March is National Women’s History Month. During this time, I’ve taken some time to reflect upon women in my own life.
First and foremost is my mother, Shirley Whiteman. As a mother of 15, she didn’t always have time for a lot of questions from inquisitive young minds. One thing I’ll always remember is sitting on our front porch steps with her in the sunshine, as she would read books to my younger brother and me.
I can trace my love of reading back to that feeling — the summer sun beating down on my back, a gentle breeze carrying the scent of flowers from Mom’s garden, my imagination running at top speed. To pick up a book is to feel that sunshine again.
My love of learning started on those steps. I remember at my college graduation, seeing her beaming with pride, and realizing for myself that she is the one who made it possible for me to be there. She sparked that imagination, that love of learning, that endless quest to learn more.
When I was a child, there was a grouchy old woman who lived across the road from us. Her name was Ann. I don’t have many clear memories of her, but I can recall making a simple paper basket, filling it with wildflowers, and hanging it from her doorknob on May 1.
She tried not to smile. It would ruin her image.
From her, I learned to look deeper than the surface to see what people were really like.
My paternal grandparents were already gone by the time I was born. My maternal grandparents passed when I was young. However, an older lady at our church always seemed like a grandmother to me. Her name was Amelia Flexer — “Honey,” we called her.
Honey, who wasn’t much taller than I was as a child, had a big heart. My family wasn’t demonstrative; we weren’t huggers. Honey was.
From her, I learned so much, including that it wasn’t weird to show or tell someone I cared.
She’d tell us stories of her life. She once owned a monkey. To me, that was the strangest and most wonderful thing. I wanted to grow up to be daring and adventurous, just like Honey.
I had some “give ‘em hell” women relatives, too. They remind me of the quote, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
Which brings me to a few history making women in their own right, one of which is retired Era managing editor Marty Robacker Wilder. To anyone out there who may have had the pleasure of working with or for Marty, I’m sure you know what I mean.
I was somewhat timid when I started at The Era. That sure didn’t last long.
I remember Marty telling me that I would find “it” — that elusive “it” that takes one from being a writer to a journalist. And when I did, I would fall in love with journalism and it would be more than “just a job.”
She was right. Still, to this day, I can pinpoint the story where I realized the injustices in the world, and saw that a journalist can do something to bring about positive change.
I won’t recount the story here, but I’d bet Marty remembers it as well as I do.
And she was right.
So as the month draws to a close, I’d encourage everyone to think about the women in your lives, and think about what they have meant to you.
And, to all the women out there, think about what legacy you are leaving behind. Someday, we will be history. Will we have made history, or are we too worried about rocking the boat?
(Schellhammer is The Era’s associate editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)