The fifth post on Women and Money- Gender Lens investing is almost finished, but I am having a hard time ignoring this voice in my head about a pioneering woman I will call Gracey. She died last week, after living 90+ years. I chose to refer to her as Gracey to respect her privacy. This name fits because she had a generous spirit yet was also a little bit sassy.
I like the terms pioneering woman and pioneering women.
A couple of months ago I was visiting with a young woman who was starting college and having lots of different experiences. She is the first in her family to graduate from high school and then the first to attend college. I told her that pioneering can be tough, but it is worth it. I know a lot of pioneering women and am grateful for those, like Gracey, who went before me.
According to dictionary.com, pioneering is described as:
A person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.
One who is first or among the earliest in any field of inquiry, enterprise, or progress
Pioneering can be done by those around us and not just famous people. Gracey wasn’t on the national scene like Sally Krawcheck or Senator Elizabeth Warren, both who are looking to improve the business practice of the financial services industry. She wasn’t a Beyoncé performing on a stage with millions of people watching her. If you had known Gracey, she would have just seemed like an ordinary person living in the mountains. Well, the fact that she lived up in the hills with beautiful scenery accompanied by snow, icy roads, and the threat of wildfires, is probably a hint that she was a little different.
As a young woman I clearly saw Gracey as a woman ahead of her time. This means she meets that definition quoted above as one who is first or among the earliest… in progress. I suspect she influenced a bunch of women over the years that never saw their names in headlines or found themselves on a national stage. Gracey just showed women another way to live and did it without apologizing. Oh yes, she was also was a woman with a striking physical appearance and her own special sense of style.
As with anyone who lives through many generations, the world had changed a lot from the early 1900s to the time of her passing. She seemed to have thrived and evolved through it all . I think she must have seemed out of step with the world she lived in as a younger adult. First, she rode motorcycles. This was back in the day when motorcycle riding was not so prominent and “good women” certainly didn’t do that. I am guessing her riding started in the 1950s. It was something she and her husband continued enjoying for many years. They loved it and went to rallies all over the country.
I remember someone mentioned that Gracey was a woman who had been divorced. Whether I remember that correctly or not, I do remember she was Protestant and her husband was Catholic. Things like that just weren’t considered OK in the Midwest. I can imagine the conversations that went on in her husband’s hometown in the Midwest. None-the-less, she and her husband just ignored the talk and she loved those visits to connect with relatives-in-law. The in-laws loved her too, because she was — different in a wonderful way. She and her husband did not have children, also uncommon for the times. Gracey worked outside the home. Once again, not the norm.
Women were expected to share the political beliefs of their husband. Somebody apparently forgot to tell Gracey. She had strong opinions and they weren’t always ones her husband shared. That seemed to me to be a really brave thing to do for a woman who came from a generation that was taught men were in charge and women were to follow along.
Gracey and her husband were kind and generous hosts to those of us who had the chance to travel up the hill to their home. They celebrated our son’s birthdays with us when he was a child. Dinner was served under the trees on their land. Our son had his own outdoor venue of trees, mountains, and picnic tables set up for the celebration. Ice cream and cake in the great outdoors. Pretty big stuff even for grownups, very memorable for a child.
Once I was having a glass of wine in the kitchen at the mountain home (yup, wine was involved in these visits), and I looked outside through the window. It was only then that I realized there was no screen on the window and I was literally cleaning up the dishes while feeling like I was standing in the forest. It was stunningly beautiful and peaceful. She loved it when people were excited about the mountain home she and her husband built. It was just a special place.
So, I thank you Gracey for being a pioneering woman and for hanging tough, being yourself, showing women how to be comfortable in their skin, and for celebrating life with zest and passion! You also showed others how to be independent yet gracious, fun loving, and passionate about life, family and friends. Women like you were the inspiration for my financial freedom woman below. If only I was a talented graphic artist who could show this woman on a motorcycle riding through the mountains. That would have been so very “you”.
Hooray for pioneering women and thanks to all those pioneering women who are simply a daily part of our lives and don’t even know they are doing something special and meaningful.
Until next time.
Copyright2014©by Debra Hadsall