Over the Easter Break, I found myself digging through old photo albums and scrapbooks. During this time I stumbled upon my personal hero and inspiration for my penn name, my great grandmother Mary Wildes.
I never knew her, but my apartment is filled with her paintings and I’ve been told by countless relatives that I behave just as she did. This makes the me most happy, because from the stories I’ve heard about Mary Wildes, she was a complete and total badass. She…
- smoked like chimney.
- HATED being called “sweet”–it was her least favorite world.
- was an awesome feminist! She owned her own car and didn’t get married until she was nearly 30 which, apparently, was a big fucking deal back in the 1930s.
- also despised being called cute.
- was one of five women in the first female graduating class at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
- was the daughter of William Wildes, the owner of American Crystal Sugar Company ,and together they were pioneers in workers’ health and health care. They provided a “universal health care” type system for their employees before, throughout, and after the Great Depression.
- balanced her own check book without a calculator until she passed away in her 80s.
- was fiercely independent before and during her marriage and after she was widowed.
- was the CEO of a major corporation at the age of 30 when she briefly took over American Crystal Sugar while her father was ill.
- preferred firm handshakes and straight scotch.
- hated the south, only relocating with her husband, my grandfather, and his siblings to Alabama on doctor’s orders to seek lower altitude for her husband’s blood pressure.
- hated terms like “bless your heart” and “I’m so blessed” and most things that southern ladies said and did.
- stood 6 ft. tall and preferred her two inch heeled pumps.
Women in my family have been shrinking in terms of impact and influence for decades. But it is uplifting and amazing how only four generations ago, such an incredible woman existed in my family.
Here’s to you, Mary Wildes! Thank you for being a badass and for reminding me that great things are possible.