Women: a personal history

March is Women’s History Month and while there are countless historical figures to celebrate, I’d also like to recognize some amazing ladies who made a tangible difference in my life.

Like my first journalism teacher Joyce Peterson. She advised my high school newspaper (no easy task, I'm sure) and at a time when I often felt invisible she gave me a voice and a lasting sense of self-confidence.

Like my college professor, the late Leah Vande Berg. I took my first women's studies class from her, a communications course on the depiction of gender in the media. Vande Berg was so smart it would have been intimidating had she not also been a thoughtful listener, someone who respected ideas contrary to her own. I still remember a particularly heated but friendly elevator debate about Jodi Foster's character in The Silence of the Lambs.

Like my paternal grandmother. She died a few days after Christmas but her appetite for spontaneous song-and-dance routines—she was once known as the “Singing Sweetheart of Sheppard Air Force Base”—high drama and a strong whiskey drink inarguably shaped me.

Like my mother's sister, who went back to college in her thirties. At the time she was the single mother of two girls; I often babysat my cousins back then and her hard work made a lasting impression.

Like my mother. She left home to study nursing but because her parents footed the tuition, found herself still obligated to their strict rules. And so my mother decided to change the game: She joined the Army, paid for her own education and traveled the world.

My mother, like all the women I consider role models, taught me the importance of hard work, critical thinking and self-reliance. That's worth so much more than a month of celebration; it's good for a lifetime.