Copyright 2006 Mary Foley

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that this little Irish girl – whose grandmother nicknamed herself Spunky Ethel – wrote a book entitled “Bodacious!” Spunky Ethel is my bodacious mother of origin and her legacy continues to this day through all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren, especially the female ones.

Bodacious moms are a powerful influence. I have very clear memories of my grandmother picking me up after school, and taking time to focus on me and my world. Sitting at the Roses discount store lunch counter, she taught me how a little love and chocolate cake can melt away the stresses of grade school. Later, as a teenager, I remember one hot day pulling up in front of her home to find her perched outside, drinking a can of beer through a straw…with all the class and charm of her elegant dinner parties of years before. She had spunk all right; she was living life on her own terms.

Spunky Ethel passed this independent thinking to my mom as well. I remember my mom telling me stories about her mom encouraging her to take solo bus trips downtown as an adolescent. My mom describes it as a wondrous, enlightening experience that grew her understanding of the world and her confidence. Like any parent, Spunky Ethel wanted her daughter to experience even more opportunity as a woman. Though Grandma was only able to attend a few years of college, she made sure her daughter would be able to graduate. I can only imagine how proud they both must have been when my mom received her diploma at graduation.

My mom passed that same strong sense of self-worth and the ability to create the life you want to her daughters. When I was growing up social norms regarding women were dramatically changing, but nothing guaranteed that I’d seek my own place in these opportunities. My mom (and dad) instilled in me the responsibility to decide what I wanted to do and then use the best of my abilities. That’s why my book’s dedication reads: “For my parents Charles and Donna Foley who believed I could be anything I wanted.” “This too shall pass” was one of Spunky Ethel’s favorite phrases. How right she was, not only regarding the moment’s circumstances, but also concerning our time together. She strove to make each encounter meaningful. And it was in those encounters that I learned what it meant to be a bodacious woman. To Spunky Ethel, my bodacious mom, and all bodacious moms out there, I salute you!


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