The sudden absence of a spouse can often break down the strongest of people and be a cause for tremendous emotional and physical upheaval. The concern and pity such a situation generates usually exacerbates when it is a woman being bereaved of her husband. The societal portrayal of women as the fairer and physically weaker sex makes it even more daunting. However, history has shown us several examples of widows who have not just stepped out from their husband’s shadow but have also made it big by carving their own legacy. Some such include:
Mariya was born in Soviet Russia in the year 1905, working as a telephone operator before meeting her future husband, a Soviet Army Officer. She worked as a nurse during the 2nd World War after her marriage to him in 1925. However, his death on the frontlines in the year 1941 was the turning point for her. Angered and vowing to avenge his death, she convinced his superiors to let her join in the fight against Nazi Germany. She then sold her possessions to buy a tank, which she later donated to the Soviet army, christened this tank as ‘Fighting Girlfriend’ and drove it herself. She served for a year and gained fame as the most fearless tank driver on the Allies’ side during WWII. She was the first to claim scalps among the Nazis and often stepped out to repair her tank even amidst raging gunfire, reaching the rank of Sergeant. She died of injuries from one such battle in 1944, and was posthumously awarded the ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ award for her bravery in the war for being the first female tank driver to achieve this.
Coretta Scott King
The widow of Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta truly carried on the legacy of her husband. Being a singer before her marriage to King, she became an integral part of the United States’ Civil Rights Movement. Following his assassination in 1968, she acted as a speaker and campaigner for civil rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights and other pertinent issues at a time of great social shift in America. She was known to be a very articulate woman who was supportive of Jackie O during her mourning after JFK’s death. She founded the King Centre for Non-Violent Social Change to continue the cause in the wake of her increasing old age. She also became a strong advocate for eliminating racial discrimination in other apartheid countries such as South Africa. She died of complications from ovarian cancer in the year 2006, leaving behind a legacy of serving the masses and fighting for justice just as her husband once did.
Jobeda Begum Rahman
A Bangladeshi by birth, Jobeda was married to a day labourer at a young age. However, the death of her husband from cancer just three years after marriage and the task of raising her sons prompted her to work several occupations such as a cleaner at a hospital for a mere 25$ a month and as a snack-seller in her father’s village of Jaori.
After being aided by a women’s group and supported partly by Heifer International, a Midwest American NGO, she began to be a part of a co-operative where she not only gradually managed to earn profits in animal-rearing but also bought a shop for her eldest child. As a result, she is now a successful entrepreneur managing her mini-enterprise dependent on her animal husbandry, her son’s shop and her snack-selling which she does to this day.
So while culture and society may deem widows as helpless and deny them a chance to break free of hardships, these courageous figures indeed show inspiration and hope for any woman who may be unfortunate enough to lose her significant other too.