Creative Women of our Past
It’s women’s history month here in the U.S., and it has made me pause to think about the book that Rebekah and I wrote last year, coming out in August of this year. It is a book that lived in her mind for a long time, and the collaboration added new insights into the “why” of it. There’s a family tradition aspect to this particular book more than any of her others. The book had us thinking about our own creative histories, and in light of that, has been dedicated to both of my great-grandmothers (mom’s grandmother and grandmother-in-law).
So today I want to share a little bit of their stories. They will never make a list of top women we ought to remember, but they make my own list. Their stories influenced my own and my mother’s, and hopefully you will begin to ponder your own matriarchal heritage. Perhaps you will give thanks for the quietly inspiring women the Lord puts in your life.
(Great) Grandma Mohler was my mother’s grandmother, and her name was Zella. I only remember small snippets of her, but they remain powerful images for me. One of my strongest memories is helping move her out of her apartment near Dayton into a nursing home, and putting together puzzles with her. More than that, however, I remember this gentleness, a softness, and a quiet fortitude. She had the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen (my sister Karly inherited those) and always wore that beautiful white hair in a bun. (You can see me with an old picture of her that I got to see at a family reunion to the left).
What I know about her, from those who remember her better than I, is that she sewed. Nothing fancy, just useful things for anybody. I still have a blanket she made for me as a child. She wasn’t above using cartoon character fabric if she thought it would make us smile, and mine featured the bold yellow Tweety Bird from Looney Tunes. I used that blanket all the time. It kept me warm, it was a cape, a magic carpet, a tent—if I could dream it, the patterns disappeared and it became something from a far off land.
She passed her sewing knowledge on to my grandma (you’ll see a project collaboration with her in the book) who thought it would never be passed on to my mom, until one day mom suddenly became interested in sewing (a story for another time). And where do you think I learned to stitch? My mom. So Zella Mohler represents the inheritance of the handmade spirit in this book.
Granny Smith (as she preferred to be called) was my dad’s grandmother. I have many more vivid memories of her, as we visited her every year over Memorial Day weekend on Long Island (you can see her picture on the right). Those seemingly eternal car rides were always redeemed by a delightful weekend with Granny. We would sit on her sun porch, walk down to the little section of beach at the end of her street, and she would tell us stories about the house they had a long time ago on Fire Island and about my dad when he was young. We would eat the best seafood at tiny places on the docks.
Granny’s house was full of antiques and interesting objects, including a beautiful collection of beach glass she had collected over the years. Not only was she a collector, but she was a maker. She tried pretty much everything you can think of, from block printing to rug hooking to needlework to etching. She always took a great interest in my mom’s artwork, which meant a great deal to my mom. We all loved visiting Granny each year. Marjorie Smith represents the adventurously creative spirit in this book.
So think about the women who helped cultivate your artistic spark. Maybe they weren’t related, but because they passed along the maker spirit, they are part of your heritage. Share one woman who influenced your creativity in the comments below and how she did it. And remember to pass this gift along to your own children, grandchildren, neighbors, and anyone else who crosses your creative path!