In honor of International Women’s Day I am re-publishing a diary I wrote May 7, 2010.
I always have loved Strong Women. Growing up, they were all around me, so it was the normal way of life. There was my mother, who returned to college when I was seven to complete her degree and become an English teacher. She continued on and received her librarian certifications. She died 23 years ago this past Wednesday and I still miss her.
A couple of years after Mom had returned to school, her sister also returned to college to finish her degree and became a first grade teacher as she raised her son and two daughters after a divorce.
It goes back to my grandmother who was the most gracious woman I’ve ever known. She was divorced when my Mom was two and Aunt Pat was new born and raised her daughters as a single mother. She was helped by her older sister who got a job and helped support the family through the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s. Edie was often not the easiest person to know but we all knew her strength.
As gracious as my grandmother was, she was also my most fierce defender. When some of her friends complained about my growing a mustache when I was 17, they soon learned that she was not their ally. (I’m named for her father and we do look somewhat alike although his mustache was a Walrus rather than a Handlebar.
There’s my beautiful sister, Cissy, who realized very early that she wanted to be a reporter and writer and has been able to make this her career. She has been the one who does the camping and canoeing and the outdoor life while being quite capable when she has to play Martha Stewart. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago and was facing chemo, she threw a party so her friends could give her caps and scarves since she knew she was going to lose her hair. She was facing what life brought her and refusing to give up.
There’s my lovely sister-in-law, Rita, who has had the strength to put up with my brother all these years, which is a feat in itself (he’s more stubborn than I am and that says a lot.) It’s probably not enough for sainthood but the Karmic positive is huge!
My cousin Mary, Aunt Pat’s oldest daughter, is a Navy veteran who met her future husband when they served together. After they married, she brought him back to our hometown where she raised two beautiful daughters of her own, both of whom are now mothers with daughters as well. Anna, Mary’s oldest daughter is – surprise! a teacher. And there’s Mary’s younger sister Jane who has the strength of innocence to guide us all.
From my Dad’s side of the family, I was too young to really know my Grandmother Taylor but I know she was a strong woman. She helped my grandfather run his farm and they ran a roadside restaurant together while raising seven children, five sons and two daughters. And as a further indicator, I have the knowledge of Dad’s oldest sister who ran the farm while her husband was the local county clerk. Dad’s other sister, my Aunt Sara, received a mathematics degree in 1929 and taught for years while raising five daughters, all of them Strong Women.
The trigger for me to write this diary was a picture one of my cousins posted to her Facebook account that was taken just last Saturday of my first cousin Peggy, Aunt Sara’s second daughter, and her seven granddaughters. Peggy has two daughters and a son and is a retired teacher. I really wish I had a copy of that picture for you to see these seven young women and “The Matriarch.” There’s Whitney, a PhD in Industrial Engineering sitting there as well as Katie, a Master’s candidate in Architecture (already LEED certified. Megan is a second year pharmacy student, and Katelyn is a Family Services major. I’m not positive but I think Lindsey is a nurse (like her mother). I don’t know what Lauren and Jessica are majoring in but I know they are a couple of good hunters and Jessica is a champion cutting horse rider.
Strong Women all.
Now I’ve mentioned roughly a third of my female cousins here and mean no disrespect to the ones I’ve not mentioned. Peggy’s sisters have another four daughters plus granddaughters. My father’s older brothers managed to not have any daughters but still married Strong Women and at least my oldest first cousin had four daughters to go with three sons. I look at the generations of women from the Taylor/Vanderen and Osborne families and see the strength of the Mothers and Grandmothers reflected and carried on for the future.
All of them Strong Women.
Teachers, nurses, journalists, administrators and management, executives, housewives, mothers, geeks and nerds, sorority women, athletes, bodybuilders, and legal assistants. These are just some of the careers and interests of the Strong Women in my family.
I’m sure it was the examples of all the Strong Women in my family that brought me to Firedoglake in the first place where the writing of Jane Hamsher, Christy Hardin Smith, and Marcy Wheeler told me I’d found some more Strong Women to admire and love. The many other writers and commenters just helped make the place feel like home.
Strong Women all.
You want to know what I think makes a Strong Woman? They are women who refuse to be limited and force the rest of us to accept them in their humanity. They refuse to be limited by stereotypes and they lift us all with their strength.
As you look around on Sunday and toast your mother, have a second toast for all the Strong Woman that you know.
They really are all around us.
Ain’t it grand?
And because I can: