May We Raise Them
Strong women influenced my thinking and gave me examples of making my way in the world. Most of these ladies never said the word feminist to me, didn’t identify themselves as such, as far as I knew. They just persisted with dignity, fortitude, and some appropriate measure of sass. They defied certain norms and expectations, not with fanfare or rebellion, but because circumstances required it.
They teach me still. I watch them. I reflect on the myriad ways they taught me to live outside of boxes, how they cut holes in the boxes and walked out into wide open spaces. It reminds me that my daughters and my son are watching what and how I live as much, if not more than, what and how I speak.
My Granny infused grit and a survival spirit into my Mom and aunts. Granny developed an unwavering backbone being married to a strong-willed, if not charming, man. Not to mention her job of herding six lively children, manning the kitchen and meals for their family, tending animals and crops, canning and preserving, making clothes, counting the two nickels over and again. Granny held her own, and she wasn’t to be trifled with. Her kids new it, and her grandkids knew it; and we knew Granny as a stable, consistent force in our lives.
I viewed my other grandmother through a different lens when I was growing up. Nannie was older with grey hair and had what I thought to be an overall more typical grandmotherly appearance. She, too, had been a farmer’s wife, and she shepherded seven children, one girl and six boys. She passed away four days shy of exactly 27 years after my grandfather’s death. What I am only beginning to grasp is the kind of courage and grace she must have discovered, from God and in herself, when she became a widow in her 50s. When I was closest to her, Nannie sheltered me in a home she had made for herself.
No short supply of strong matriarchal figures fills the landscape of my collected memories. My mom established presence, provision, protection. She modeled determination, hard work, and independence. She can outdo anyone in the preparation and presentation of a meal, and she can cock a gun and fire it with as much intended purpose and precision. Mom was surrounded by other women who were parental to me, family and like-family, who reinforced the power of a woman.
One of our closest like-family friends became a business owner as a young, single woman. Because she had been nurtured by a lineage of feisty women and a father, whose tenacity encouraged and inspired their whole family, our friend owned her life as well. With a quiet but present faith combined with feminine confidence, she gave me a picture of living with intention, with muscle, with gratitude.
As I think about it, the list of strong women over the course of my formative years goes on and on. Teachers, doctors, farmers, artists, activists, homemakers, bankers, administrators, musicians, public servants, coaches, civic leaders, nurses, VBS organizers and leaders, babysitters. Single women, married women. Some of these women may not ever, and some certainly would never, call themselves feminists. Yet, they embodied something powerful and gentle and altogether true about the equal value and standing of women in this world.
“Here’s to strong women.
May we know them.
May we be them.
May we raise them.”