International Women’s Day 2017

This year for International Women’s Day it is time for me to put the spotlight on my maternal grandmother, Eva Graham Law. Although she was far from being the same personality as my activist, suffragette paternal grandmother I wrote about last year, they both shared the status of being strong single mothers. Both lost their husbands when their children were very young. Both worked and became independent women in their own way.


When my mother was three, my grandfather fell off the roof of a barn he was helping a neighbor build in Pawnee City, Nebraska. My grandmother was left with my mother and her three brothers aged 1, 5, and 7. They moved back to Des Moines where her mother, also a widow, lived. They started a boarding house in my great-grandmother’s house. My grandmother found a job as a clerk in a real estate title office where she worked until she retired. And she raised her family.

She was always cheerful and, although deaf, loved singing hymns a little off key in church. She kept a daily diary in a small five-year diary notebook with one page for each day of the year and about five lines designated for an entry each day.

I am indeed lucky to have spent my early years with my two grandmothers who helped shape my life more ways than they ever knew.

Mother, Mandela, and Me

And, I should add, my grandmother and my father. This personal memoir is about my family and how I perceive its connection with a great man.

First, and most recently, my mother died a month and a half ago at the age of 102. She lived a long and wonderful life. I was relieved for her when she choose to relinquish her life peacefully after she could no longer sustain it or do most of the things she once could do. I feel the same sense of relief for Mr. Mandela.

But my family history goes back further. Continue reading

Mother – December 28, 1910 to October 17, 2013

MotherThe last time I talked to Mother, when she was able to respond, she said, “You know I am leaving. I am flying out of here.” Today she flew. How lucky I have been to have the perfect mother for 73 years. Until a month ago she was still talking to her grandchild via Skype.

She was not always perfect (but close and still a lot of fun), which made her perfect. We were not always perfect and she understood. As one of her nurses said, “I hope she had a good flight.”

Photo of my grandmother and my father when he was a baby

A Little History in Honor of my Grandmother

Anna Ayer Williams, my grandmother, and Frank Williams, my fatherMy grandmother must have been thrilled ninety-two years ago today. Women in the United States were granted the right to vote on August 26, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was certified. My father’s mother, Anna Ayer Williams (for whom I was named), was a young woman living in Niagara Falls, New York, when she was a suffragette.

By 1920 women had worked 72 years, since 1848, for this right. Widowed in 1915 when my father was six, my grandmother supported herself and my father by teaching in one room schools in small Iowa towns, living with families in those towns. I am honored to be her namesake.

Another Texas wedding – relatively speaking

This time it is my niece’s wedding in Houston, Texas. My flight was on Southwest Airlines the week after the fuselage of a plane developed a gaping hole in the ceiling of the cabin at 30,000 feet, but all went well.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Memorial Drive Presbyterian ChurchAlthough I arrived too late for a spectacular lunch at the country club hosted by the groom’s grandmother, I did arrive in time for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. To say there was ample food is a huge understatement.

Wedding Day – Saturday, April 16, 2011

NASA LogoThe wedding was not until 5 p.m. on Saturday, so I had time to spare in the morning and afternoon. I needed space! After all, I was in Houston, a major space place.



Rockets at NASA So space it was until time for me to come back to earth  and blast off to a star-studded wedding. I practiced retrieving objects in space on a simulator, saw the original John Glenn claustrophobic space capsule (appropriate name), gazed at rocks from the moon, imagined the taste of freeze-dried strawberries sealed in in plastic, and marveled at the immense Saturn rocket.

Many of the stars in this wedding had appeared in an earlier Texas wedding. But the constellation had rearranged itself and some stars now were shining brighter. The bride and groom were the brilliant ones this time. But you can see many stars here on flickr.

Sonny and Emily

Tomorrow Emily and Sonny go east to Charleston and I go west to California. But we’ll meet again with this day to remember.

International Women’s Day

For International Women’s Day it seems fitting for me to celebrate my two grandmothers. Both faced steep challenges with grace and courage.

My grandmother with my father as an infant on her lapAnna Ayers Williams, my dad’s mother, was a suffragette in the early 1900s who worked for a time at Hull House in Chicago. She married a widower nearly twice her age, who had come to this country as a young coal miner from Wales and eventually became a Baptist minister in small Midwestern towns. He died when my father was six. She became a teacher in one-room schools in small Iowa towns where she and my father often lived with the families of her students.

She lived with us before her death when I was six and taught me to read, among many other things. I was named for her.

Eva Graham Law, Esther Law Williams, and Anne Williams c. 1975


Eva Graham Law was my mother’s mother. She too was widowed at a young age when her husband fell from the roof of a barn in Nebraska that he was helping a neighbor build. She had children aged one, three (my mother), five, and seven. To support her family she moved home to Des Moines where she ran a boarding house while working full-time as a clerk in a title company. She too lived with us for many years after she retired.

Both of my grandmother’s always managed to find enough money to help the “poor”.