Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 198/365 It's Our Day!

Happy International Women's Day!

In honor of that, here's a collection of some of the women in my life that have influenced me....

Josephine Ellen Green Muncy great-grandmother. In a time when women were not even actual legal entities, and were expected to stay at home and wait for a husband...she took off across the country, traveling through what was then the edge of the American frontier.

Jess Muncy great-aunt, daughter of Josephine. After seeing Katherine Hepburn wearing pants in a film, she immediately got rid of her dresses and never wore another one. That came in handy while training her championship Tennessee Walkers ( in this photo that's Kentucky on the left and Prince on the right).

Leona Adeline Muncy Newton.... another great-aunt, sister to Jess, and keeper of the family sense of ironic humor. She passed on her love of history and politics to me. One of nine English teachers in my immediate family. Leona (Onie to family) married later than most, shared her wedding with family in the homeplace parlor, and immediately set out with her husband driving across Virginia to their new home on the coast. Enroute, they were involved in a horrific car accident that cost her new husband his life, and caused her to walk with a pronounced lameness and pain for the remainder of her life (40 years). After being brought home to recouperate, she never mentioned the accident again, and never regarded it as an excuse or justification for not achieving her goals.

Inez America Hazelwood grandmother on my Dad's side. Don't let that angelic pose fool you. My grandmother was one of the toughest women I ever met. She graduated from teacher's college, and skipped graduation to get to her first assignment, across the state,in a remote rural county where she would teach in a one-room schoolhouse, and travel to work on a horse-drawn sled in the winter. During her life she would raise four sons, watch them serve in World War II and Korea, start a business with her husband, build their first home by hand, and buy a deep sea fishing boat she loved to pilot on the Gulf of Mexico, all while playing the accordion, harmonica, organ and ukelele, debating religion with her preacher and authoring two books of poetry.

Sadie Gusler great-aunt on my mother's side. I'm not sure there are words to describe Sadie. Everyone in her county knew her. Literally. And she knew everyone, and everything that was going on. Somehow, no matter what happened, Aunt Sadie had the inside scoop, the who-what-where-when and why. She loved yard sales, made beautiful quilts, drank moonshine and did not suffer fools. More than one person has a clear memory of hearing Sadie's opinion.

Mary Lee Carper beloved grandmother on my mother's side, older sister to Sadie. I think of her as the one who was shortchanged. She was a product of rape, and grew up with the rapist in her immediate family. Raised with the idea that it was her and her mother's fault (in the 1920's it was always the woman's fault), she struggled with depression and what today is called "lack of self-esteem". Nevertheless, she married a moonshine runner, lost her first baby to spinal meningitis, lived in log cabins and cooked over an open hearth, helped her husband and three daughters build their first home by hand and worked in the fields till she was 80 years old. She was 73 before she traveled outside her county. She never learned to drive, never voted, never learned to swim, and had few outside interests outside of her family. I always wonder what sort of life she might have had without the mental abuse she suffered as a child.

And, of course, my mom. Raised on a rural Appalachian farm, so poor that shoes were only for wearing to school, and dresses were made from flour feedsacks. She was the first in the family to be educated past high school. The first woman in the family to move across the country. The first woman to travel to another country. And definitely the first to catch a giant fish. Mom takes after her aunt, Sadie, and is much more outspoken and confident than her mom. Like most of the women in our family, my mother has no shortage of opinons. This is a good thing. I've always thought people without opinions must lack the ability to reason and think.

Dr. Lois Tiffany.......sometimes your BFF's mom is just as important as your own mom. I met Dr. Tiffany when her daughter and I were in the same sixth-grade class. Her mom did mushrooms, my dad did fish and they both taught at the university. My own mom was a housewife, but my friend's mom *worked*, making her ten times more exciting to me than my own mother. She was the first mom I ever knew who had a *real job*. In some bizarre twist of the universe, her daughter ended up being a stay-at-home mom, while I, the daughter of the housewife, ended up being the corporate slave. Years later, in another twist, about the time I quit my job to homeschool my daughter, my stay-at-home mom BFF started working outside the home.

And speaking of daughter's......mine. The reason I celebrate International Women's Day.
The hope for the future. The reason I expect and demand equal pay for equal work, equal access, equal funding, equal opportunity, an equal education and an end to gender discrimination.

Anything else would disappoint all those women that came before her.


  1. Beautiful!! I love people who don't suffer fools and don't hold back opinions. Fanastic blog. Heart-warming. I don't know these women, but you brought tears to my weepy eyes.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to the special women in your life. I have been known to have no shortage of opinions, too!

  3. As the mother of 3 daughters, I LOVED this-

    "And speaking of daughter's......mine. The reason I celebrate International Women's Day.
    The hope for the future. The reason I expect and demand equal pay for equal work, equal access, equal funding, equal opportunity, an equal education and an end to gender discrimination."

    I agree!


  4. what a gift, this share. what wonderful women! the only one you left out is YOU. You who always keeps word, who solves all the problems, and when you can't, just go onto the next thing to be solved. a positive force in the world, no shit about it.

    And Jessica. (What? No sword in hand?) The world is safe and better because of the Mousie folk.