The Silence Breakers

person-of-year-2017-time-magazine-cover1In what has become an anxiously awaited tradition Time magazine selected its Person of the Year last week. Much as has often happened this year’s winner of the cover spot was a group of women known as the “Silence Breakers.” In bold moves that have toppled the reputations and careers of a host of powerful men, women both famous and unknown have stepped forward to reveal acts of sexual harassment and violence long hidden from the public eye. In a veritable deluge of accusations the stories have dominated the news cycle for weeks and pointed to a societal problem that has generally been unspoken but well known. The tales of mistreatment have included men of all stripes and have initiated a national dialogue that heretofore existed mostly in the shadows.Many wonder how and why so many women are suddenly speaking of incidents that they kept secret for decades. Particularly among doubters there are questions about why it took so long for them to reveal what happened to them and what has made the present time so different that the #metoo movement that has gone viral.

I suppose that for some the first thoughts go back to the story of the boy who cried “wolf” so many times that when the sheep were really being attacked nobody was willing to listen. Some wonder if the number of accusations has been exaggerated by a kind of mass hysteria, and I suppose that it might be easy to go to that place. Instead I would venture to suggest that the very reason that so many women have been silent is because of the doubt that is historically associated with such incidents, particularly when the man involved is a powerful person. We only need to consider the denials and insults that ensued when a number of women spoke out against former President Bill Clinton. Paula Jones was described as trailer trash. Monica Lewinsky was defamed. Kathleen Willy was thought to be unhinged. Such are indeed the reactions toward women who have the audacity to reveal acts of personal degradation that have been perpetrated on them. It is little wonder that there is great fear when it comes to speaking of such things. When a man who brags of highly degrading behavior with women then goes on to be elected to the highest office in the land it makes all of us fearful of being heroic.

There is also the strange psychological phenomenon in which the victim actually wonders if somehow she either imagined the abuse or brought it upon herself. I can attest to such situations myself that I did not discuss for a very long time because what happened was so shocking that I was unable to know for certain that it even took place. One of those times occurred when I was a young adolescent at the beach with my family. As I walked along a fishing pier my gaze was suddenly averted toward an old man with a smirky grin on his face. He pointed downward and that is when I saw that he was exposing himself to me. I turned and ran away, but I was so embarrassed that I said nothing to anyone. Instead I stayed close to my aunts and uncles and told everyone that I was feeling sick. I have since learned that my reaction is very typical. My mind twisted the shocking event into something for which I felt responsible.

Even as an adult I hesitated to admit to a situation in which one of my coworkers frightened me with highly suggestive language. I kept it to myself for many days before speaking of my discomfort to my husband who insisted that I inform my boss immediately or he would. I felt a great deal of relief when my employer believed my story and began to investigate other whispers that he had heard about the man. In only the space of a couple of days the offender was fired from his job and a number of us felt immediately safer. The news of the man’s departure was greeted with applause.

Sadly not all such situations turn out so well. On another occasion in which I informed the Human Resources Director of the highly unprofessional behavior of a supervisor I was accused of attempting to foment a rebellion. It was long after I had decided that my only recourse was to leave that job that it was determined that everything that I had said was true and that the reality was even worse than I had described. It had felt horrible to be deemed a trouble maker and someone who might be stretching reality. While I treasured the fact that I had done the right thing, I also understood why so few women are willing to endure the humiliation that I suffered at the time. The pain associated with being a witness can be quite real.

My mother was a beautiful single parent, someone who was quite attractive to men. She often told me of situations that became very difficult for her. In her infinite wisdom she taught me how to proactively avoid the pitfalls. She instructed me to watch how much alcohol I drank when I was out at night so that I might be in control of my faculties. She noted that I would be better served if I did not dress too suggestively. She taught me how to sit and stand and carry myself around strangers. She cautioned me to never ever meet with a man alone in a hotel room. She even worried about the moments when I was in a car at night with a male that she did not know well. At times I thought that she was overly paranoid or that she only imagined her allure, and yet over time I realized that she knew exactly what she was saying to me. Her intentions were profoundly protective and effective in a world that can be hazardous for women.

I’d like to believe that there is a movement afoot that will make things safer for women in both the workplace and private life, but when a politician who is accused of child molestation is ahead in the polls I lose heart. When the members of his party are unwilling to speak out for what is right, I become cynical. I realize that we have a very long way to go and that mothers still need to school their daughters in how to take care of themselves. I also understand how brave the “Silence Breakers” are, because I know that even now there are those who doubt their motives and perhaps even think of them as liars.

I believe that we all have to be silence breakers to the extent that we have to condemn the actions of men who sexually harass women. The process of reeducating our society begins with each one of us. It’s critically important that we teach our children the importance of mutual respect and individual dignity. Our actions will be more important than our words. When we condone sexual abusers by ignoring their grievous actions we are guilty of creating an environment that accepts the degradation of women as simply locker room antics. Instead we must send the loud and clear message that such behaviors are wrong and that those who cross the line of propriety will be duly punished.

We must take this movement seriously, and be just as angry with anyone who falsely accuses a man as we are with the perpetrators of indecency toward women. It is well past time that we make the relationships between the sexes less fraught with dangers. It is obviously possible because the numbers of men who treat women with the respect that they deserve far out distance the predators. We have the capacity for making incidents of sexual harassment less and less frequent if we all agree that we have reached a watershed moment, and if we honor the women who finally took the first step in regaining control of their lives. 

Update: In a dramatic election decency won last night. Thank you, Alabama.

Advertisements

The Things We Own

Internet-of-things-data-digitalWe are not defined by our possessions. At least we shouldn’t be, and yet when someone dies we find ourselves remembering moments shared with them when we see the artifacts that belonged to them. A ring, a book, a plate, a tool, a painting, an article of clothing may spark recollections that bring a person back to life in the mind of the beholder.

When my father died I found comfort in seeing his clothes and shoes lying in the closet where he had left them when he went out on a summer evening drive. Somehow as long as they were there I felt as though a part of him was still with us. When my mother finally had one of my aunts remove his things the reality of his death sank into my brain. From then on my memories of him were found in the books that he had so treasured. They spoke to me of his love of reading and told me that he had been a man of many different interests and talents.

Since my mother had lived with me in the last year of her life the duty of disposing of her clothing became my responsibility. My daughters helped me and each of them chose one item to remember her by. One of them decided to take Mama’s warm fuzzy robe. She wears it to this very day and says that it makes her feel as though she is getting a hug from her grandmother. She swears that even with multiple cleanings it still has my mother’s scent locked in the fibers. In a strange way it is like having a tiny bit of her essence still intact,

Last week my husband and I helped the daughter of a very dear friend drive his RV to a consignment lot where it will eventually be sold. He had died quite suddenly last month to the shock of all of us. Driving my truck behind the RV as we rode in a caravan reminded me of the camping trips that we had taken with him. They always took place in the fall and we had great fun talking and hiking and visiting museums. Just as had happened with my father’s things the reality of Bill’s death struck me full force during that drive. He loved the big meals that I cooked and we laughed and told stories while we broke bread at the tiny table that seemed so bountiful on those wonderful occasions. I felt a deep sadness because I knew how much joy that RV had brought him. In fact, he had once told us that it had saved his life after the death of his beloved wife. The trips that he took provided him with a reawakening of his sense of adventure and a reason to arise each day. It appeared from the interior of the RV that he had been in the process of planning another excursion just before he died. I suppose that I feel some comfort in knowing that he was probably happy as he contemplated the fun that he was going to have.

After our friend died his daughter gave me some of the things from his house. I have a stained glass butterfly and a set of wind chimes that had been chosen by his wife, my very good friend as well. The blue glass figurine was so much like her. She loved butterflies and the the indigo and turquoise colors that decorated so many corners of her home. I smile now when I see the lovely items that speak of her whimsy and remind me of her laughter. She enjoyed having what she called rainbow days and as the sun shines through the colored glass I see little rainbows dancing on my ceiling as though she is actually urging me to embrace life and have fun.

When I opened the boxes that hold my Christmas decorations I found a Viking nutcracker. It once belonged to our friend, Egon, a German fellow whose ancestry included a Norwegian mother. He loved Norway and its people and spent most of his summers at a family hut in the mountains. He often told us tales of those halcyon days with his parents and aunts and uncles. He made the place that they called Hovden sound as though it was a slice of heaven. We had always planned to one day go there with him but it was not to be. I can almost hear the strains of Finlandia and see the little red house at the top of a hill where so much of Egon’s spirit had been forged on those vacations with his kin when I look at the stalwart Viking with the funny mouth strong enough to crack nuts. Egon was so much like the delightful little character.

I purchase nuts and apples and tangerines for Christmas every year because my Grandma Ulrich always set out huge enamel bowls of such treats for her holiday celebrations. I have one of the enamelware containers that she used. Each year I fill it with the fruits and the nuts that we all so enjoyed when we were children at her house. I almost feel as though I am back in her crowded living room with my aunts and uncles and cousins when I release the aroma of citrus as I peel one of the juicy tangerines. Recreating the festivities in a bowl that once belonged to her has become one of my most cherished traditions.

Like my father, both of my grandfathers loved to read, and they accumulated books like some people collect stamps or coins. I was able to gather a couple of them and add them to my own collection, and from one of my uncles I have a number of old 45 rpm records with selections from jazz greats like Louie Armstrong. I have to admit that I never realized what great taste in music my uncle had until I was grown. His recordings make me think of the nineteen forties when the world was at war and the future seemed so uncertain. The music provided a ray of hope in a world that seemed overrun by evil. I like to listen to the crackling of the needle on the vinyl and imagine my uncle as a young man.

My house is filled with the items that I use for living and those that I have gathered in travels and from my hobbies and interests. I can’t help wondering what among them might one day remind my friends and relations of me. Will it be my books or my dishes or the art work that I so cherish? What will spark a feeling or a memory? If I knew I would set those things aside for them, but I’m not so sure that anything that I own represents me in any particular way. I have never been attached to things as much as to people, and so there are few items that I would be so important to me that I would feel sad if they were lost or destroyed.

I have a special book that my grandfather gave me when I graduated from junior high. I cherish an antique pitcher that belonged to my great grandmother. I guard the discharge documents that terminated my great grandfather’s enlistment in the Union Army at the end of the Civil War. I have several books of poems and fairytales from which my father read to me when I was a little girl. I would want to save the lamp that my mother used on her dressing table and the china that my brothers bought for me as a wedding gift. Of course there is also my wedding ring that I have worn on my left hand for almost fifty years.

I suppose that I might be able to pack all of that into a small carrying case. I did in fact move those items to the second floor of my home when the waters were rising in my city last August. As it happened they were never in danger, but I would not have wanted to lose them. Still I wonder if they will mean anything to my children and grandchildren. Sometimes I suspect that only my brothers and I understand their importance in my history. One day they may sit forlornly in a box destined for the Salvation Army or some other donation center. I guess that by then it won’t really matter anymore because as I said before, none of the things that we have define us, and yet I wonder if that it really true. Somehow the little trinkets that we bring into our lives tell small stories of who we are. They are clues about what we think is important. They are little biographies that only those who know us will understand. They are the things we carry in our souls.

No Tongue Can Tell

1328-Ball-3.jpg

Imagine living in an island city filled with beautifully colorful buildings that look almost like doll houses. The streets are filled with smiling happy people who bask in the sunny days and enjoy the ocean breezes. Along the shore on a pier out in the ocean there is a huge ferris wheel that citizens reach on a train that transports them over the water. There is a port that brings goods and money into the area from all over the world. It provides jobs that make the citizens some of the wealthiest in the nation. This is surely a place that must be paradise, a dream come true for all who dwell here.

Now consider that news arrives of a coming storm. Reports differ as to its potential strength. The local meteorologist does not believe that it will be particularly harmful. The signs from the ocean appear to be mild. There is no reason to panic or leave. It’s simply time to batten down the hatches, get together indoors with neighbors and celebrate good fortune. You watch as the ocean asserts its power and the sky grows dark. The streets of your town begin to fill with water, but nobody is particularly worried. They’ve seen this kind of thing before. It will blow over and the sun will return. Maybe the wind will create the need for a few repairs, but nothing more.

By nightfall you become a bit more concerned and invite frightened friends to your more substantial house. Things should be just fine, but as the squalls come ashore something is very different about this hurricane. It is more frightening. Too many things are blowing past the windows. The water is inching rapidly toward the front door. You and those with you climb to the second floor to wait it out. The tension in the group becomes more palatable. Your heart begins to race and you have thoughts that you want to wish away.

Something slams into the side of the house. Suddenly there is an open hole the size of an entire room. The place is breaking apart and everyone becomes hysterical. You see water raging past filled with flotsam and jetsam and people who do not appear to be alive. The floor on which you are standing begins to crumble. You grab at a portion of your once fine home that has suddenly become the foundation of a makeshift raft. You carefully place your children on the flimsy lifeboat and search for your spouse who has suddenly disappeared under the water. You are in a panic, not knowing what to do. Should you dive under the darkness in an attempt to find her, or is it best to look after your children? You pray to God for strength and protection. You want this horrifying night to be done.

You float aimlessly for hours. As far as you can see  there is unspeakable destruction. Little do you know that it is far worse than you imagine. Perhaps it is best that you are ignorant of the true extent of the terror, because you might lose all hope if you know what has really happened. You calm your children and wait for the sun to rise. You want to cry, but know that now is not the time.

When the day dawns the winds have ceased and the waters have begun to recede. The vision before your eyes is unimaginable. You want to shield your children from the truth, but the death that surrounds you is so massive that there is no possible way to keep them from knowing what has happened. Your once majestic city by the sea is gone, never again to be one of the most important places in the country. A later accounting reveals that more than six thousand of your friends and neighbors and fellow citizens have died in the hurricane, a count that will not be equaled even a hundred years later.

The task before you and other survivors is daunting. Some have already decided to just leave, but you want to stay in this place. It has burrowed into your heart, and even with all of the pain that it has created you can’t bear to go somewhere else. You join the building process and silently hope that you will find your relatives and friends who are missing, but you never do.

Your city will become a small town, no longer destined to be as glorious as it once was. You help to build a seawall designed to keep the raging waters at bay. You work to raise the entire island, a modern marvel of engineering. You are proud of those who work to bring things back to a semblance of normalcy. You are a survivor of something so terrible that you will never be able to adequately speak of its horror. You don’t want to talk about what you lost. You try not to think about the orphanage that no longer exists, or the tiny souls from there who were eventually found buried under the sand with their caretakers next to them. Yours is a story for the ages that you will never want to repeat.

This is a true account of the great storm of 1900, a category four hurricane that moved right over Galveston Island in Texas. To this day there has never been another natural disaster in the United States that claimed so many lives. In the course of only a few hours the once thriving city was decimated, and would ultimately be reduced to a sleepy place that mostly attracts tourists and brave souls who find themselves in love with the tropical atmosphere. Many of the homes of 1900 still stand, reminders of a time when some of the most powerful and wealthy individuals in America lived and worked in the once bustling city. On a sunny day it is easy to imagine how wonderful life must have been before the true danger of being there was revealed.

The ghosts of a magnificent time and place lurk along with those who died so tragically in a single night. There is something indeed special about Galveston that can’t be described until someone has spent time there in the changing seasons. It is easy to fall in love with this town, but those who choose to make this island home must understand that danger is always possible.

After 1900, the improbable happened. A swampy little place called Houston became the titan that Galveston had been. The people there dredged a channel from Galveston Bay inland to create one of the busiest ports in the world. Houston would grow to become the fourth largest city in the United States, and until just this year would not experience anything resembling the tragedy that befell Galveston in 1900. Hurricane Harvey flooded the streets and homes of Houston, but thankfully did not even come close to killing the number of people who died long ago in the place just fifty miles south. Still those of us who have lived in Houston and visited Galveston understand better than ever the need to respect the storms that form in the Atlantic from June to November each year.

Now that hurricane season is over we have some time to relax before considering what we must do to make this area less likely to crumble under the brunt of a killer storm. The potential for disaster will roll around again just as it does each year. It’s important that we try to imagine the possibilities so that we will plan wisely and take precautions when danger becomes imminent. We more than most know what it is like when Mother Nature grows surly, and we understand the we can never be complacent about her power to change our world in an instant. Ours are the kind of stories that no tongue can tell.

Looking Forward

SupplierDiversityLBack before there was DNA, ancestry.com, or genealogy or libraries sponsored by the Latter Day Saints families often told tales of ancestors that may or may not have been true. Sometimes the stories were so compelling that they were handed down from generation to generation, thus spreading unfounded myths about the folks who were long past. Thus it was with my own relations who had all kinds of theories about who we were and from whence we had come.

One of the more popular ideas was that my maternal grandfather had actually been born in Cleveland, Ohio of Slovakian parentage, and that only my maternal grandmother had been an immigrant from Eastern Europe. With help from a first cousin I have determined that both of my grandparents were born in the Slovakian territory of what was once the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I have seen their names on ship manifests and now have proof that they entered the United States at the port of Galveston, Texas. My grandfather eventually became a naturalized citizen and I have copies of the document detailing when and where that happened as well, Oddly enough there are still relatives who refuse to believe the evidence that my cousin and I have gathered, preferring instead to insist that Grandpa was in fact an American citizen by birth. Some family fables refuse to die.

I recall a time when a Jewish friend of my mom’s declared her certainty that we were the descendants of European Jews. Her only clue to the veracity of that statement lay in our appearance and mannerisms, as though there is some stereotypical methodology for determining such things. Imagine my surprise when a DNA test revealed that I do indeed have a trace of Eastern European Jewishness tracing through my veins. It was a rather exciting discovery and one that my mother and her friends seemed to believe even before I had found the grain of truth.

It’s far easier in today’s world for me to learn that I am not a descendant of Native Americans as my paternal grandmother had always claimed. My high cheekbones are more likely derived from my Slovakian family members than from some Southeastern tribe. Still the stories of our Native American ancestry were part of my Grandma’s repertoire, and I suspect that she truly believed that they were true. The fact is that the bloodlines through her go straight back to Great Britain and then lead to Normandy and Norway. There are no Native Americans anywhere, but I grew up thinking that I must in fact be from one of America’s earliest people simply because my grandmother always told me so.

I bring this up because Senator Elizabeth Warren has been skewered again and again for claiming that she is of Native American descent. If her family is like mine she no doubt heard these things while growing up and had no reason to believe that they were untrue. We listen to our elders and we buy into their tales, never really thinking that they may be telling us falsehoods. I suspect that they actually believe those half truths themselves, leading to even more certainty that their stories are indeed true. It is little wonder that Senator Warren took the word of her relatives and saw herself as a true Native American, especially considering that she haled from Oklahoma where it was far more likely that her ancestors might have intermingled from many different groups.

I had an aunt who often noted that we were a biracial family from some point in history when our ancestors might have been African American. She would gaze into the mirror and see her jet black hair and brown eyes so dark that they almost resembled nuggets of coal. Somehow she decided that her physical attributes were indicative of blackness. She went to her grave feeling certain that she was a mixture of white and black ancestors, and I have to admit that her tales were so exotic that I half believed them even though the skin of family members from that branch is almost colorless save for the splotches of freckles that dot their arms and legs and faces. Eventually my DNA test totally squelched my aunt’s idea, but there was a time when the uncertainty made me wonder.

We all long to know our histories, but in many ways they don’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. It is what we are now doing that determines who we really are, not the stories of people that we never met and maybe don’t even know about. The most important thing about each of us is how well we have evolved into kind and just individuals who use our talents to the best of our abilities. It is in the attitudes and ethical values that we learned from our parents and pass down to our children that we find the essence of who we are. In fact I often think of how my mother always felt that knowing one’s genealogy was of far less importance than gazing into the future. She had little or no desire to look back or to define herself by ethnicity or race. She truly believed that we are all essentially the same with only minor variations over which we have little control. It was the human mind that fascinated her and the potential that we all possess to use our intellect well.

Each of us is the sum of our genetics and our environment. How we approach the world is determined in a large part by our most immediate interactions. Unfortunately we have a nasty habit of dividing ourselves into groups and even attempting to rank them as though there are actually superiors and inferiors. Such stereotyping can lead to the ugliness of racism unless we avoid its pitfalls. While there is nothing wrong with taking pride in our family heritage, it is a slippery slope to believe that our family trees somehow define us as being either better or worse than our peers. We simply are who we are at birth and then it becomes up to each of us to take our mix of DNA, history, family life, and education and forge our own individual destinies.

It really is time that we be more intent on living together with open hearts and minds rather than playing classification games. Much of the trouble that the world is experiencing is derived from an illogical hatred of differences, whether they be religious or ethnic or racial. So much blood has been shed in the name of “isms.” Sometimes we humans devolve into the same kind of thinking that creates wars between rival gangs. It is illogical and even hateful. When it comes from those who are supposed to be our leaders it borders on evil.

The truth is that few of us will ever know our backgrounds for certain, and that is okay. It’s fun to find out a bit of who we are, but more important to move forward and be ourselves. We need not define who we are by the branches of family trees. Instead it is crucial that we all be allowed to develop all of the components of our makeup into the best possible versions of ourselves. At the same time, if we are right thinking, we will embrace the lovely variety of mankind, and rejoice in our differences. When we encourage the many disparate groups to offer their unique ideas and talents to the betterment of us all, the world becomes a safer and more dynamic place. Let’s celebrate our wondrous variety in all that we do.

A Whole New World

hqdefaultGrowing up with a single mom in an era when such situations were quite rare gave me a different point of view than many of my contemporaries. I was raised to believe that I was capable of accomplishing anything that I chose to do. My mom was liberated out of necessity and she was a feminist out of choice. She was also as American as apple pie, someone who cherished freedoms and served no masters other than her God. She never wanted me to clean houses or wait on tables. While she saw such jobs as honorable work, she often noted that her own mother had done such things in order to lift up her children, and it should not be our fate to be at the beck and call of either the wealthy or the powerful. She believed that we were as worthy as any other humans and that we must never bow down in submission to anyone, not even a queen or a king or a president. I suspect that she would have enjoyed seeing the Obama family approaching Queen Elizabeth on equal footing. She truly saw the United States as a place where each man or woman had the potential to rise into the higher echelons of power. She viewed education and the use of intellect as the most direct pathway to individual success, but she never pushed me or my brothers one way or another. Part of our liberty lay in the ability to make our own choices.

Mama adored the Queen of England, not so much because of her royalty but mostly because she carried herself with such dignity. She had the same kind of affection for Eleanor Rosevelt and Jackie Kennedy because she saw them as distinctly American royalty, women who were equal in every way, and sometimes even a bit superior, to their powerful husbands. She truly saw these two as being more regal by way of their accomplishments and in the manner in which they carried themselves than most of the blue blooded royals throughout the world. She was inspired by both of them, particularly after they proved themselves to be such strong individuals after the deaths of their spouses. Because of my mother’s philosophies I suppose that I  grew up without the traditional female filters that had so defined women for eons. I quite arrogantly understood my own capabilities and simply forged ahead, announcing my plans to my husband rather than conferring with him to get his approval. Luckily I married a man whose own mother was strong-willed and he saw nothing unusual about my way of doing things.

My brothers are in turn married to incredibly independent women who have always marched to their own drumbeats. Their partnerships, like mine, are based on mutual respect. Neither of them feel that they or their spouses should play a dominant role in their marriages. They have loving and faithful wives, but always coequal partners who share both the burdens and the blessings of married life. There is no competition in their roles, but rather a strong sense of mutual respect and support. They are as thoroughly modern as my mom was.

Women everywhere are breaking stereotypes and punching holes in glass ceilings. In some corners of the world they are sometimes held back by cultures and traditions that do not deem them to be as worthy as men. Even here in the United States we still struggle to understand and encourage the female half of the world. Recent news developments have proven that we have a long way to go before we see the universal acceptance of women as fonts of power in their own rights. Still the evidence of their abilities and potential has always been right before our eyes. Everyone has a story of a remarkable woman that carried her own weight even when it was thought that doing so was crude and maybe even rude. Our minds regarding women are indeed changing even if the pace is slower than we wish it to be.

It’s not really so difficult to help young girls to become as strong as we hope they will become. All we have to do is allow them to make their own choices and to understand that we support them regardless of which direction they want to go. In our typical folly we sometimes think that we have to throw the baby out with the bath water to foment change. In other words we go from swathing baby girls in pink and showering them with thoughts of being princesses to insisting that they eschew fashion and all study to become engineers. It’s important to understand as my mother did that the key to raising mighty women lies in encouraging them to follow the destinies that lie within their own hearts, not ours.

Even the staunch and staid monarchies are slowly but surely changing. This week Prince Harry announced his engagement to a woman who might have been scandalous in a bygone era. She is a divorced biracial American actress, but none of that appears to matter as much as the fact that she is an amazing woman or that she and Harry are very much in love. She has established herself as a success in her own right, and she has been honored for her compassion and the causes that she supports. In the new frontier she does not have to be of royal decent to forge an alliance with a prince. While she is indeed quite beautiful, I suspect that it is her generosity and openness that captured Harry’s heart. I think that my mother would be quite pleased to hear of this remarkable development.

I have great hopes for society even though we women still have miles to go. More and more often we are being accepted in the halls of commerce, academia, manufacturing, and politics. Right here in my own little corner of the world a tiny young lady kicked the winning field goal in this year’s gridiron rivalry. Women are winning seats in local, state and national government at a faster rate than ever before. More than half of today’s college graduates are female. We go places and do things that were once taboo. We still have a long way to travel, but there are positive signs that women are finally enjoying more and more of the kind of freedoms that my mother so appreciated and desired. We have some kinks to iron out and bad thinking to overcome, but the future looks brighter for young girls all of the time. 

I have only one granddaughter. She sometimes has to fight her way to be part of the group of six young men who are my grandsons. She is all too often unfavorably compared to her twin brother by well meaning teachers and relatives who have not discerned how truly remarkable she is in her own right. She has very special talents that will no doubt take her far. She is unafraid to take risks and she works twice as hard as the guys to reach her goals. She is determined to make her own individual mark on the world, and I believe that she will find the success that she seeks. Like the female trailblazers who have come before her, including her great grandmother, she is on a mission to change the way we do things. If she maintains the courage to focus on being herself, she will be able to ignore the naysayers and the slights and find her way. If my mother were still here she would remind my granddaughter that she is just as important as a queen, maybe more so. She would urge her to hold her head high and follow her dreams. After all, even a girl from an ordinary family who has proven to be quite competent on her own may soon be a princess. It’s a whole new world and it is good.