Mary Ann’s Remarks – May 15, 2014

In Honor of My Mother & Maternal Grandmother

Mary Ann Tipton

In addition to being here as a proud member of the fine organization Women’s Voices
Raised for Social Justice, I’m here representing myself and honoring two other women.

I am one of four children raised in Missouri’s Bootheel in Southeast Missouri. Our mother was married when she was just 16 years old. Her first child, my older brother, was born in Cape Girardeau when she was only 17 years old. Three short years later, her second child was born. That baby born in Sikeston was my sister. When my sister was four months old, our mother became pregnant again. She was 21 years old when I was born also in Cape Girardeau. In the first four years of her marriage, our young mother had three babies. At one time, there were two of us in diapers and a toddler to care for. Four years later, our younger brother was born in Poplar Bluff when our mother was 25 years old. In eight years, she had four children. To provide for the young, rapidly growing family, our father found work wherever he could. Often that took him away from home for weeks at a time. Our young mother’s body was exhausted and her hands were more than full. Thankfully her mother, our grandmother lived with us.

Our grandmother had one child. She was 21 years old when our mother was born. Our grandfather was 17 when he became a father. The young couple married, most likely not by choice.

It took me some years to realize the impact of unintended pregnancies on us as children, on our mother, our grandmother and the many other women in our small hometown. I was married at the tender age of 20 to a young man I started dating when I was 17. For seven years, we discussed “to have” or “not to have” children. The Supreme Court decided the landmark Roe v. Wade case just after our first wedding anniversary. Very thankfully, I had reproductive health choices neither my mother nor grandmother had.

Over the years, I’ve been inspired to work on reproductive health issues because of the enormous disparity in health care choices women have. Today, the choices are being further limited through misinformation and political maneuvering. I’m here today in part because I’m appalled by what’s happening to women’s health care. I often think of my mother and grandmother’s struggles when I become discouraged. They still inspire me to work toward the preservation of choices they never had. Those choices were guaranteed to women in 1973. Today, those choices are being eroded. That’s especially hard on women from rural areas like those in The Bootheel. Having to travel to St. Louis for a three day or 72 hour stay is more than onerous. For many, it’s impossible.

In closing, I would like to read a quote from the world famous anthropologist Margaret Mead. It helps explain why individuals like me and groups like Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice continue to work on behalf of all women. Ms. Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”