “Yallah, get married already.”