By Dr. Amy L. Holland, Geography teacher
Grimsley Junior High School, Bentonville, Arkansas
We can’t all be Mother Teresa, famous for the amazing things we completed during our lifetime. Mother Teresa devoted her life to the caring of people of all ages. Many other women in history, including Queen Elizabeth, Anne Frank, and Princess Diana, inspired generations of women across the globe. However, it is often the women in our daily lives, past and present, who change our worlds for the better.
Mother Teresa’s own mother modeled the attributes of kindness and empathy throughout Teresa’s childhood. People often stopped by their home hoping to receive food or clothing assistance. Mother Teresa grew up in an atmosphere of giving back to the community. Queen Elizabeth, Anne Frank, and Princess Diana all had mothers or other female influencers who either promoted philanthropy, education, or political reform.
During the Trail of Tears, my great great grandmother, headed west, by force of the government. She was full blood Cherokee and as an infant survived many obstacles throughout the journey on the Trail of Tears. One such obstacle included being held while crossing the Fort Smith river while it was frozen over from a winter storm. When she was older she ran away from the reservation, returning to Russellville in search of other family members. While visiting she met Mr. Atkins, the two fell in love, and later married. My great great grandmother stayed in Oak Grove, Arkansas and raised her children there.
Later my great grandmother, Molly Venable, would continue the tradition of sacrifice while working on the homestead. My great grandmother worked tirelessly at the homestead, raised ten children of which two were adopted! Molly Venable helped with the household chores and farming and to this day the area is known as Venable Holler.
My grandmother continued this hard-working legacy as she raised five children on her own. She worked at a shoe plant, often walking to and from work daily in many types of weather. The income was little; the work was hard, but it paid off for her children. Vestle Venable modeled this hard-working commitment to her children who later grew up to all be hard working adults as well. All five children were successful in their own way, from retail to government employment to construction management.
My mother continued this tradition of hard work, although related by marriage to Vestle Venable. Vestle mentored my mother and became a confident and friend to her. My mother worked until I was born, then stayed home with me, returning to work when I began kindergarten. Brenda Venable modeled a hard work ethic and instilled in me the importance of education and reaching for your goals. A valuable female influence in my life and in the lives of other women. My mother-in-law, Wanda Holland, committed to her family and husband. Wanda Holland sacrificed her career to stay home and mentor her children, raising men devoted to their own families.
Daily I am surrounded by strong, female influencers who set a standard for women everywhere. From the mothers working full time while still maintaining a household to women staying at home but working various part-time jobs as well. Women in leadership positions, including my principal, Skyler Brown, who daily oversees the running of a large junior high. Mentoring her staff and leading with a positive influence. She daily leads by example with few words but many actions. Sarah DeWitt, overseeing middle school, junior high, and social studies curriculum for our district. Always smiling, always ready to help her teachers at a moment's notice.
These are the women that are the influencers, behind the scenes, changing and conquering the world. We may never read about them in books, or see their faces in magazines or on the news. However, they are the unsung women in history, mentoring and paving the way for future generations of women. Without their influence, we might miss out on the Mother Teresas, Queen Elizabeths, Anne Franks, and Princess Dianas from our history books. They might not ever be brave enough to exist.
Photos: Vestle Venable and Carl Venable, Mr. and Mrs. Atkins, Family Picture (Brenda Venable is 2nd from the left and Wanda Holland is 2nd from the right, and our author Amy Holland is in the center).