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.
My 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.
My 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.
Back 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 I be today without their strength of character, courage and perseverance?