In honor of Women’s History Month I want to take a few minutes to recognize some of the trailblazers who have inspired me. There are famous folks such as Jane Addams, and not so famous folks like my Mom. To Quote Stephan Cobert- “A Tip of the Hat” .
Gema Sermuksnis Danahar, my mother, who arrived in the United States of America as young girl with her family, after leaving her country of birth during World War II. She embodies the American dream, actually arriving at our shores by boat- it was not a pleasure cruise- going to school, working hard to learn, putting herself through college, helping to integrate intramural sports at UMass Amherst along the way, going back to school while raising two children AND working full-time. Somehow she found time to balance the demands of a working mother with time to plant a working (vegetable and ornamental) garden, encouraging her children’s dreams and hopes, volunteer at a professional center for craft (nurturing her own creativity), laugh, dance and sing when the mood struck. Thanks Mom for being a spectacular role model, parent and friend.
Jane Addams, Social Worker who founded Hull House in Chicago in 1889, America’s first settlement house providing English language classes, childcare, health education, and recreational programs for poor immigrant families. In 1931 she won the Nobel Peace Prize, for her unending dedication social justice and peace. She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. As an MSW and proud daughter of an immigrant family, thank you for setting a trail for me to follow professionally.
Magdelana Pauliukonis Sermuksnis, my maternal grandmother who was the one to finally say, it is time to leave and we leave as a family. Not thinking she and her family would never return home to Lithuania after the war (WWII) was over. She carved a life in a new country, raised 5 children and was married for 56 years. She and my grandfather married late (30 years and 40 years old respectively), demonstrating that there was no hurry to get married, but still time enough to find a partner and live a full long life, with all its trials and celebrations.
Wilma Glodean Rudolph international track superstar, teacher, coach and sports commentator. Despite having been born prematurely with polio and unable to walk until she as 12 she was a member of the USA Olympic in 1956 (Melbourne, Australia) at the age of 16 and in 1960 (Rome) where she won three gold medals for the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. The first time I saw video of Ms Rudolph run and hearing her story it occurred to me, that even though I felt awkward, I like to run, so why not. Still it took me until high school to try out for the track team, but I did and I made it. Thank you Ms. Rudolph for inspiring me to feel strong and steady and to move for the sheer joy of it.
Catherine Charles Danahar, my paternal grandmother, one of the most strong willed individuals I have and may ever know. When she was widowed, unexpectedly, she continued with the “retirement” plan she and my grandfather had made, moving to a small town in Massachusetts to restore a home and run a package store. She went alone. She learned how to drive at 50+ years old. She worked until her mid-70’s. She tried to let her granddaughters know that life might be more difficult than it needs to be as woman. Thanks for showing me its good to know you own mind and follow your instincts.
Stephanie Pearl McPhee, The Yarn Harlot, Knitting super star- yes, there are such individuals. Through her humor, authenticity and empathy, this proud Canadian has created a career as a witty writer, lecturer and teacher. She followed her creative path to her logical outcomes. Thank you for encouraging me and thousand of others to write, to knit and to start over when the project is just not looking right, knowing that we’ll each find our own creative paths.
Who blazed a trail for you to follow? Who inspired you?