Ally and I believe in girl power. We believe that girls (and women) can do anything they want to do. I used to tell Ally: Girls can do anything boys can do, except pee standing up (which isn’t exactly true, it’s just a bit complicated). When we lost RBG on Friday, we lost a champion for equality, a champion for women, a role model for all. I really like thinking that maybe Ally and Ruth are in heaven chatting it up about politics and women’s rights. Maybe Ally ran to Heaven’s gates and welcomed Ruth, told her that her mom admired her. Maybe Ally showed Ruth the picture of me dressing up like her for Halloween, and maybe they are both talking about how this is the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote and acknowledging the shame that we’ve only had this right for a short time in our country’s history. These images bring me comfort Either way, two of the strongest females on the planet are no longer suffering, and I am reminded of how thankful I am of all the people in my life who have inspired me to live fully –regardless of my gender.
I’m thankful for my strong mom, who raised me to be an independent thinker. Although she didn’t go to college herself, she basically put three of us (me, my Dad, my sister) through college, quizzing us and encouraging us, typing my Dad’s papers. She never complained, and she always worked as long as it took to do what she had to do. She stayed up late many nights making homecoming dresses and my sister’s wedding dress. Mom was basically the glue to our family, always loving us and letting us know we were special and loved. She made us feel like we could do anything. In fact, she still makes us feel like that today.
I’m thankful for my Dad, who never made me feel that girls were second class citizens. When I was in high school, he tried to talk me into applying to West Point. I didn’t, but he believed I had that potential. Dad had two girls. I used to wonder if he wished for boys, but now I know that he didn’t. He was a great girl dad. Dad loved sports, and he loved to coach and work with kids. Growing up, he never once acted like he missed coaching boys. He worked with us on running, softball, basketball, and he never ever gave my sister and me the impression that women’s sports were inferior. Thanks, Dad, for showing me that I could do anything I wanted. And although I’m a teacher, which is historically a more female-dominated career, I chose this career because it is what I wanted to do. And of course, my Dad always encouraged me, even on my hardest of teaching days.
I’m thankful for Mrs. Teegarden, my elementary librarian. When I was a kid, I was an avid reader. Mrs. Teegarden encouraged my love of reading. She gave me big books, books that were probably too hard for me to read. She tried to challenge my curiosity and intellect. She gave me Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Little Women, and other challenging books. When I wanted to read about famous suffragettes, she helped me find books about them — Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott. (Yeah, I’ve always been this way.) Mrs. Teegarden showed me, even at a young age, that a girl could be smart, and that was okay.
There are countless other people in my life (and in the world) who have encouraged me — people who have made it clear to me that gender is just that — a part of who I am. But gender does not exclude me from doing what I want to do. Both Ally and RBG have taught me the importance of girl power, and therefore I will continue to advocate for women as a tribute to these two amazing humans. I hope you will, too.
*Note: ANB is Ally Noel Baier, my beautiful daughter who died on May 3, 2020. I will write more about her in later blog posts. She was an amazing kid– smart and funny and kind. She died too soon, but she will live on in my writing, through the Ally League, and through the many things her family and friends do in her honor.