The Silent Partner
Forty five years ago I remember seeing my mother staring intently at a large book on the kitchen table. I asked what she was doing. She said she was studying chemistry. When I asked her why, she told me that she, a stay at home mom and mother of four, was going back to college to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a nurse. Little did I know the lesson I was about to learn and the consequences it would have in years to come?
Mom did very well. She had no problem making straight A’s. I remember the pride our family had when we saw her graduate in her nursing whites and that little starched hat. She took that degree and went right to the front lines; to intensive care at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, NC. She never looked back. I realized it was her determination and a silent partnership with education that made her dream come true.
The lesson repeated itself some thirty years later when her only daughter reached a crossroads in her life. Her marriage was unraveling, her career had stalled and she had a young son to raise. Like mother, Anne relied on her inheritance of determination and she too turned to that silent partner to move her life forward. Forty four years old, she enrolled in college and didn’t stop until she had a master’s degree in early childhood education. Her hard work was rewarded with a sea of young adoring eyes that followed her every move in the classroom.
In March of 2005, they died together. Family, friends and associates were crippled with grief. Their legacy of love and compassion will always be with those they knew and touched. But there was a need to share these two lives with others who had never known them. The fact that both women had gone back to college in their mid – 40’s offered me the opportunity I needed. And the Jeannette Rankin Foundation provided me the means to do it.
That is why today Teresa, a middle age mother in Indiana, is closing in on her degree in early childhood education. In upstate New York, Wendy is completing her work to become a nurse just like my mother. In Texas, Georgina has made the deans list again and will soon be ready to launch her teaching career.
All these women received a memorial scholarship in my mom and sister’s name through the Jeannette Rankin Foundation. All are over 35, all are low income and all are ready for a change. Like my mother and sister, they just want to follow through on their dreams or take control of their life. Education, the silent partner is helping them to turn a corner and move forward. Once again, we are learning, like I learned 45 years ago, that when you educate a woman, you not only educate a family and the community where they live, you inspire and motivate others.