October 8, 2021
I keep sending you stories of of courageous women in history because they stir
something deep inside us, hope and possibility.
They crack open our knowledge and vision of the world and prompt us to see in new ways.
The story of Fannie Griffin McClendon has challenged me to get a more positive attitude about applying myself and learning new skills, particularly learning new technology.
Fannie Griffin McClendon
Gave Me A Kick in the You-Know-Where
I've been known to cuss and moan about how fast technology changes and how hard it is to keep up with it.
Fannie is 100-years old this year. She just got a new phone and hasn't learned to use it yet. "I'm trying," she says. "I haven't given up."
She's also bucking a trend in regard to the Covid vaccine. Fannie got the shot back in March, and today remains among only 51% of the people in her home state of Arizona to be fully vaccinated.
“I didn't even feel it. I'm surprised....Wow!” She told a local reporter after the shot.
Going for something new is not new for Fannie Griffin McClendon. At 19, she joined the Women's Army Corp, something very few black women had the guts to do in
She'd grown up in Layfette, Louisiana, where a girl like her couldn't look white men in the eye. The US Army was the largest group of white men in America, and they would be in command of her.
Army basic training is a famous crash course in learning a new way of life. Fannie had extra pressure. Many officers didn't want her there because she was a woman, others didn't want her there because she was black.
"In basic training it was pretty awful," Fannie says, "you had to give a list of things you wanted from the [Post Exchange] because the black girls weren’t allowed in the Px.
Fannie Griffin McClendon leaving Fort Huachuca, AZ to go to Officer Candidate School at Fort Des Moines, Iowa; 1942. (Photo courtesy UNC Greensboro University Libraries)
Fannie served in the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only large unit of black army women to serve overseas in WWII. Stationed in Birmingham, England, the battalion processed an enormous backlog of mail in record time, helping keep up the morale of troops fighting the Nazis. This story is
featured in my book Standing Up Against Hate.
When Fannie left the army after the war was over, she worked as a sales clerk at Macy's in New York City. A few years later when the US military moved to enlist women as full members, Fannie got a letter from the army inviting her to come back.
It wasn't a difficult decision for her. "Macy’s was nice, but Macy's wasn’t the greatest thing in my life."
Once again, Fannie jumped into the unknown, this time she joined the Air Force.
Fannie Griffin McClendon; Women in the Air Force; circa 1951 (Photo courtesy UNC Greensboro University Libraries.)
In the Air Force, Fannie made her mark, becoming the first women to command an all-male squadron in the Strategic Air Command, the 509th. She remained in the Air Force until retiring in 1971.
She attributes her success in life to her mother. "I had a great mom who felt nobody could outdo her getting anything done....a mom who was very curious about a lot of things. She never said can’t or won't. There's so much to learn today," Fannie said, "though all this electronic stuff is getting to me." Then she laughed.
You can hear the full interview with Fannie at the Veteran's Administration blog Vantage Point
. Scroll through the article to see the audio link. Fannie's interview begins about
10-minutes into the podcast.
Here's a novel I read last week that some of you many enjoy. I didn't know it was a murder mystery when I started it, and it was a shocking murder. Other than that, I found the book really interesting and well written.
Once There Were Wolves
by Charlotte McConaghy was an instant New York Times Bestseller, so I waited about a month to get it from the library. (audio version) It caught my interest because of the research I've done about the wolf re-introduction to Yellowstone.
The novel follows a team of biologists re-introducing wolves to the Scottish Highlands. Like in Montana, there is animosity from the local cattle and sheep farmers. Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland to lead the wolf effort, bringing along her twin sister, Aggie. Inti hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie, too, unmade by the terrible secrets that drove the sisters from Alaska. Inti is not the woman she once was, either, changed
by the harm she's witnessed--inflicted by humans on both the wild and each other.
"Intense, emotional and rich with beautifully rendered prose, McConaghy’s novel is a powerful meditation on humanity, nature and the often frightening animalistic impulses lurking within us all."--review from Bookpage.
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To find out more about my books, how I help students, teachers, librarians and writers visit my website at www.MaryCronkFarrell.com.
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