Saturday, February 03, 2007

Mimi Swartz's Lone Starlets--a salute to iconic Texas women

In today's New York Times, Mimi Swartz has a lovely piece (Lone Starlets) on the late Molly Ivins, Nellie Connally, and Ann Richards. I grew up knowing the names of these Texas heroes of mine, although I only met one of them--Ann Richards--once, and only briefly. Their names mingle in my mind with the very-much-alive Sarah Weddington, someone I'm lucky enough to call a friend. I think of three of these names--Ivins, Richards, Weddington--as people who have changed the nation, each in her own way (and in my opinion, for the better). Funny, irreverent, strong, and brave women, all of them. There's another generation of strong, iconic Texas women coming right behind them, with Mimi definitely on that list.

There's another woman that fewer people knew, and today would have been her birthday. A Texan-by-choice (well, sort of: she followed my dad down here for his Ph.D. at Texas A&M, a story that she told in The Third Jewish Catalog), my mother, Shirley Bard Rapoport, was just as strong and as brave in her own right. Almost totally deaf since childhood, my mom was a classic extrovert, meeting people in every type of circumstance imaginable and having an uncanny ability to turn complete strangers into friends.

If I had to pick one adjective for her, it'd be "fearless"--she was always ahead of trends, always willing to try something new, always up for an adventure. She was also incredibly generous with her love and usually optimistic (effervescent, really) in mood, even with health problems so severe that I was always amazed that she lived as long as she did. Of course, she had her bad moments, and she and I had catfights aplenty while I was growing up. I didn't see much of her in myself until just shortly before she died, and now I see so much of her in me--and I'm very grateful for what she gave me. Most of all, she and my dad gave me an example of love-for-life with their extremely happy marriage.

So here's to Mimi's salute to iconic Texas women, with my added toast to one person less well-known but no less loved.


Jim Chen said...

Great post, Nancy! I appreciate learning more about your mother. This helps explain, I think, your thoughtful assessment of the events at Gallaudet. Not that you wouldn't have read those events well, but that you bring an insight based on your family's history.

To your list of Lone Starlets, I'd nominate one further addition. She too is a Texan by choice, and she rocks. You can see her picture here.

Nancy Rapoport said...

Thanks, Jim--I'm actually a Texan by birth (Bryan, Texas), and I'm touched as all get-out by your kind words!