I'm Breaking Up With "I'm Sorry"

Photo: Courtesy Aemilia Madden

“Mrs. Bockee herself snapped a finger at convention and dignity, and lifted her skirts as she herself got out in earnest pursuit of the fugitive.” These words were plastered across the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle on December 23, 1923, under the headline “Woman Captures Thief in Market Street Pursuit.” Ollie Bockee (pronounced Bouquet), the convention-be-damned woman, was my great-great-aunt, and this article is the oldest existing record I have that I come from a long familial line of unapologetic women.

Ahead of this feat of civic duty, Ollie did something all the way back in 1914 that most women couldn’t: She became an entrepreneur, purchasing property in the Napa Valley, later known as The Petrified Forest. Over a century later, the same property is still owned and operated by females in my family (my mom included).

Here’s the thing about coming from matriarchal family: I’m predisposed to assume that I have every possibility at my fingertips. A ’90s-born woman, I grew up with third-wave feminism, and I assumed a set of norms that my mother and grandmother had to strive for every day. Exposing my ankles isn’t some sort of sensational act. I can dress as I want, work and live where I please, date (or not date) as I see fit. But if the politics of the past year have proven anything, it’s that my peers and I aren’t as far removed from the creaky conventions of the past as we’d like to think.

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