Ladies, high heels and courage

Cindy ArpOur Town Outdoors

As a younger woman, I frequently wore high heels. For women of a certain stature, heels allow one to aspire to 5-3 or, if one has good balance, possibly 5-4. I taught in high heels for around 10 years. I didn’t wear them every day, but I did wear them frequently. Tired feet eventually led me to the conclusion that height wasn’t important enough to me anymore. Now a days I watch other high heel wearers stride confidently forth, marching on to their destiny, confident in their future as Women One Must Respect.

Hat, dress and heels, styling!

Dan’s grandmother, Amy Anderson, known as Ma-Maw, was a high heels lady. A small, lovely woman, when I married Dan, she welcomed me into the fold with a hug and a homemade apron. Hair and nails done weekly, Ma-Maw was the epitome of a lady. As she aged, the height of the heels lowered, but she never let down her standards; she was remarkable.

About eight years before I entered the family, Ma-maw’s husband suddenly died of a massive heart attack. The family was in a panic, fearing she was ill-equipped for widowhood. Her husband had always handled everything. She didn’t have a driver’s license. Mr. Anderson’s death was so unexpected that he didn’t have a will.

Step aside, disbelievers, a surprise Steel Magnolia was about to take center stage. Beneath all the lovely Ma-Mas fluff lived an adventurous, competitive spirit. When the dust settled, and the finances sorted out, Ma-maw demonstrated that being able and willing to wear heels every day was just the tip of the iceberg.

Ma-maw belonged to the Exchangettes, a women’s branch of their husband’s business club, The Exchange. Soon after Ma-Maw became a widow, she attended an Exchangette meeting where volunteers were being sought to attend the national convention in Chicago. To the amazement of all, Ma-Maw raised her hand, got herself on a train to Chicago and had a fabulous time.

Fishing in high heels

Ma-maw and her deceased husband were longtime friends of Harry and Ellen Burn. We are talking about THE Harry T. Burn, the Tennessee legislator whose August 1920 vote to ratify the 19th Amendment gave women across the nation the right to vote. The Burns were interesting, important people and when they invited widow Ma-Maw to go to Nassau with them, she promptly said yes. They took off in the Burns’ convertible with Ma-maw riding in the front! Woo-Hoo!

There were hints of Ma-maw’s fortitude before this. She and her husband loved to fish and frequently went with their friends, the Archers. Dress and heels firmly in place, Ma-Maw would out-fish everyone in any group, proudly holding up a huge line filled with her catch.

Ma-Maw was an old-fashioned woman whose life, until her husband’s death, had been hearth and home. It would have been an easy choice to fade into the background and let the family take care of her. Instead, Ma-Maw took her courage in her hands and lived life on her own, carrying on 20 years past her husband’s death. She accepted adventures and challenges and demonstrated how to continue to live despite losses. Just like strong women today, high heel wearers or not, Ma-Maw walked forth confidently, marching on to her destiny, confident in her future.

Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell. And she goes hiking once a week – even in a forest fire.




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