If it hadn’t been for the tenacity and no-nonsense attitude to life of my maternal grandmother (pictured with my grandfather) I think her seven kids would have starved to death during the Depression. If matters had been left to my kindly yet less-disciplined grandfather then, as much as I loved his kindness, they indeed would have ended up in the poorhouse.
Picture Ma Joad in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. She was the glue that held the family unit together in the face of unspeakable hardship and misfortune. As was the case with my grandmother, they wouldn’t have made it if they had relied on the headstrong but not always sensible menfolk.
I love Dr. Grace Foley in the brilliant British drama series Waking the Dead. Brilliantly played by actress Sue Johnston, Dr. Foley, a forensic shrink with massive common sense and also kindness keeps the volatile place doing what it should be doing. I decided while watching that series that Dr. Foley would be a wonderful mother to have. She’d have your back but, at the same time, would slap you up the side of the head if you went off in illogical directions.
And I must say that Dr. Foley, and meaning no disrespect here, is the antithesis of my own mother. My mother was not strong. My mother bowed under any pressure that came her way. I am not judging her, for she was who she was and in our household my dad supplied the glue and I am grateful for that despite the fact he was no picnic to live with much of the time.
But, I think it is because of these maternal icons I grew up to find strong women immensely attractive and have never felt threatened by a gutsy broad. No-no-no, it is in the courage and forthrightness that the appeal can be found.
At a broader societal level the paramount role of the matriarch can be found within certain cultural groups. This is especially to be found in groups in which there is a supposed male pre-eminence, but in fact that motivating force in invariably the strong woman. Those who have worked with North American Natives know that the biggest factor in not only survival but also success of a tribe or band can be found with strong female figures. A similar situation can be found in the Black community. The brilliant Richard Pryor didn’t hesitate to attribute much of his success to his strong grandmother. The aforementioned are generalizations, granted but such situations are more common than not.
You can also look to world leaders of note like Churchill or FDR and you will find a very strong woman behind their success; often a strong widowed woman.
And I take my hat off to the strong women I know and love in my life, including my wife.