To celebrate Mother’s Day 2017, NFWL asked members to share their stories of their mothers and motherhood. Here is Massachusetts State Representative Colleen Garry’s story:
We, as a people, are not born strong. It is the people around us that sculpt us into the version we are as adults. For me, it was the brave, brilliant women in my family that shaped me into being the leader I am today.
My grandmother, Marguerite (Boland) Burke, lost her father at a very young age and her mother, Catherine Boland, raised their children on her own, as a single mother. Growing up in the early 1900s, Marguerite lived without the right to vote. She was 27 years old when the 19th Amendment of the Constitution was passed, granting women’s suffrage. Never taking the right to vote for granted she even voted during the last days of her life. At 80 years old, she made her way to the state primary election to cast the vote she valued so immensely.
When Marguerite married and had six children, her husband had difficulties getting and sustaining a job. Marguerite, a very skilled seamstress, worked tirelessly to provide for her children, becoming the breadwinner of the household. She ran the WPA (Works Progress Administration) Sewing Project while raising her daughters with the belief that they could do anything they set their minds to. She supported their dreams so much so that my mother, Mary (Burke) Garry, earned her Bachelors of Education at Lowell State Teachers College and even traveled to Boston University to earned her Master’s degree before she was even married at 29 years old. This was something unusual for women of her generation and culture. Marguerite was so supportive of her daughter Mary that she would even take the ride into Boston at times to keep her company.
My mother, Mary Garry, and my father, Martin Garry were educators. They raised my two sisters and I with the belief that we too, could follow our dreams, and be whatever we wanted to be. I remember when going to law school at night, I injured my knee and was on crutches. My mother drove me into Boston, carried my books for me, sat in the library for three hours, and then drove me home so I would not miss school. When I first ran for public office, there was no one more supportive than my parents.
Looking back two generations, reflecting on my grandmother Marguerite, the indestructible woman who treasured the right to vote so much, I can only imagine how delighted she would be that her own granddaughter not only voted, but has been consistently elected by the people in the small town of Dracut, where Marguerite lived and raised Mary. If it were not for the powerful example of these determined and independent women, I am not sure where I would be today. I will be forever grateful for these admirable, loving role models.