Strong Women

July 17, 2014

In my stories I often include strong female characters – really strong, you could almost say bold.  There was Anna, Tony’s mother, in Book Fair.  I got rave reviews of her – everyone loved her and wrote me countless messages about how much they loved her. I was caught off guard by all the positive feedback about her because she was just an example of the women I grew up around.

I was raised by bold women, so it just seems natural to me to write about them.  Both of my grandmothers were ferociously tough survivors.  They had to be.  They both lost their husbands while still young and with young children still at home.  In a day when women didn’t work outside of the home, they were both left penniless and in desperate need of a way to support themselves and to provide for their children.

One of my grandmothers was an amazing cook so she decided to use that skill to support her family.  She rented and then eventually bought a truck stop dinner and ran it for years.  Open 24 hours a day in the 1940s and 1950s, she got all kinds of customers, some devoted customers who became lifelong friends, but also some unsavory characters as well.

My grandmother was not a giant woman in height.  She was ample in size and bold in spirit, but a lot of the men that came in towered over her in height. But that didn’t stop her.  I once saw her take a butcher knife and step between two feuding men.  Her message was simple — take it outside.  It was so wonderful to watch these two giant, 6-foot plus men, cower at the words of a 5-foot tall woman.  Granted, she was holding a knife and I have seen her behead a chicken so I know she knew how to use it, but it was still amazing to watch.

The same grandmother at the same diner, before I was born, did something that seriously pissed off a whole bunch of people.  Our little town had a train station.  Trains would stop there to refuel and to change crews.  One of the conductors would come to the diner to get a cup of coffee.  This was in the 1940s, and since the conductor was black, the previous owner of the diner had made him come to the back door to get his coffee.  Not my grandmother.  Remember – this is the late 1940′s/early 1950′s. She took him to the main room and seated him at the counter and poured him a proper cup of coffee — in a mug and everything.  And then she stood there on her side of the counter and talked with him.

Well, let me tell you, my grandmother got mega crap for doing something like that.  Other customers tried to tell her that she couldn’t do such a thing.  She just couldn’t! But she told them that she didn’t understand why not.  He wanted a cup of coffee, so why shouldn’t he sit at the counter like everyone else and have his coffee? She didn’t back down.  And for six months business slacked off because people were boycotting her diner.  After all, she seated a black man!  Can you believe it?

But my grandmother didn’t back down.  Eventually her customers came back or they were replaced with new ones.  The conductor started coming to the diner on a regular basis and he and my grandmother became life long friends, a friendship that lasted in to the 1970′s.  And once a year he would come to visit my grandmother and they would sit on the front porch and talk for hours.  It came to be known to us as the day Mr. Carter came to visit.  Every year like clock work.

So I was surrounded by big, bold women who didn’t let circumstances get them down. Who are some of the bold women that were part of your life? In my view, even though they’re gone, as long as we remember them and tell their stories, they still live on.  Who were some of yours?

In my next post I’ll tell you about the bold woman in my current story.  Stay tuned to read about Marie.

4 Responses to “Strong Women”

  1. Debra E says:

    What an amazing woman! I don’t have a story that good but was glad to have (and still have) a mother that always managed to keep things together and seemingly be able to do everything for everyone whenever needed.

  2. Hannah B. says:

    Your grandmother sound like an awesome woman, you are very lucky to have such amazing woman in your life. Grandmothers Rule!

  3. MikeM says:

    We all have stories to tell and people who have been key in making us who we are today. We are standing on the shoulders of giants.

  4. MikeM says:

    Both of my grandmothers are gone now, but they live on in my memories and are just as alive there today as they were when they last walked this earth 40 years ago. But my mother is still going strong. She’s nearly 80 and still trying new things. For example, she reads all my books, and while there are some scenes she finds a little too bold for her taste, she reads everything – even the one I told her not to. I think she had to run out and buy that one just because I told her not to read it. It’s not just kids who do that – parents do it as well.

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