Today on International Women's Day I am thinking about my Mother. She was a life-long learner and encouraged the same in others, especially women. The World War 2 Cadet Nursing Program allowed her to become a registered nurse. After she finished her training, she completed a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Nursing. She graduated in May 1950. Nursing, with the combination of science and caring for others, suited her well. She stayed at home for some years with her four children. When my youngest brother was in upper elementary school, she returned part-time to nursing. Although I never asked, I think she enjoyed being back at work. She also had her eye on college education for her stair-step children, including her daughters. When Dad worried about the finances, Mom remained calm insisting they would find a way. Her income made it possible for the four of us graduate from college.
Mom enjoyed embroidery, cross stitch, and learned to make quilts later in life. She loved her dogs. Much to my Dad's consternation, she fed a stray neighborhood cat (outdoors) until it disappeared. She was an avid reader. Mom, my sister, and I often talked about books. She belonged to church groups, AAUW, two book groups and volunteered countless hours to the Red Cross Bloodmobile and as an instructor of CPR. She also sat on the local library board for a few years. She was a gentle extrovert but understood that I was not.
During the 1970's, she discovered Women's History and the women's movement. She was fascinated by the suffragettes and had Susan B. Anthony half-dollars made into pendants for my sister and I. I have to say I never wore it as a necklace but Mom wouldn't care. I do keep it in my jewelry box. She supported my decision to take leave of absence from teaching and pursue a graduate degree. When the graduate assistantship and scholarship didn't cover all my expenses, she made up the difference. She sent me off with a subscription to Ms. magazine.
At the time, she ran a student health office at a two-year junior college. She sponsored a college bloodmobile and organized a campus wellness week. She taught first aid to many vocational students. The diesel-mechanic students nearly drove her crazy but she got them into the library by assigning a one page review of health related articles. One year she co-taught a class in Human Sexuality. She referred students to physicians, including many young women who needed health services. She had a special place in her heart for nontraditional students. At her request, her memorial is a small yearly scholarship for a nursing student at the college where she worked. Her preference was that it be awarded to a student with a strong B average.
She was a wonderful mother, grandmother, and friend. She supported and celebrated all of our varied interests. When she died at 72, many of her friends remarked that "she was my best friend." She was our best friend too.
I can't help but wonder what she would have made of the pandemic and the status of women on this International Women's Day of 2021. I know she would be wearing a mask and reminding us to wash our hands thoroughly. She would be cheering the success of Kamala Harris and other women trailblazers. I also think she would be the first to say, we still have work to do.
|Me, Mom, My Sister at my son's HS graduation|