Monday, March 5, 2012

MONDAY MUSINGS: A Woman of Inspiration

 'I'm sanguine. I expect it [death] any day. But I live as if it will never happen.'

I’m not a person easily impressed, especially by people. I have met a few truly inspiring people in my life. Read about others whose accomplishments have wowed me. Oh, not ‘award winning’ whatever, but whose life has been a testament of a spirit and conviction, or body of work which has been impressive. They did it—whatever it happened to be.

In this case, it’s Ruth Gruber. Amazing woman. I caught part of the documentary, Ahead Of Time, this afternoon on The Movie Channel.  I say part of, because I was working in my office and went to get a cup of coffee and take a break when my ears picked up snatches of dialog from the show my husband was watching. It caught my interest and pulled me into the living room to see what it was. I only meant to stay long enough to satisfy my curiosity, and ended up anchoring down in my chair and watching the last 40 minutes of the show.

Did any of you see it? The things this woman has been involved with in her life. Especially when you consider her age—in her 20’s—and at time when women journalists were mainly covering ‘women’s’ fluff stuff, gardening, society pages, family issues, and maybe the occasional neighborhood news. They certainly were not jetting off, before there even were jets, to the hotspots of the world.

Ruth went places and did things that would raise the eyebrows today and we’re accustomed to women accomplishing noteworthy things or embarking on important work. But in the late 1920’s and 30’s? At a time when few women got Bachelor degrees, much less PhD’s by the time they were 20 (there weren’t any men getting them by 20 at time, either). College was a time for getting a teaching degree while waiting to find your husband. Didn’t change radically (except the degrees) in the next 20 years, either.

Here she was barely 19, single, and traveling alone (a big thing at that point in time) in 1930, to Germany for her graduate study. Let’s add some danger, shall we? She’s the child of Russian Jews and she’s living for a year in Germany when Hitler and the rising of anti-Semitism were just about full blown. I shake my head thinking what I’d feel as a mother watching my child do this. Of course, America was mostly in the dark when it came to what was happening in Germany until Hitler was in full power and even then, they felt it wouldn’t get worse. Phfft!  To her credit, she wrote about what she saw and heard when she returned home.

Ruth was 24 when she won a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship to study women under fascism, communism, and democracy. This is in 1935 and my grandmother, who was almost 5 years younger, was pregnant with my mother. While my grandmother was having her first child and finding out firsthand the joys of motherhood, Ruth was traveling to Soviet Siberia to interview women. She was the first foreign correspondent, male or female, to visit the Soviet Union and interview prisoners in Siberia. Six years later she’s sent on assignment, by Secretary Of The Interior, to Alaska to make an economic/social study of the state prior to it being opened to homesteaders and veterans. Can you imagine spending 18 months traveling around Alaska? Oh, this would be by bush plane, motor vehicle, and mostly by dogsled. What an adventure and only one of many more, some very dangerous, in her life.

At the time my grandmother was seeing her daughter getting ready to graduate from high school (my mom was 16 when she graduated in ’54 and she finished her college degree at 19, in Georgetown and met and married my dad in 1955), Ruth decided it was time to experience being a wife and mother. Of course, she got a bit of a start on her family (by several years) before my mom did, but comparing her life to what was going on with the women in mine…it boggles the mind. It gives me context.

“Have dreams, have visions, and let no obstacle stop you.” Ruth Gruber.  

I’d say she’s living proof of that statement, wouldn't you?

If you get the chance to see, Ahead Of Time, do it. It’s truly fascinating.

Upcoming Guests:

Wednesday, the 7th I will be having Terry Spear (A SEAL in Wolf’s Clothing) visiting and talking about bears—teddy bears that she makes.
Friday, the 9th, Alex Cavanaugh (CassaFire) will be visiting and his topic is on how writing has changed his life.

Wednesday, the 14th, Mike and Kathy Gear (First Contact Series and Searing Wind) will be interview guests and will be around to chat or answer questions.
Friday, the 16th, I have Diane Kelly (Death, Taxes and a Skinny No-Whip Latte )
Her topic is on trust.

Quite a round up of topics and guests, so be sure to stop back by.


Tonya Kappes said...

Ruth Gruber was a smart woman. I live by her words. When I set my mind to something, not much will stand in my way. If there are obstacles, I deal with them as they come along, and get through it.

Looking forward to your great lineup!

Jo said...

Never head of her sounds like a fascinating woman. Will look out for that programme.

Mason Canyon said...

That does sound like an inspiring movie. I'll definitely be on the lookout for it. You've got a great lineup of guests coming. I always enjoy posts by Terry and Alex. I just finished A Searing Wind by the Gears and especially look forward to their post. Can't wait to learn more about Diane too. Have a great week.

Thoughts in Progress

Kat Sheridan said...

Sounds like a great show and a most inspiring woman! And a great coming lineup!

Karen Walker said...

I've never heard of her, but will definitely check it out now. Thanks, Sia.

Shirley Wells said...

Wow. What a woman and what a story. I'd never heard of her but I shall check her out.

Johanna Garth said...

She sounds very inspiring. Haven't heard of her but will be on the look out for the documentary.

teddy bears said...

I hope you have a nice day! Very good article, well written and very thought out. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Amazing woman. Scary time to be in Germany.

Diane Kelly said...

My husband's grandmother was much like Ruth. She got a college degree years ago when most women were only housewives. My mother-in-law is also quite progressive, with a master's in environmental science. I'm thrilled to see this trail-blazing trait in my daughter, too!

Anonymous said...

I've seen a few posts about Ruth today. Must be a very popular and touching story. An amazing and inspiring post today. I did a Women of Science series last year and I should consider doing another one this year.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I wish I had seen this show. Women have come a long way thanks to people like Ruth. But there are still ways to go. Thanks for sharing this.