2001 Johanna Baldwin - London, England
Words of Women 2001 Essay of the Year
Who is the Most Influential Woman in my Life?Is it my mom whose primary role in life has been to be the devoted mother of four children? A woman who never went to college, never completed her marriage, never had a career that enabled her to fight for human rights in front of thousands. A good mother who’s a good woman and a good woman who’s a good mother?
Is it my sister whose primary goal in life has been to help turn the tide of women’s rights, rarely receiving funds much less acknowledgment? Was it only thirty years ago when my sister was hiding abused women and children in her home before the words Battered Shelters were intertwined.
Is it the African American woman I wasn’t introduced to when I attended a Pro Choice March in Washington with the then Hollywood Women’s Political Committee? The woman who had an aura around her. She spoke at a high powered gathering and read from a scrap of paper where she had scribbled down some words. She read quietly: “What can the White Man Say to the Black Woman?” Women stood applauding and tearful while most of the men remained in their chairs. The woman was Alice Walker.
Is it Hillary? God Bless her. Who remains focused and assured no matter what obstacles are in front of her. She’s definitely one of my heroes.
Is it Cherie Blair, the Prime Minister’s First Lady, who at the age of 45 had her third child? Inspiring some of us, if we want it, perhaps it’s not too late. Cherie, like Hillary is important in her own right. As a High Court Barrister, she fights her husband’s government when she believes he’s got it wrong.
Could it be the unhappy young woman twenty years ago, whose name I can’t remember? The woman who once was my secretary, who brought all her problems to work. I remember her sad, lost face. Her lack of understanding about how important she was. My feeble attempts to try and help. And my letting her go. She’s a permanent fixture in my mind.
Is the most influential woman in my life, but a fictitious character? Is it Bette Davis who I adored watching growing up. I would search the few channels to find a glimpse of her embodying some woman’s struggle on screen. Movie star or not, Bette Davis is a part of me forever.
Is it Brunya Asch who rented me her guest cottage years ago? She lit candles on Friday nights and told me what it was to survive the Holocaust. Brunya has more lines on her face than any person I’ve ever known. If you didn’t know her, she might seem harsh or sad. But get her to smile and you believe in good. She becomes the most beautiful woman on the earth. As we all are.
I could go on. There are hundreds and thousands of women who’ve influenced my life. Every woman I’ve met, merely seen, read about or simply imagined has Influenced me.
But I go back to the beginning, the ultimate beginning. Back to mom. Back to the word devotion. What kind of people are we without devotion? I know this word well because this is one of my mother’s gifts. She’s devoted to good. Perhaps her primary gift is believing in good. So as she believes in good, she is good. And as I’m a witness, I can attempt to follow in her footsteps. This I believe is the most influential thing a woman can do. To inspire and encourage goodness in another
Johanna Baldwin, Mother - London, England