Influential Women

As Women’s History Month winds down, I’ve been reflecting on the women who have influenced me. My mom, in particular. She showed me what it meant to grab life with both hands and commit to goals with enthusiastic abandon. There would be times when I would hear “no” along the way, but she taught me that “no” isn’t lethal and, heck, sometimes all it means is “not yet.” Try a different approach. Learn from the experience. Most of all, keep going. The only way to truly fail is to give up.

How about you, my fellow Miss Demeanors? Who were the women who made an impact on you?

Susan: This is such a great question, Robin. I would also say that my mother has been my greatest influence. She was a woman who had a very tough life–struggled with her own illness and my father’s and various other issues. Yet, what I learned from her was the importance of enjoying every single moment that you can. You could take my mother to a Nathan’s. She loved their French fries more than anything. And she would be absolutely overjoyed. She would get as much pleasure out of that French fry as others do from champagne. She taught me that life is made up of small, precious moments, and every one of them is a gift.

Tracee: I have been fortunate to have women in my family – my mother and both my grandmothers – who were influential. All three were different and perhaps taught me that there is no one path to ‘success’ or even happiness. However, all three were deeply devoted to their families. I’ve also been fortunate to have many female friends who provide support and encouragement – including you lovely ladies at MissDemeanors. 

Robin: Amen to that, Tracee – the Miss Demeanors are a fabulous group! I learn from all of you constantly 🙂
Susan, my mom’s favorite food was potato-based, too. She loved chips. She grew up near a potato chip factory in Detroit and got free samples walking to and from school.

Alison: A fabulous question. Too many wonderful women have influenced my life: my mom, friends, aunts, cousins, mentors, and, of course, all of you. To answer the question though, I’m going to go with my grandma. She grew up on a ranch in the small town of Grantsville, Utah. She was never one to complain, and she knew how to work hard, but what I treasure most about her was her loving acceptance of everyone for exactly who they were, her extreme generosity with both time and things (she was one of the few people in her neighborhood who had china and crystal, and she happily shared with neighbors even knowing some things would be broken), and her ability to make anything and everything more beautiful. She was a talented seamstress and designed and sewed my wedding dress. During one of my final fittings, I noticed that she had sprinkled the tiniest of pearls and lace across the train like flowers had blown across it and simply landed there. It wasn’t something we had discussed, but I loved it. She then confessed that while she was doing some final work, she had pricked her finger and a few drops of blood had fallen on the silk faille fabric, specially bought from France. The fabric was too delicate to clean. In her genius solution of covering the drops with Austrian lace and pearls, she showed me that there’s very little in life that can’t not only be fixed, but improved. I miss her–terribly–to this day.

Michele: I’d love to answer this question in more detail some day. I’ve enjoyed the responses of you all, and especially the sweet wedding photo of Alison. 

The women I’d like to pay tribute to in my answer are the ones who nurture the motherless. I’m not necessarily just talking about children of mothers who have died or deserted their children. There are a lot of children in the world who, for one reason or another, do not have the benefit of a constant, loving, supportive rock. The women who reach out to those kids are my heroes. They make all of the difference in the world through a kind word, a warm meal, and an open heart. The women who take children under their wings, even though their lives are filled with the responsibility of their own families, are selfless, kind, and make an enormous contribution to the positive development of fellow human beings. They are the salt of the earth. 

Tracee: Michele, I’m so happy you said this. I have been thinking about the women who work, run errands, pick up the kids, take the kids to the doctor, fix the meals and do all the things that keep life rolling along, without missing a beat (at least in public) and without demanding the thank you they so much deserve. My own mother is the start of this…. all that she did and continues to do. As my other recently said: he may be retired but he’s realized that there is no retirement from motherhood.

Alison, this photo of you is gorgeous!!!! Thanks for sharing.

Alison: Aww. Thanks, but it really was the dress. I spent so many weekends with my grandma designing and sewing dresses for dances in high school and then we’d watch Masterpiece Mystery at night. I must say, having lost my mom and both grandmas, I do get a little emotional. I still have times when I wish I could just pick up the phone and talk to them, ask for advice.

Cate: That’s a beautiful response Michele. And yes love the photo. I’ve learned so much about resilience and love from the women in my life, and am fortunate to still have both my grandmothers and my mom.

Tracee: Cate… love this!

Alison: Yes, Cate, wonderful photo!

Alexia: This is a hard one for me to answer because there are so many–too many women to name. My mom, of course. I get my love of reading and my love of sewing from her–she was always doing one or the other of those things. She also taught me to have pride in my work and provided me with the opportunities and experiences that allowed me to excel, even though I didn’t necessarily appreciate some of those opportunities at the time. (“Mom, do we really have to go to the art museum?” “Yes, we do.”) Decades later, I, of course, realize the value of childhood cultural and educational opportunities. Mom was my earliest example of an accomplished, professional woman. But, really, every woman who has triumphed over all the crap life has thrown at her, overcome the obstacles, dodged the bullets, told the people who tried to hold her back or who told her she wasn’t enough or that she didn’t deserve something to stick it in their ear, who ignored the naysayers and did it anyway have had an impact on me. They give me the strength to tell the haters to eff off.

Paula: I’ve been reading your responses and looking at your photos the lovely photo of Alison and the lovely photo of Cate and her family. 
My mother has always been the most influential woman in my life. At least until I had my daughter Alexis, and now my granddaughters Elektra, Calypso, and Demelza. Mom is the matriarch of us all, and she plays that role with grace and grit. As I say in the dedication of Blind Search (out in the fall), my mother put the mama in mama bear. 

Robin: How about you, dear readers? Who are the influential women in your lives?

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