Today is “Women’s Equality Day”. At my house that’s everyday. I suppose I’ve been blessed to have had some extraordinary women in my life, not the least of which is my best friend and soul mate, Debbie. We’ve shared (equally) in good times and bad. Carrying one another or being carried by the other as needed. Our life together has proven time and time again that she is my equal. She is simply unafraid. She is love and pure joy but she is also tough and resilient and relentless when necessary. She has taught me that tears don’t make you weak and laughter is truly the best medicine (especially when you need to laugh at yourself). And she has instilled the same spirit and strength and humor in our daughter.
Of course I’ve known and loved many other strong women. In fact, I believe that in my family the female role models are the ones that stand out as leaders.
My Mom runs the show at her house. She will be 87 this year and remains in the know about politics, current events, style and fashion trends. For someone not afforded an education she is smarter than most women that I know and Dad knows not to mess with Mom.
My three aunts, Lucida, Noel and Gene Marie, were Sisters of the Most Precious Blood. These were intelligent women who were well-traveled and well-educated, not something to be taken for granted by women born in the 1910’s and 1920’s. They were teachers, administrators, catechists, and persons of authority.
The stories of my great-grandmother Elizabeth are legendary: Coming to this country alone at thirteen from Germany. Marrying and then raising her young family alone after my great-grandfather died. I’m told that she was tough, stubborn and a force to be reckoned with.
My three great aunts Marie, Minnie, and Liddy lived together in the family home that became the base of operations for all Wilhelm family gatherings. Aunt Minnie was a business woman – the County Nurse’s secretary. And she was well-respected in our hometown. I remember walking downtown with her many times and people would greet her very politely as “Miss Wilhelm”. I was always so proud to be with my Aunt Min!
And then of course there was my mother-in-law. She was a tough lady who fought for justice and looked out for the underdogs in our world. She was fiercely loyal to those she loved and protected her children like a lioness. She taught her daughter that real beauty requires confidence, kindness and a sense of humor. Jackie never went down without a fight. I’m not sure if you can “raise hell” in heaven, but if you can I’m sure she’s leading the charge.
Finally there are my four beautiful granddaughters. They each have so much to offer. I can see into the future because of them and I want it to equal and fair.
In the many decades since suffragists organized and mobilized, countless advocates and leaders have picked up the mantle and moved our Nation and our world forward. Today, young women in America grow up knowing an historic truth — that not only can they cast a vote, but they can also run for office and help shape the very democracy that once left them out. For these women, and for generations of women to come, we must keep building a more equal America — whether through the stories we tell about our Nation’s history or the faces we display on our country’s currency. On Women’s Equality Day, as we recognize the accomplishments that so many women fought so hard to achieve, we rededicate ourselves to tackling the challenges that remain and expanding opportunity for women and girls everywhere. ~ Barack Obama
I’m proud of the women in my life and I am a better man because of them.