Happy International Women's Day
BY MAYA ANGELOU
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
We talked some phenomenal women over the past few days and compiled some lovely, inspirational stories for you to read. Two ladies, both brave, both inspirational. We hope you enjoy their stories.
Born in 1922, Madge turned 95 in February – and she has definitely been busy.
She was a middle child of seven. Her two younger sisters live in Hereford and still come to visit her regularly. Her father was an inspector for the Great Western Railway, and her mother was a housewife, as women did not work in those day, Madge explains.
Madge showed great potential at a very young age, therefore, at the age of nine, she was granted a scholarship at Newent Grammar School. On leaving school, Madge started a job as an accounts clerk at Painter Brothers in Hereford and got herself her own accommodation. She explains she enjoyed being an accounts clerk as she liked to work with figures.
In 1939 WW2 broke out, and in 1942 Madge cided to join the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Her brilliance was recognised there as well, as she rose to a 2nd officer, and became the first female Paymaster for sailors, based mainly in Chatham, Kent.
The same year, Madge got engaged to a Hereford man, Bill, who also worked at Printer Bros. They decided to get married on 1 April 1944, but as it was still war time, there was no big celebration. Madge continued to excel in many things, becoming the county’s Tennis Champion in 1946/7. After the war, they settled in Hereford, and had two children together – a son in 1952 and a daughter in 1955.
Madge decided to go back to work as a part time secretary at the
Hereford College of Arts, and in 1963 trained as a primary school teacher. She became a teacher in St Paul’s Junior School in Tupsley in 1966, where she stayed until retirement in 1982. Four years later, her loving husband Bill passed away after 44 years of marriage.
Even at the age of 95, Madge’s social life is active and exciting. She is a member of the Ex Wrens Association, the WEA, and others, hence constantly receiving correspondence and visits from old friends. She even gets invitations to other Wrens’ birthday parties who have obviously had just an exciting a life as Madge.
“I wanted to become a teacher, I knew that from a very young age,” explains Ruth when I ask her about her past. “My first job as a teacher was in a small village school in Devon. I enjoyed it, but I realised my true passion was working with children with special needs. I became interested in working with the blind, and saw an advert for a job in a school in Kent, got my education, learned to read braille, and that’s how my career working with blind children started.”
“My knowledge and Christian faith took me everywhere,” she says. “In 1950s I taught overseas, but then my parents became older so I returned to England to look after them.” Ruth then taught at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford until she retired.
I admire Ruth’s passion for her work but one question still lingers on my mind. Did she ever marry or have children? “No, I never married. It was not on the cards for me. I never met anyone who I loved more than the children I worked with. I devoted myself to them.”
I find Ruth’s devotion humbling; however, she disagrees with me. “There is nothing special about what I did, we always admire other people’s lives more than our own. I simply followed the paths life was taking me – which was overseas a lot. Sometimes I think about whether it would not have been better to have married and had children who could visit me now in my old age, but the children I taught through my work were worth every second of my time and will always be in my memory.”