Memories of Martha Chapman Glennon -Eulogy
February, 1997 in Bement, IL
Like so many of us who knew and loved Martha, I cope with my intense sadness about her death by remembering the good things, the things I loved and admired about her, the things that she did which touched, inspired and educated me.
One image I have of Martha is the great pleasure and joy she had when surrounded by her women friends-the tears of laughter streaming down her face when someone told a funny story or she did, the passion and energy she expressed when the conversation turned political and especially feminist. Martha loved women, her women friends, womankind and expressed that love constantly and unequivocally in so many ways.
When I first met her at Parkland college in the spring of 1981 she was taking a Psychology of Women class. The next semester she took my history of women class and she devoured that knowledge and those readings as if her life depended on it. In class she shared her personal history, and I learned about her parents, her sisters and brother, her husband and children her work, her liberal politics, her women's bowling group which bowled together every Monday night.
I loved and admired that Martha was the quintessential feminist and lived her feminism in thought , word and deed. As much as she could, given that she was born and grew up at time before feminism was as visible and powerful as it has become, she lived and breathed the basic ideals of feminism--complete equality between men and women and between all human beings.
Although, as a friend, I was an outsider to her intimate family life, what I did observe always impressed me. By the time I knew her she and Bob had developed an egalitarian marriage. They were equals, companions, friends. They were both bread winners, both heads of household. Martha cooked, Bob cleaned. They depended on each other, as couples do, but they seemed to depend equally and give equally.
Martha also lived her feminism as a parent and grandparent. She encouraged her Mary and her Lorraine Ann, as she always called them, to develop their fine intelligence and to achieve great things in the world and to live full lives. She encouraged her Bobbie and her Ed to be sensitive and gentle men who respected women and to choose women as partners that they respected and with whom they could be equal partners--Helen and Sherrie. And she was bursting with pride at the uniqueness, brilliance, developing independence of her grandchildren Claire, Catherine, Michael , Tom and Elizabeth. She did what she could to help you be wonderful people and feminists for life.
Martha lived her feminism as a business woman and entrepreneur. She began working in her father's insurance business in Cerro Gordo, then worked for her brother-in-law after her Dad's death. She learned the business; she bought the business, something that I think took courage and chutzpah. How many women do that?
Martha's love of women, her feminist principles were expressed in every fiber of her being-- she subscribed to and actually read feminist periodicals and books, she marched and marched and marched for ERA, she was a founding member and treasurer of the Grassroots Group of Second Class Citizens which worked to end violence against women. She helped reclaim the Statue of Liberty for women, peace and justice in 1986. She put her money where her mouth was by being a constant donor of money to the CU battered women's shelter, A Woman's Place, The University YWCA, National Organization for Women, the Grassroots Group of Second Class Citizens, the Women's Legal Defense Fund and countless others.
But of all this, I think what I will miss most is that Martha was my teacher and the teacher of so many women--she spoke at Parkland on several occasions about the importance, historically, of women's groups for women--whether they be bowling groups, local women's clubs, home extension, American Legion Auxiliary. She knew that those
associations helped make women happy, developed our potential, helped make us all that we can be. And she taught every person she came into contact with about politics, about liberal politics, about feminism. She even debated politics with some of her customers, if they were open to it. And she gave encouragement and courage to so
many young women who looked to her as a mentor and role model. I met one of those women, recently, when I went
to visit Martha for the first time after her accident. When I entered the room a woman was there holding Martha's hand and speaking to her. This was a friend of Martha from
Cerro Gordo who used to stop into the agency for her advice and wisdom and who, through Martha's encouragement and her own courage, had become an electrician.
All the women and all the feminists who knew and loved Martha pool our tears and merge our happy memories and send up our prayers with all of us here who loved her - her children and grandchildren, her sisters and brothers and in-laws and relatives, friends and neighbors. We miss you but take comfort from the fact that we will always have you in our minds and hearts.