Because of Her: A Celebration of Cincinnati Moms
From those first steps to that first heartbreak to the first moment we master a generation-old family recipe, mothers have been through it all. Our relationships with our mothers vary: whether we can’t get enough of their advice and support, or sometimes it feels like we have too much of it, moms continue to shape the stage that we dance upon. So here, we collected 27 quotes from women we’ve featured in the past year to show the numerous ways mothers – and grandmothers – influence our lives.
My grandmother – my mom’s mom – is my person. She’s been married for 60-some years to my grandpa. They own a drywall business, where he does the drywall and she basically runs the rest of it. She’s a total fashionista with incredible outfits for days. They have a boat. Every anniversary they go on an international trip, even though they’re in their seventies. While we’ve butted heads in the past, she continues to inspire me because she’s so in charge of her life and how she lives it. I love that. How we want to live is something Suzy and I think about when it comes to our business and that has a lot to do with her role in my life.
She, like all mothers, is the reason I am here. But I have a very different experience of “mom” than most people. My mother has a severe form of schizophrenia. She was also a sex worker. The mental disorder caused her (and my) life to take more than a few rollercoaster twists. The intersections of her disability, poverty, and the oppression she experienced both in her profession and as a woman have been some of the most influential factors in my life.
My mom was one of 10 women in her med school class, and at that time she had to fight to even get into med school because it “wasn’t for women.”
I also want to mention my grandmother on my dad’s side of the family. She and my father raised me when my mother became too ill. She’s this really tough, yet graceful woman who grew up in ʼ50s/’60s era of first wave feminism. She has this great story about having her mind blown by reading “The Feminine Mystique.” It’s a perspective that I think gets easily lost in all the many iterations of the movement. Growing up, I often found her vantage point to be too rigid for my ʼ90s kid worldview. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to value having heard about the ways her life began to change as feminist movements developed.
Probably the most influential woman in my life was my mother. She impresses me in a lot of ways. She had three little kids and she double mastered at UC with three little kids, made the meals and made sure they were ready for when my dad got home, then she would leave and further her career and her studies. I always look at her as that benchmark of someone who works really hard. She was always that mom who did everything for us and then stayed up to work until 2 and got up at 6. I don’t know too many women like her.
Since I’ve moved here, I have met so many strong women, but I have to say that one person who really hit home was at home, and that’s my mom. We’re Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. That’s us. I’ve been her rock and she’s been mine. She’s made a big impact on how I’ve thrived as a human being.
My mom’s been through a lot through her life. I’ve always had very open communication with her; I can go to her about anything. With my trauma, she was the first person I texted after it happened, and she was immediately supportive. It was never, “What did you do?” It was, “Okay, how can I help you?”
Also, with my trauma, a big thing for me is how it’s affected her. There’s a big piece of me that felt like a burden for a really long time, ʼcause not only did my life change; her life changed, too. I can’t imagine having a daughter and that happening to her, and feeling helpless in the sense that I can’t do anything for her, and having those thoughts, you know: “What if I did something differently?” I know she has had those thoughts.
She was always changing the rules for women.
But, she’s been willing to do whatever it takes. A big piece is just having her as that support, but also as an inspiration, because of everything that she’s gone through. We’re very similar in the sense that we have this whole fighter attitude. We’re not gonna sit down and be like, “Okay, this is acceptable.” If something’s wrong, we’re gonna speak our minds.
My mom will be 64 in October, not in the greatest of health, but she stands on her feet for 10 hours a day, every day. And she is my hero for a lot of reasons. Growing up and going in and out of jail, you understand that jail is a place for bad people, but my mom, she did what she had to do to make sure that I had what I needed. My mom is pretty amazing; she’s really sweet and polite. Everybody loves my mom.
She’s been really supportive of the campaign. She works second shift, so she can’t come to things, but when I was in high school, I played basketball and the same shift she works now, she worked then, and she couldn’t come see me play a lot. But she makes up for it; she’s taken off work to come to things on the campaign, and that’s really cool ʼcause she’s like, “Now I’m able to do this.” She was so afraid of losing her job – she knew she had a criminal background; she knew she wasn’t very employable, so she couldn’t take those days off. But now she’s been there for 27 years; she has leeway, so she gets to take off and come support me politically. She actually moved so she can vote for me. Raised her rent just $50, just so she could move into city limits so she can vote for me. She don’t have the money to do stuff like that, but the fact that she did means a lot to me. My mom’s everything.
I have always been surrounded by strong women in my life, but the one that stands out would be my mom. She came to the US and took a risk with us girls to make it work. In India, she was a housewife with no business experience – came from her dad’s house to her husband’s. At 40, she had the courage to start over with us in the US.
I had to look away so I wouldn’t cry. My mother. But not in the ways that you would think. I think that sometimes we’re really hard on people around us – especially people that we love the most. Lately, we’ve been like this, [bumps her fists together] my mom and I. Because we’re the same person. I’ve heard it said that the people in our lives are mirrors of the things we need to work on, and truer shit has never been spoken. I look at her, what she’s going through right now, and I look at myself and what I’m going through. I’m realizing, wow, I’m coming into contact with the nature of love. Not conditional love, like real love when you love somebody unconditionally no matter what they do. She’s always had that love for me; she’s my mom. I’m not saying every mother has that; I hate making those kinds of generalizations because motherhood is hard. It’s a whole new experience and everybody’s going to feel it differently; they’re entitled to that.
She’s just an amazing example to me of what resilience means.
–Rachel Catherine Roberts
But speaking to my mother, she’s always been a nurturer. That’s her gift: She nurtures, she loves, she heals. She’s a nurse. Sometimes her love is very intense, but she loves. I think that I see things in her that have been passed onto me that I don’t like. Because I don’t like them, I want to get rid of them; I get angry with her. I get combative with her. I don’t extend her that same unconditional love. I think right now, that’s something that I really want to do. It’s a process; we’re all growing; she’s growing. She’s damn near 50 years old and still growing, and who am I to judge her that harshly? To judge her at all? She’s my damn mom. So I would say her because of both the warm, lovey-dovey things she’s done for me as a woman, and those lessons that she brought me through softly, and for the rough lessons I’m getting now.
My mother died when I was six weeks old and my second mom – I don’t call her my stepmother – was a graduate of Edgecliff. She went on a scholarship. She lived behind Vine Street School. She was familiar with and walked OTR as a child. She was born in 1919. She was a chemistry major and she was the first woman lab technician hired by P&G. My second mom was an interesting, strong, intelligent person who overcame a lot of barriers.
My mom was one of 10 women in her med school class, and at that time she had to fight to even get into med school because it “wasn’t for women.” She didn’t get in for like two years, so she went to grad school and kept getting A’s and every year would go back and be like, “I don’t understand why I’m not getting in. I don’t understand why I’m not getting in,” and finally they were just like, “Okay! We’ll let you in.” So that aspect of her, I wanted to be that way. And if you asked my mom, she wouldn’t be proud of herself. She’s just like, “Well, yeah. How else would I have gotten into med school?” She wouldn’t have thought at any moment that she was heroic or strong or anything.
Interview by Suzanne Wilder. Photography provided by Christa Hyson.
I really looked up to my grandmother. And I feel like the world would benefit from an Italian grandmother, because she takes you to places and encourages you to do good. But then she also can smack you across the face if you’re doing something you shouldn’t be. The work ethic, the nurturing – it’s very militant. But it's also very caring.
Interview by Dani Clark. Photography provided by Katie Jaeger.
I have to say my mom. She is the epitome of a strong woman. She has had a lot of curveballs in her life, but remains poised and real. She’s my favorite person of all time. Professionally, and as a human being in general, she has been someone I look to for guidance.
Interview by Katie Gravely. Photography provided by Shanequa Johnson.
The woman in my life that inspires me is my mother. She is the epitome of a superwoman. Raymie L. Hooks always wanted to be a nurse, but life happened, and she had me at a very young age. She did what she knew how to do, which was work and hustle to make sure we had what we needed growing up. She never showed her children her weakness but always showed her motivation. She never stopped going after her dreams.
After me and my little brother were adults, Raymie went back to school and finally graduated with her nursing degree. She has taught me what it means to be a strong woman and to never stop going after your dreams.
My mom is my number one, influential woman, lady boss. My mom was a special education teacher and did that for years and years. Then she got cancer, which threw a wrench in her life and our family life. We ended up moving to be closer to my grandparents and I had to switch schools. The doctors told her she had a 30 percent chance of living. It was a crazy time. I still feel like I didn’t fully understand what was going on when it happened – I did and I didn’t. And yet, she was awesome through it all. That’s just my mom. She couldn’t be a more positive person. It’s been a 10-year remission and she’s fine now.
She also always pursues what she wants. Right now, she’s babysitting kids because she likes hanging out with them. In the past, she even worked at a smoothie place up the street from me simply because she loves smoothies so much. I don’t know how she does everything she does. Sometimes, she’ll call me in the morning to say, “I’m just walking the dog. It’s gorgeous out here,” and it’ll definitely be raining outside. Truly, if I could be like anyone, I would want to be like her.
My mom was a single mom, and she raised me and my brother, and there were just things that I always respected about her growing up. One thing that’s really stuck with me, and I’ve chosen to do this myself with my children, is she didn’t bring around men all the time. If she was in a relationship, it was because she was in a committed relationship.
She’s certainly always believed in me, you know, even when maybe I didn’t believe in myself. Even to this day, I mean, I think I’ve done a lot of great stuff and have a lot great stuff still to do, but sometimes I do feel bad, like, “Oh, well I could be here if I wouldn’t have done this.” I beat myself up about stuff and she’s always like, “No. I’m proud of you.” And for me, that means a lot to hear that from my mom.
Interview by Hillary Copsey. Photography provided by Mary Ellen Mitchell.
In terms of just keep going and get it done, I'd have to say my grandmother. Her name is Evelyn. She's 88 and she still works. She owns the Dairy Freeze in Arkansas. She's the strongest person I know. She just broke her hip and she takes her walker and puts herself in the car and drives to work. She's been running a vocational rehab program for 30 years, though she doesn't know it. She just employs the scrappiest bunch and runs this restaurant. She's had two of her four children die of cancer. We have her picture – we have this wall of her and my mother and Ben's mother, and I show my daughter and say, “This is your legacy.” Just really strong, passionate, eccentric women.
My mom is my best friend. She stayed at home with us until we were old enough. My brothers and I are all four years apart. Just looking at her and knowing she goes to work every day with a smile on her face... She is the one who really instilled in me to help others to make you feel better about yourself. And she was right, like a mom! Helping others, no strings attached, makes you a better person.
Interview by Suzanne Wilder. Photography provided by Megan Park.
My mom is a really staunch feminist. She went back to school for her MBA when I was in fourth grade. She was always changing the rules for women. I found out about EMILY’s List from her when I was 20. She’s very influential.
Of course, your mom is always influential, right? And she’s sitting right here with us. She raised me, so of course she had a lot of influence. She has been an advocate of this work I do, and has embraced it from the beginning.
She’s never been a naysayer. When I told her I was leaving my job, she didn’t say, “Are you insane?”
Interview by Teri Heist. Photography provided by Rachel Roberts.
My mother is so strong and so resilient and absolutely brilliant. Her parents passed away when she was quite young. She was married, but my biological father left right after I was born, and so for the first three years of my life she was a single mother. She didn’t have family help, but she had a great network of friends who were very supportive. And then she met my father, John, who adopted me when they got married. She went back to law school when I was almost done with high school. She’s just an amazing example to me of what resilience means, of what you can do when you work hard, you’re blessed with intelligence, and you foster your friendships.
It’s definitely my mom, Marissa. She’s definitely that person who has listened and understood and questioned and told me I could do better and just modeled a lot of grace toward me. We’re a lot alike, so in one of our last conversations, she says to me, “You know sometimes I think to myself, ‘Well, if Leslie can do it, I can do it, too!’” I laughed because I’m thinking, “If my mom can do it, I can do it, too!”
She continues to inspire me because she’s so in charge of her life and how she lives it.
She’s definitely been one of my most long-term friends, and I think that’s made a difference, knowing I don’t just have a mom, but someone who supports me. She told me when I ran, “Leslie, you’re my kid; I’m going to support you. But I need to know why.” I remember so appreciating that. It was so important that I answered then, because halfway through, I realized, it’s not so much what I can get out of it; it’s for the people of Norwood. It’s what can we do to feel good about our story, to love where we live. I want my home to be a thriving community, and that’s going to take all of us.
One person who comes to mind is my maternal grandmother. She represented breaking away from the norm, in terms of what was expected of women. She was a nurse, and she was in the Army Nurse Corps in World War II, in the European theater in a field hospital. After my grandfather died, she remarried. Then she divorced. After that, she went back to school and got a doctorate at Vanderbilt, and she was high up in one of the hospitals in Nashville; she was head of all the nurses.
There's World War II stuff in The New Neighbor that was influenced by her. She was still alive at the time, and I interviewed her quite a bit. After she died I found a box of letters home that she had written during the war in her house and a scrapbook, and then I also read a great deal about nurses in that era. So I ended up using some of that material in that book. She just embodied being smart and independent and kind of no-nonsense and departing from the kind of conventional idea, certainly for her time, of what a woman could be and do.
Everybody has to say their mom, but it’s true. She’s one of the most compassionate, supportive people I know, and I try to live up to that. My grandmother was the same way; she was extremely forgiving and loving and willing to take in people, whether or not she knew them.
Well, I found out I was pregnant with my second child when my first child was five months old, when I was a tenure-track professor that was also starting a company. Needless to say, it came as an incredible surprise. There’s this great picture of me that says it all. In it, I’m holding my five-month-old, Clara, in one hand, and the pregnancy stick in the other. I’m just sitting on the floor after learning the news, while Clara is having a meltdown about something completely unrelated. My face is completely colored with redness and surprise. My mother, seeing the combined emotional state of a toddler and the utter shock of her own daughter, seized the opportunity to capture the situation in a photograph.
It’s not happenstance that my mom would be the first to come to mind when answering this question, because having family nearby played such a central role in my ability to continue building a business while having time with my kids. Motherhood and professional life, especially in those first six months to a year, was a serious hustle where I found myself having to shift in both of those roles. I remember doing the wildest things – now that I talk to other moms I know it’s not that out there, but I learned how to pump in the car. I would be driving from one client meeting to another one across town, so I would keep a cooler and a charger for my pump in the car. At any given time, I could have been twisting a bottle cap on at a stoplight minutes before my next meeting. It’s important that women talk about these things because the logistics of motherhood and being a professional are both profound and hilarious.
Interview by Kiersten Feuchter. Photography provided by Lourdes Ward.
On a personal note, my mother. And she will deny it tooth and nail. She still does. She always says, “I’m so proud of you and what you do.”
And I tell her, “Mom, you always did it without thinking it was volunteering. You helped friends; you helped neighbors.” She volunteered at Shawnee Elementary for 10 years. I mean, she started at 75 years old. She just retired a couple years ago when she started getting dizzy spells.
Well, of course my mom, aunts, and grandma. They didn’t influence me to become a farmer, but they’ve always been very supportive. They always wanted to visit and be a part of whatever I was doing. Now that I’m home, they show up to help out, and if mom can’t, my aunt will. Grandma even delivers doughnuts now and then. [Laughs.]
My mom has given me a lot of that passion for social justice and making change. I've watched her do that at her job and I've watched her stand up for herself. I've watched her continue to learn and grow throughout her life, which is very inspiring because I think once you sort of reach mid-20s, it's nice to to see that you can continue to change and learn new things.