Learning From Truly Empowered Women

The shiny online billboards flash and beckon to women. We are strong, empowered, enlightened. Today’s women bow to no one. We can do anything we please and no adversity can stop us.

We lead the corporation, the church, the factory, the practice and the Bible study. We dominate at the gym, the field, the track and the arena.

We are not the subservient women of last century with no backbone. No, ma’am! We have left all the weakness of our foremothers in the dust,  and we are charging ahead full force. Ahead to more…..more freedom, more rights…..a steady thirst for more power.

She had a name that at once reminded me of old, dusty books and fragrant flowers. But I just called her Grandma. She wasn’t. In fact, I’m not sure she even had grandchildren of her own since she struggled with infertility. But I claimed her with all the fervency of a child miles away from the ones that raised my own parents.

My mama bore me through major surgery after 5 years of waiting and 15 hours of painful labor. She and my daddy waited those years and hours alone, far away from family.

After 8 days of recovery for Mom and evaluation for me, they brought me home to a parsonage provided by a devoted handful of people. And Grandma was waiting. There are pictures of her beaming from ear to ear as if she had borne me herself. Then, she laid me down to nap in my mama’s arms and went to work. She came and went in a whirlwind of activity, leaving the home spotless and a meal on the table.

This woman I called Grandma had raised her siblings after her mother’s death when she was only eleven. She taught my mom how to make the perfect pie crust, how to can green beans and how to make a delicious raspberry jam. She offered us her home when we had none for 6 months. She was in her 80s when she stopped climbing the trees to pick her own pears for canning and mowing the acres left to her by her second deceased husband. She was in her 90s when she quietly went home to Heaven.


Poor, dear, weak lady.

She was a businesswoman to a fault. She started work in the retail business and lost her eyesight due to a store accident. She introduced my Grandpa to the Lord, then he introduced her to matrimony. She started her own retail business, then a series of other businesses. Two babies entered Heaven from her womb and one from a backyard fire set by neighborhood boys. Only one remained and grew to be my own mama.

I took my babies and ate breakfast with her and Grandpa on Friday mornings. Then one morning, Mom called me and said she had joined her babies. Just bowed her head at the breakfast table and raised it up there with finally perfect vision.

So suppressed with no strength at all. Poor lady! 

Her arm bears a scar from her intervention to protect her mama from a drunken daddy. She refused to follow the addictive pattern. She married, bore three children and worked a corporate job for 5 bosses back when women were still professional enough to wear white gloves to work.

When her kids were grown and she retired, she took her grandkids on long trips, cared for relatives and friends with ailing health and has nursed her husband through years of cancer. She’s somewhere in her eighth decade now, and she comes to my home every week. After years of serving other people, she’s fulfilling a dream of learning music.

Too bad she’s so weak and trodden down.

I look around at my peers, and I see amazing women. They juggle a lot. They wear a lot of hats. They work a job, go to school, homeschool their kids, write books, see patients, take their kids on play dates then jump on a plane for a far away meeting or conference. We are a strong generation. We can do whatever we want to do.

But sometimes, here in privileged America, we forget. We forget that there really isn’t anything new under the sun. Strong, capable women braved the frontier and buried loved ones along the way.

Women through the years have kept the homefires burning and others have gone to work. They have raised a half dozen or more kids without one- quarter dozen of the conveniences I have. Some who didn’t have children, invested their lives in those less fortunate.

My husband’s grandma birthed and raised 15 kids virtually on her own. My grandma was a manager in the 50s when supposedly all women could do was cook from a box with high heels and pearls on. My own mama never went to work, but she has braved years of ministry with my dad which included the threat of death at one point and probably a few other times when it almost seemed preferable to the storms they walked through.

Sweet friend, can I ask you to stop clamoring for rights and stop telling everyone how strong you are? Maybe you think you are blazing a path, but the women that we so easily dismiss as old and out of touch with today’s generation? They blazed and paved it, and we’re walking it.

I’m not saying we can’t be strong, too. If you have a medical degree or a six pack, I applaud your hard work and your stamina. But can I suggest that we stop straining ahead for a moment and look back? Maybe….just maybe…..there are few lessons to learn from women who didn’t talk so much about being strong.

They just were.



  • carrie bunch

    July 14, 2014 at 11:18 am Reply

    Enjoyed ur article. Thanks for sharing. I think I know these women. If they r who I think
    they are. They sure have left their mark.

    • JenniferLSelf

      July 15, 2014 at 7:33 pm Reply

      Thank you for your comment, Carrie! You know 2 of them probably. 🙂 They are just 3 of many older women I admire.

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