Oklahoma Mothers

Vera Connell Bennett, 1889-1951

This quiet but strong Oklahoma mother was my great grandmother, the woman I am named after and well, she was the first Oklahoma Mother of the Year. I had no idea about that recognition until I read it in a book about Mothers of Achievement in American History. At the end of the anthology, which contained stories of famous women in every state, it also contained a list of every Mother of the Year since 1935 – which by itself, was a pretty cool listing. Naturally, I flipped to the state of Oklahoma and there was my great grandmother’s name – listed as the first Mother of the Year named in Oklahoma by the American Mothers Committee of the Golden Rule Foundation.

At the time, she was the biological mother to 5 children but also the mother to an entire college community. Her husband of 30 years was the President of Oklahoma A & M University (now Oklahoma State) and they lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Both Vera Connell and her husband, Henry G. Bennett, were educators. They met when he was the Superintendent of Schools in Hugo, Oklahoma and she was applying for a teaching position in Boswell. Both were big advocates of the public library system and believed the library should be the focal point of every college campus. This certainly applied at Oklahoma A&M. Anyone who has walks on that campus today would agree the library holds an enchanting presence on the lawn and quietly encourages a love of learning. We have taken lots of family photos over the years on that campus by a statue of my grandad which overlooks the Library Lawn. Here are a few of them.

Vera Connell Bennett is described as being of strong character with an independent mind. She made lists for Henry G. and the kids every morning which most likely was her quiet way of pushing them toward the high aspirations and goals she had set for them. I write of this only because I am a list maker too and since I share her unusual name, I smile knowing this trait has successfully been passed down albeit skipping a few generations!

History has recorded the close partnership that Henry G. and Vera Connell Bennett maintained throughout their marriage until their untimely death in a plane crash in Tehran, 1951. Henry G. was serving as the Undersecretary of State under President Truman and overseeing the 4 Point Program to help build nation states post WWII. They had been in Ethiopia and traveling to Iran when their plane went down. The State Department records indicate their bodies were found next to one another, having been ejected from the plane when it crashed into a mountainside, unable to find the runway in a snowstorm.

Just a little bit of history about an influential, Oklahoma mother.

Global Mom Power

I spent a few days this week attending the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York as a delegate for American Mothers, Inc. This organization has been an NGO (non-governmental organization) at the United Nations since Mamie Eisenhower was the First Lady and as such, can take a delegation of up to 20 women to attend this event each year. In the case of my organization, we take moms, because that is what we are all about. This year, there were eight of us attending -representing all parts of the country…Delaware, Illinois, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Puerto Rico…

We attended numerous panel discussions covering a broad range of topics.

The UN has little boxes with headsets available in case the panelists speak a different language. Laughing as I type because it’s the UN and everyone speaks a different language! Anyway, my friend Kim and I sat in on panel sponsored by the Foreign Minister of Morocco about social protection mechanisms and took full advantage of those little boxes.

Looks like our friends, Emily and Nadine did the same. Although the subject matter of the panel was nothing to smile about really.

Thank goodness the opening remarks from Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason (Ireland), were in English because there was a shortage of headsets! As far as opening sessions go, her comments were solid considering the status of women worldwide varies from country to country. In fact, our group sat in on a session about women and the media, and those variances in status were evident.

Our delegation was also able to attend a special reception sponsored by UN Women.

The really cool part about this reception is that everyone is encouraged to wear their native dress.

The Ukrainian women own the art of embroidery. Their attire was lovely to look at and just as interesting as the members of their delegation.

Enjoyed a brief visit with a soft spoken woman from the Congo. What makes this reception stand out is the attire. You seriously want to meet everyone there and learn what issues impact moms in their country- the outfits make for the perfect icebreaker!

Lucky Kuar Gill was the most beautiful soul from Canada. Pictured here in her native dress from India, she told us how she was married off at a young age by her parents and had children while in her teens. She was able to move to Canada where she started Global Girl Power. Look it up and follow this inspirational woman. Her story was moving and powerful and will hopefully encourage other young women who have been oppressed. She spoke on a mental health panel earlier in the day that some members of our delegation attended, so we were at no loss for words with her.

On a side note, and probably a highlight was getting to meet former French President, Francois Hollande.

My group was in the hotel bar trying to determine which amazing New York restaurant we were going to hit up for dinner while the former French President was filming a segment for a news outlet. As we watched him woo his audience, we plotted on how to grab a picture with him. Fortunately, my friend Kim speaks beautiful French and asked (in French of course) if this group of American Moms could have a photo.

He was very kind and gave us a lovely sentiment in French: ‘Le meres Americaines les gens important.’ That even he knows how important the mothers of America are….

So I’m gonna overlook the fact that he left office with the worst approval ratings in French history and a scandalous affair because he was spot on about American moms. Bien Fait Monsieur

Famous Friends

When your oldest and dearest friend gets inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, you have no choice but to get all dressed up and go watch!

Such a well deserved accolade for my famous BFF. Despite being a celebrity and constantly in the public eye, she is oh, so humble. I am honestly surprised (but thrilled) she accepted the recognition. All of Oklahoma, but especially the town of Pawhuska, are proud and honored to call you friend!