I have an idea I’d like to share: Let’s celebrate the women this month whose names will never appear in a history book but who are important parts of our personal histories.
Please indulge me while I celebrate some women in my life, and perhaps you will be motivated to celebrate those in yours.
I had only one grandparent, Viva Moore Adams, as the others were deceased before I was born (That happened frequently back in the days when dinosaurs were still roaming the earth). She lived until her mid-90s, and although some of her behaviors still baffle me, I viewed her from my earliest days as a teacher, a leader, an intellectual, and a “get- things-done-and-survive-with-dignity-and-honor” kind of person.
From age 15 to 35 she was married to a tyrant, and by the time he died at age 39, she was left with four teenagers and had developed a fierce independence and knew how to navigate the often treacherous waters of life.
My mother: Opal Moore Adams Bowling. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, and I thank her for that. I always knew that when I came home from school and called, “Mother,” she would be there. I also knew that when my sons were born, she’d be there; that when I needed to talk at 2 a.m., she’d be there; that she literally and figuratively saved lives by encouraging others with her philosophy of “I believe in you, in your wisdom to know what’s right and do it” and “Tomorrow, you’ll see things in a new light.”
My sisters: Frances Kay Bowling Turner and Marilyn Bowling Zieter. My sisters were radically different, and both rather private: one closed off and one who gives and gives and gives to her daughter and grandchildren. She is the matriarch of the family, and I am the matriarch-in-training.
My granddaughter: Hailey Zoe Anne Blevins Betiko. Hailey delivered twins five weeks premature in mid-January and had not only very tiny babies but also her own medical issues. Intelligent, compassionate, kind, and lively, she has learned to juggle the challenges and maintain her sense of self.
Hailey’s mother, my daughter-in-law, Rhonda Carol Chadwick Blevins: I am so proud of who and what she is. Loving and an excellent partner to my son, she understands children and has nurtured her two to be fine human beings. She became a grandmother two years ago and is the best I’ve ever seen: responsive, loving, playful, and respectful of the parents.
Best friends: Jane Schulzinger Fox and Tess Lewis LeMarr Castillo. Jane and I were young women teaching at a high school in Cincinnati when we became friends, and she became the godmother to my son Lance. Retired from the University of Wisconsin, she has stayed by my side through my journey across the country as I went up through the college ranks to full professor and then became a college CEO. During my time crossing the country, she has spent much time in Israel and has recently decided to make Jerusalem her permanent home to be close to her oldest son and his family. Throughout the decades, her words of wisdom, her ability to question me intellectually and personally, her loyalty, and her pragmatism have propped me up when I faltered and have helped me sort out the obstacles that are a part of life.
I hired Tess as a director of continuing education at a college where I was president. Intelligent and beautiful, she took that department to higher levels than any before her, using her knowledge of the service area and her ability to build coalitions. She went on from that college to a university position, excelled in building the program there, and opened her highly successful international company. I work for her now, developing curriculum and teaching telecommunication employees. Throughout our time together, we have collaborated, and I know that she knows me and cares about me and my extended family. I also know I can always count on her. When my grandmother died, I flew to Atlanta and she drove me 400 miles to the funeral and stayed with me.
So we’re back to my only grandparent who was such an important part of my life. My grandmother was never the kissy type of person. As a child, I knew never to take candy from the dish on the coffee table or get a Coke from the refrigerator or enter her house without knocking on the door and being given permission to enter. Her daughter, my mother, on the other hand, rocked me until my feet almost touched the floor, held my head when I was sick and vomited, brought me a glass of water when I was thirsty in the night. Oh, yes, and spanked me regularly – something my grandmother would never do.
Women whose names will never appear in history books play such important roles in our lives, and each gives to us in oftentimes very different ways. I’m acknowledging those whose lives are firmly intertwined with mine. Maybe it’s time for readers to explore women in theirs before Women’s History Month has come to a close.
Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., a graduate of The Ohio State University, served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and to work with veterans. You may reach her at 937-778-3815 or [email protected] Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.