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Our grandmothers are our greatest history

Editor’s Note: This is a part of a collection of stories SDNN will publish throughout the month of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. Join us as we recognize Women’s History Month by sending in your stories too and checking SDNN every day for stories from other women in our region. Happy Women’s History Month!

Usually when we contemplate women’s history month we think about a prominent woman’s contribution to society. Often, however, it is the women within our own families who influence us with their advice, wisdom and courage.

Grandmothers have a special role in our hearts. Both of my grandmothers were strong intelligent women role models and amazingly both were educated women when most were not. They empowered me with the lessons they learned.

My grandmother, Caroline, born in England in 1893, moved to India with her family as a young girl. Caroline was a pharmacist and she knew how to make all kinds of medicines. In 1956, she immigrated to the United States to live with us. We had a particularly close bond, and through her stories, I learned about her amazing adventures and her willpower to overcome the many challenges throughout her life.

Challenges are experiences that provide a framework to become successful. I will always remember my grandmother’s words: “If there is something new, I always try to learn about it.” The greatest lesson my grandmother Caroline taught me was to keep an open mind. New ideas can only happen with an open mind.

My other grandmother, Edith, born in 1903, grew up poor. My grandmother was proud of her education. She was the only girl in her family, and her two brothers worked to pay her tuition so she could attend the University of the Pacific’s Conservatory of Music in Northern California.

During her lifetime, Edith taught many students to play the piano and organ, and she volunteered her music skills for weekly church services. She also taught my mother how to play the piano and I still recall the beautiful classical music played by my mother.

Edith’s greatest strength was her compassion for others. During the great depression, homeless hobos would knock on her door. She never turned anyone hungry away. My grandmother’s small acts of kindness had a ripple effect on others. Compassion is important because it enriches lives. The small act of caring can have a profound influence on just one person.

With today’s busy lifestyles, we often don’t have enough time to learn about our grandmothers’ personal stories. During women’s history month, pick up the phone or write an e-mail to your mother, grandmother or other relatives to learn about your grandmother. Or better yet, ask your church, club or organization to hold a “What I Learned from my Grandmother” enrichment event. Sharing our grandmothers’ stories strengthens the fabric of our society.

Tracy Emblem is an attorney and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, California’s 50th District.