The day before International Women’s Day: more stories on how grandmothers inspire us

The Stephen Lewis Foundation has been asking Canadians how grandmothers inspire them for International Women’s Day. We are pleased to share the following stories and reflections with you.

I was fortunate enough to have two amazing grandmothers, both of whom were named Margaret, and for whom I was given my middle name.

My Granny (my maternal grandmother) had many talents, but the things I remember the most about her was her quirky sense of humour and her patience.  She would spend hours with me teaching me how to sew and bake.  I can also credit her with brining tap dancing into my life, as she was the one who bought me my first pair of tap shoes.  My Granny loved to dance and did highland dancing well into her sixties. When I was eight she found a pair of second-hand tap shoes at a garage sale that happened to be in my size.  My parents had no choice but to enrol me in tap classes.  Tap became such an important part of my life and something I still enjoy doing.

My paternal grandmother, Amma as I called her, was also an incredible woman who showed unconditional love to her family. After fleeing Nazi Germany in the late 30’s, my grandparents gave up everything and started a new life in England. They lived a happy life but due to a number of circumstances my grandmother took on the role of primary caregiver for her young grandson.  I often think of my Amma’s generosity and strength.

Given the close kinship I had with my grandmothers, it therefore felt natural to me that I began working with the amazing women in Canada who make up the Grandmothers Campaign.  Working alongside these elder stateswomen, I feel constantly inspired by their creativity, perseverance and the sense of solidarity they have with the indomitable grandmothers in Africa.

Helen Margaret
There are so many ways I can describe my Bubby Elsa but I remember her in her happiest and healthiest days as a strong, independent and caring woman. My Zaidy passed away when I was three years old, but  my Bubby still filled the house with delicious home-cooked meals that included lots of honey cake, epic games of Rummy-Q that we would play past my bedtime, her computer that I taught her how to chat on-line with and so many lovely trinkets and treasures. My Bubby arrived in Canada during the second World War and like many, arrived with very little. Even after living in Montreal for most of her life, she still can’t speak French and pronounces ‘Jean Talon’ like ‘Gene Tah-len.’ Bubby Elsa has a sharp, feisty and often stubborn personality but she is still a social butterfly. She had a stroke a few years ago and much has changed since then – she moved from her house to an assisted living facility and her mobility was greatly affected. But from time to time, I still see that feistiness and spirit in her that she manages to hold on to. It’s hanging on and having close family around that helps her stay strong which is how I’ll always remember her.

Lauryn K.
My grandmother, Franny. She inspires me still, today. A descendant of Thomas D’arcy McGee, she was raised during the Great Recession and served overseas with the Red Cross during the Second World War.

A powerhouse of wit, love, and intellect, nobody could resist her. Her jokes and bonfire songs at Fort William, her gift of gab, and those all consuming hugs…she was infectious.

Had she grown-up in a different era, I have no doubt that she would have been a leader in the public or private sector, and I suspect she might have been a bit of a rabble rouser as well.

How has she inspired me? She has taught me that family comes first, that we should love always, and that we should never put our elbows on the dining room table.

Joe C.
My grandmother was a going concern. She wasn’t very parental, and she didn’t really care that much about any of her grandchildren except me. I think she sensed a kindred spirit. She lived her own life, partying her way through Prohibition, kicking against the restrictions imposed by the government and by society. She never knit a sweater, baked a cookie, or sang a lullaby. But she made me laugh until I peed my pants, and she taught me how to swear like longshoreman and speak up when I saw something I didn’t think was right. Not your typical grandmother, but then neither am I and my grandkids seem to like me just the way I am – flawed but funny. Miss you Nana – wish you could’ve continued the party with us.

Deb M.
Twitter mentions
@triciadparker: @stephenlewisfdn Osteoperosis is taking its toll on my Nana’s body yet she’s still a relentless community volunteer-so selfless #granspiration

@re_markable1: @stephenlewisfdn Oma left hew home alone, onto a boat, carved a new life. 80 yrs later, her life has led to 47 others. #IWD #granspiration

@HeidyMo: @stephenlewisfdn My ‘mamá’ is my rock! She is selfless, full of love & great advice! <3 #granspiration #IWD

@RobinAlights: @stephenlewisfdn my grandma ran two tourist camps in northern Ont and raised two kids back in the 40s, defying gender norms! #granspiration

How do grandmothers inspire you? Share your stories with Stephen Lewis Foundation for International Women’s Day: write a story, email us a note, post on Facebook or tweet using the hashtag #granspiration, share a photo or create a video to tell us how they motivate you! E-mail

  • Mary Byberg

    My Nana, Violet, was one of the most profoundly influential people in my life. She passed away in June 2010 at the age of 96. Nana was born the last of five children, one of the three that survived to adulthood. Her mother died when she was six. Her father went to war in 1916, and returned. She lived through the Great Depression. Her husband went to war in 1940, leaving her with two children to raise, and returned. She lived through so much, and not only survived, but remained a positive and determined woman. She understood what is was like to grow up motherless. When my mom, Nana’s daughter, died in 1977, leaving me and my seven siblings motherless (all of us were between the ages of 10 – 19), it was like we shared a kind of knowing. Nana was there – at our weddings, when our first babies were born, at our kids weddings, family events, always the rock, the steady female presence in our lives. She was the ultimate grandmother…the way everyone says a Nana ought to be. I was there when she took her last breath on this earth, and I told her how privileged I felt being in her life. I have a grandchild now, my Nana’s great, great grandson – she adored him by the way. My hope is that he will see me the way I saw my Nana, and that I can be to him, what my Nana was to me.

  • Jodi

    At 46, I feel so blessed to have a grandmother that continues to inspire her family on a daily basis. My Babka, (slovak for grandmother) is 92 years old. Her life has been dedicated to serving others with a quiet strength that never wanes despite age, challenge or distance. Babka is the glue that holds our family together. She is always there for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Without judgement, she supports, loves and welcomes us into her humble home. She listens to our triumphs and tribulations and only offers advice when asked. She accepts us and loves us unconditionally. Babka begins each and every day with gratitude. Growing up in poverty has taught her to be grateful for everything that she has and to be mindful of her carbon footprint (she was an environmentalist before it was cool). Our Babka is the link to our past and the model for our family’s values as we move forward.

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *