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In Honour of My Nana...

My Nana, Maria Catroppa, showed me courage, resilience and unconditional love in the face of adversity.

Today I’m sharing her story with you to show that extraordinary things can happen when everyday women – like my Nana - have the courage to stand up for what’s right.

My Nana grew up in southern Italy with no education. Following the custom at the time, she married a man she hardly knew when she was 18.  They moved to Canada and had 4 children together.

Luckily, my grandfather was a wonderful man who turned out to be the love of her life.

Sadly, I never met him. He died when my Nana was 33.

Life became a lot harder for her.  She cleaned houses and worked as a care giver to provide for her children – but she still needed the support of welfare to help feed and clothe her family.

She was ridiculed for being an independent woman in the 70’s – getting her driver’s license, having a job, learning to read and write, managing her own finances….. it was out of place for a woman to be so independent.

But she didn’t let that hold her back.

In the midst of all that, she still showed everyone around her what it was to love and bring happiness into others’ lives.

All 4 of her children became successful contributing members of society and maintained close family ties with her throughout the remainder of her life.

My Nana eventually married again, but only when all her children had grown up and left her care.

Her second husband was not like the first…

He was controlling.

He didn’t want her visiting family and friends, talking on the phone, or leaving the house.

He was also dangerous.

My Nana hid sharp knives from him and talked about putting a lock on her bedroom door where she slept alone.

In her most courageous and final act of independence, my Nana told him she was going to leave him. 

That night, her second husband of 10 years stabbed my Nana 126 times in her bed – just because she didn’t want to be with him anymore – because she was a woman.

A woman, he considered his possession - not his equal.

Many see my Nana as a victim. And this is true to an extent. But it is not the whole story.

It is not her story.

She lived courageously and died for what she thought was right –her right.

She died knowing she was his equal and believing she had the right to say ‘no’ to her husband.

My Nana never went down in the history books.

But her legacy has left a lasting impression on me and how I choose to live my life today. 

I could feel hopeless. But I don’t.

I could be afraid. But I am not.

Instead,  I choose to radiate courage,  resilience and unconditional love through my actions - the way my Nana taught me.

This is why I work at Surrey Women’s Centre – to fight for gender equality – so women like my Nana can say ‘no’  to their boyfriends or husbands without fear of being harmed or losing their lives.

This International Women’s Day, I ask you to take action by making a donation in honour of women like my Nana.

Because it’s time women were equal.


Forever-Loving Granddaughter

Surrey Women’s Centre