Women’s History, Family-Style: The Shoulders I Stand On

by midlifecrisisqueen on May 5, 2013

My Generation Fabulous assignment for our May Blog Hop is to discuss the important lessons I have learned from my mother.  But after reviewing a wonderful family history my Mom put together, I decided I would need to write about three previous generations of incredible women to do justice to this topic.

I am proud to say, my character has been shaped by strong, intelligent, independent and persistent rural Kansas women.  They made me who I am today, a woman who values education, intelligence, integrity and courage.

Grandma McGrew 1907My great-grandmother came from a farm family with twelve siblings.  Her parents had too many mouths to feed, so when they heard of a local farm family who could pay my teenage great-grandmother Lucy Ann to help with household duties, she was sent out to live and work for them.

Eventually Lucy Ann fell in love with the farmer’s son, and married him in 1907, at the age of twenty.  As you might guess, the chores were endless on the farm, and my great-grandmother lived with her in-laws for the rest of her married life.  Survival was not easy during the dust bowl and depression in middle America.  A major theme in Lucy’s life was patience and acceptance of what comes your way.

Grandma Shelton ca. 1930My grandmother, Gladys Irene, was the first child born to this rural Kansas farm family.  She did well in school, because she was raised to respect her own intelligence and the importance of a good education.  Completing high school qualified her to teach elementary school locally, but she had other plans.

In May of 1927, Gladys took off for Kansas City to receive training at a business college, and soon after, secured work as a secretary in a bank.  There she met my future grandfather.  They married in 1929, but kept their marriage secret for months, because Gladys would be immediately fired if her boss found out she was a married woman!

After producing four children, my grandparents eventually became respected business people in Kansas City.  I have always been proud of my grandmother.  She went to work every day with my grandfather throughout her adult life.  Gladys was great with customers, and a successful business woman long before that became common.  She also helped me finance my graduate education.  She understood the value of having your own career.

My mother, born during the depression, was the oldest child of my grandmother, and therefore took on more responsibilities at an early age.  She was industrious and took on various jobs as soon as she could, saving up her money.  She met my Dad on a blind date near the end of high school, and married him a year later.

Mom in 1985Back in the early 1950s, a wife’s role was to do everything she could to help her husband succeed, and my Mom did a bang-up job of that!  In the midst of having three children right in a row and living hand to mouth, she helped my Dad complete his Ph.D., and get his first teaching job.  From then on, everywhere my Dad taught, my Mom took college courses, completing her degree the same year my older sister graduated from high school.  She went on to become an excellent elementary school teacher for twenty years.

Gathering a deeper understanding of where I come from shows me how I developed some of my better qualities, qualities like my independent spirit, strength of character, my enjoyment of the world of ideas, and also my good head for business.  Learning about my own history helps me see how much our entire world has changed for the better for women!

Now I appreciate even more how strong, intelligent women like my great-grandmother, grandmother and my Mom helped to build our world, as they created and nurtured families of their own.

Where would we be today without their strength of character, courage and perseverance?

To learn more about mastering difficult life transitions you might enjoy my books: Midlife Magic: Becoming The Person You Are Inside! and my new one: Find Your Reason to be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife. 

To find a new faith in love try: How to Believe In Love Again.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

MOM May 5, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Thanks for the greatest Mother’s Day gift a mother could ever expect.
I love you. MOM

Lucretia Donahue-Reed May 5, 2013 at 11:58 pm

It is good to be grateful to the generations before us and to recognize the strength of the women. I have been writing a blog on the same topic. Please check it out! It is http://www.lucretialineage.blogspot.com. Feel free to leave some comments.

Karen D. Austin May 6, 2013 at 7:40 am

Good for your mom — going back to school and working for 20 years. And good for all the mothering she did before, during and after. What a resilient gal — as well as your grandmother and great grandmother. How wonderful that you have those pics to share.

Ginger Kay May 6, 2013 at 7:42 am

It sounds like you had fun digging into your family history. What strong, beautiful, and intelligent women they were!

Kim May 6, 2013 at 11:03 am

It’s marvelous that you can go back that far. Wished I could. No one seems to know any info on my moms side. Fantastic post!

midlifecrisisqueen May 6, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Yep, we Kansas farmers keep good family records, starting with the family bible!

Connie McLeod May 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm

What a terrific legacy of strong women you were born into. Love the pictures.

Donna Highfill May 7, 2013 at 11:20 am

The history of this line of women makes me appreciate, all the more, how tremendously strong we are. Thank you!

Pat May 8, 2013 at 10:35 am

What a family legacy and a treasure to have all this great history recorded.

midlifecrisisqueen May 8, 2013 at 11:24 am

Yep, those rural country women are a hard act to follow!

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