Recently, while talking about Ragtown with two friends, Jenifer Badamo and Cristy Minton, the subject of strong women came up. Although my historical novel is set during the building of the Hoover Dam, I really tried to capture the experiences of the families involved in the project, not just the men who worked in the diversion tunnels. Yes, my guys are, for the most part, tough guys, but my women are strong, too, each in their own way. Since this is the beginning of what is known in my family as 'Kelly Week' (I'll explain that later), I thought it would be fun to tell you about a few of my strong Ragtown women.
Betsy Carter arrived in the desert eight months pregnant and gave birth to her youngest of three children on a hot desert night on the bank of the Colorado River. Although Betsy is the motherly influence, underneath that Mother Hubbard is one tough gal. She is a crack shot with a pistol, and not afraid to use it to protect her family.
As young girls, Mae and Sally had dreams of one day marrying and living happily ever after. However, when both of their parents died, Mae, a teenager, was forced to do whatever was necessary to take care of her younger sister. It was the 1930's and what few jobs were available were reserved for men. Mae and Sally work as prostitutes in the small cribs behind the Railroad Pass Casino.
Helen Carter is a sixteen year old firecracker. Small and redheaded, she has a mind of her own. While the other residents of Ragtown are withering under the desert heat, Helen seems to take her strength from it. She is part of the desert and finds beauty in what others consider ugly. If there is a rock of the novel, it is Helen.
So as 'Kelly Week' begins, my conversation with Jen and Cristy comes back around, because during the conversation, Cristy made the following comment, which really hit home:
I think we are ALL strong, just most of us don't see that in ourselves...
I have friends that have overcome breast cancer, have undergone chemotherapy for Hepatitis, have lost husbands and children. I know women who are raising kids with Autism and other disabilities, who are taking care of their parents and grandparents, and who are raising families on their own. I have writer friends who have dug deep into their souls to share painful past experiences, others who are working on advanced degrees to improve their lives, and still others that have become successful businesswomen in a world that is still dominated by men. These are the women I consider strong. I certainly don't always think of myself as strong, but I am a Nurse, and a mother and I have made it to 29 (whatever). So, in my own way, I am strong, too. As Cristy said, 'most of us don't see that in ourselves'. Well, it's time we do.
Now to 'Kelly Week'. National Nurses Week is celebrated annually from May 6, also known as National Nurses Day, through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. My birthday is on May 7, and I will be 29 (or something with a '9' in it). And of course, Mothers Day is May 13, and of all of the hats I wear, that's the one I cherish most.
But I'm changing 'Kelly Week' to 'Strong Women Week' (since it is a made-up week of celebration, I can do that). Thank the Nurses you know for all they do, show your Mother how much she means to you, and by all means, raise a glass to my 29-ish years. But also, take the time to say thank you to ALL of the women in your life for just being the amazing people they are. And women, take a minute to see the strength in yourself. Then say it loud:
I AM STRONG.