My Personal Imahot
When it comes to grandmothers, I hit the jackpot. My grandmothers are some of the strongest and most incredible women I’ve ever met, and because I come from a blended family, I have three of them! My grandmothers are models of power and grace, and they haven’t sacrificed their passions and values as they’ve aged. They’re all fierce defenders of justice, and I am who I am today largely because of their influence.
Muriel Reid, my grandmother on my step-mom’s side, was an active member of Women Strike for Peace (WSP) in the 1960’s, which was an organization founded largely to oppose nuclear testing. During the Vietnam War, WSP turned more to anti-war activism. Through Muriel’s work with WSP, she experienced what it was like to be on the ground floor of political activism, and she’s shared with me the excitement and frustration integral to activist work. Muriel was a staunch activist throughout the 1960’s and 70’s, and, along with my grandfather, picketed for the integration of public schools. Muriel’s generation paved the way for future female activists and has laid the foundation for my generation of change-makers. Muriel just recently celebrated her 90th birthday, and she continues to be as passionate and powerful as ever, which I find hugely inspiring as a young woman at the start of my activist career.
My grandmother Andrea Clardy, my dad’s mom, is a true force of nature. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in her house, and we’re extremely close. She was an English teacher in an inner-city school for many years, and she has dedicated her life to writing plays that are focused on injustice and activism. She’s a very accomplished playwright, and she has her plays produced in theater competitions all over the country.
The first Thursday of every month, Andrea goes to a Black Lives Matter vigil in her town. I went with her recently, and it became clear very quickly that this was one of the best things she possibly could have shared with me. She cares so deeply about equality, and she’s always engaging in dialogue, and asking questions about ways to be more conscientious. In so many ways, I am the person that I am because of her. My love for literature and art comes from her passion and the example she has set, and the same is true for my dedication to social activism. She truly exemplifies what it means to be passionate. Her fierce pursuit of justice is matched in intensity only by her love for her family, and I consider myself infinitely blessed to have her as my grandmother.
My mom’s mom, Vicki Goldsmith, has one of the fullest lives of anyone I know. Her lifestyle flies in the face of every expectation and stereotype about women her age. Since Vicki’s retirement after an incredibly successful career as a high school teacher (which earned her the Iowa Teacher of the Year Award in 2005 for English, Women’s Studies, and Theories of Knowledge), she began a new chapter of her life that to me represents the importance of being at ease with one’s self. She has a large group of female friends with whom she’s constantly sharing meals in her garden, and she and her friends have a long-standing tradition in which they get together and swap all the old clothes they’ve grown tired of. She travels to exotic places, reads, and practices her French. What I find inspiring about my grandma Vicki is that she never, ever stopped learning. I have been a passionate student all my life, and I look to my grandmother as an example of what intellectual curiosity can do. After her teaching career ended, she filled her retirement with opportunities for intellectual fulfillment. She serves as an example of someone deeply committed to ongoing growth, and she has shown me the benefits and joys of being a lifetime learner.
My grandmas are perfect examples of what it means to live a full life at every age, and to never stop pursuing one’s passion. The course of my life has been shaped by my passions, and I owe that to these women. I am supremely lucky to be surrounded by such amazing role models of womanhood, intellectual curiosity, and passion for justice.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Clardy, Julia. "My Personal Imahot." 22 June 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 7, 2021) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/my-personal-imahot>.