By Kristine Steinberg, CEO Kismet
How fortunate we are to have so many trailblazing women in our midst — women who break free from societal molds and forge radical paths for themselves, kicking tradition & convention to the curb. So many women have inspired me in this way — Eleanor Roosevelt, Coretta Scott King, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Oprah Winfrey — the list goes on and on.
In honor of Women’s History Month, I want to take a moment to reflect on one of the lesser-known trailblazing women in the world. She may not have been in the spotlight on the world stage, but she made brave moves nonetheless, and laid down new pathways for her own children & grandchildren.
That woman is none other than my mother, Gloria.
Born in 1942, her story started the way many other women’s lives did back then: a child of parents who immigrated from Italy; her father a cobbler; her mother a homemaker; one of 7 children; met her husband-to-be at age 16, married at age 20; left her job as a nurse to become a housewife at 21; and was mothering 3 children by the time she was 27.
By the time she was in her early 30s, her days were filled with laundry, cooking, and parenting — hard, domestic work. A typical weekday evening involved my dad walking through the door, grabbing a drink, and sitting down in his chair to relax, the way many men did in the early 1970’s.
A good wife back then was expected to go along with this scenario, always wearing a smile. Most women at that time were still abiding by the protocol from 1950’s home economics textbooks. Here is a taste of “The Good Wife’s Guide,” an article printed in the 1955 edition of Housekeeping Monthly:
- Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return.
- Prepare yourself. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking.
- Gather up school books, toys, papers, etc. and then run a dust cloth over the tables.
- Make the evening his.
- Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
- Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
- A good wife always knows her place.
My mother had been acting the part of “the good wife” for years. But then, one night, something didn’t feel right. In fact, something felt deeply wrong.
That night, she walked over to the chair my father sat in, grabbed the paper out of his hands, and told him what she really needed: a partner. Someone to share the household responsibilities and support her where she needed it most. To my father’s credit, he immediately shifted out of his established role into a new one. He became a true partner to my mother. My memory of their relationship, though not perfect, was one of a gratifying and wonderfully unified team. And this moment planted a seed in my mother; she had the power to speak up, to ask for what she wanted — and to get it.
Years later, my father suffered a heart attack. Though it was minor and he reclaimed his health quickly, my mother had another awakening. She realized that if my father had been less lucky, she could have ended up a single mother with no immediate income and only a small savings. Her desire to take on a financial contributor role was ignited. She began to work, taking on retail roles in small gift shops around town. Then, in 1981, she stumbled into a bookstore owned by a very pregnant woman. After this kismet encounter, she went home and approached my dad asking for support to buy this business. He was very resistant and tried to deter her, but she forged ahead anyway, taking the $3,000 she’d saved from her retail jobs to buy into the business. And so began her 35-year career as a successful entrepreneur, retailer, business owner, and customer service guru. And once more, despite his early objections, my dad stepped up to the plate. He became her biggest advocate, managed all the books (on top of his full-time job), vacuumed the floors most every day, brought her lunch every weekend, and even became her balloon delivery man for the gift shop she eventually purchased.
My mother’s greatness goes so far beyond these two stories, but I share them here to celebrate the trail she blazed for me: to notice when something is not right, to ask for something different, to go against the grain, to follow my gut, to make my own way in the world, to believe in dreams, and to pursue them.
Coaching Questions for You to Ponder:
- Who are the women trailblazers in your life?
- What did they teach you?
- Are you emulating their lessons to the best of your ability?
- What trails do you want to blaze?
- If you do, who will benefit? And what lessons will you pass down?
Kristine Steinberg is the CEO of Kismet. She believes that your life should be deeply fulfilling — not tolerated. Partner with Kismet to dismantle fear, define your path, and lead with courage. Start your transformation today: www.thisiskismet.com.
In memory of Gloria Diana Peotrowski 1942–2016
Gloria was a successful businesswoman, who owned three distinctive retail stores on the South Shore of Massachusetts over a 35-year span. In 1981, Gloria followed her dream to own her own retail store. Once Upon A Time, a children’s book and toy shop, was her first business. Several years later, Gloria opened a second location and in 1999, she expanded her business and founded Olivia Rose Boutique, a high-end children’s clothing store that won “Best of Boston South” several times. Today, Gloria’s daughter, Sherri, maintains her legacy as owner and operator of both Once Upon A Time and Olivia Rose Boutique. @oliviarosechildrensboutique