Strong Women

It’s a long story, but it all starts with red hair. Sort of. She was a redhead, and in love. And 17-year-old redheads in love do impulsive things. It was a different era. Johnson was president.

Her parents were against the romance. His parents were against it, too. But redheads make decisions without consulting the rest of the world. When the young couple found out she was pregnant, they married.

Her father and mother were mad; she had never been so excited. They moved to California. He took a job driving a truck. He was gone a lot, making all-night runs across the U.S., but they were happy.

One lonely night she was rattled awake by loud knocking on the front door. She answered it in her bathrobe. Two patrolmen on her porch said that her husband’s eighteen-wheeler flipped, and he was gone.

She went through pregnancy alone. And on the morning she gave birth, she was unsure about what to feel. She held her boy against her chest and wept over him with the joyful kind of tears that only widows know.

She worked low-paying jobs. A receptionist in a textile factory. An orderly in a rest home. Finally, she decided to go back to school. The night classes were hard, but she stuck with them for many years. During the same week that her son graduated from 7th grade, she graduated with her teaching certificate, and life was looking up.

First she taught elementary, then high school. She was miserable with both jobs. Children can test a woman’s patience and cause her to use very strong cuss words in public sometimes.

She applied for a position at a junior college, it was only a part-time gig, and modest pay. She loved it. The college kids were much more sincere than high-schoolers who spent the majority of their class period grabbing each other’s butts.

There was one student in particular. A girl. Twenty-one. Black hair. Mexican-American. The bump in the girl’s belly gave her away and left her open to ridicule. These were the eighties. Reagan was president.

The girl was taking remedial classes at the college, studying for her GED, and she had a full-time job. The teacher recognized a sadness in this girl’s eyes. A sadness not so different from the kind widows have.

The girl told the woman she was living with friends ever since her boyfriend had been killed in a construction accident. Her family was non-existent. She was, more or less, alone.

The teacher and the girl became friends and started spending a lot of time together. They picked out maternity clothes from secondhand stores, they went to clinical visits together. And eventually they moved into the same apartment.

And on the summer night when the girl began having contractions, her teacher was beside her. From beginning to end. The redheaded woman drove the girl to the hospital. She stood near her bed, reminding her to breathe, telling her to “Push, sweetie!”

The teacher was the second person to hold this new child. And the one to change the first ceremonial poop-filled diaper.

Stay with me here, the story isn’t over yet.

College wasn’t that difficult for the young mother. Especially with the help of a redhead who’d already been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt.

The girl worked hard. She pulled long hours of studying. And when the young mother walked down the aisle to accept her diploma, the first in the audience to applaud was a woman with red hair.

Time moved forward. Soon, the girl was not a girl at all. Her first job was as a part-time teacher, teaching English to Spanish speakers who wanted to learn. Her students were mostly service workers and kitchen staff.

After a few years of this, one of her friends suggested she apply to be a courtroom translator. So she tried it. It was decent money, and she was good at her work. The job eventually led her to hospitals where she worked as an interpreter for several years.

One night, in the emergency room, she met a girl. The girl was on a hospital bed, pregnant, 18 years old, and scared to death. It was a different era. George W. Bush was president.

The woman introduced herself to the girl. The girl cried because she was in dire straits. And it wasn’t the loud kind of crying, it was the kind that only a woman who has been there can understand.

The girl’s story was not unfamiliar: Her mother kicked her out when she found out she was pregnant. So she was living with her cousin who wasn’t exactly a model citizen, who’d just been arrested for drugs. Her boyfriend didn’t want his own baby, so he had disappeared. And she was alone.

Well. The answer seemed so easy to the woman. The woman told the girl she had a free guest bedroom if the girl wanted it. The sheets were fresh. And the woman was more than happy to have company.

Thus, on one winter day, the girl gave birth to a little boy, with the help of a roommate she never expected to have.

Several years later, her baby boy would grow to be a healthy young man. And one day, that young man would be stuck indoors during a quarantine because of a global pandemic, and he would become bored.

The young man would send a long email to a redheaded writer who lives on the other side of the United States, telling him about a string of powerful women who came before him. They were unrelated by blood, but held together by the ropes of friendship.

And now the redheaded writer has just told you.


  1. Jan - February 20, 2021 7:05 am

    A powerful story of strong women and the wonders they can work in the lives they touch! Thank you, Sean, for telling the story and thanks to the women who show us what a difference a hand up can make.

  2. Virginia Russell - February 20, 2021 11:26 am

    Thank you

  3. turtlekid - February 20, 2021 12:01 pm

    The colors that connected. Women always help other women. So glad they shared and gave you a great topic for your column.

  4. Lucretia Jones - February 20, 2021 12:26 pm

    Thank you, Sean. It has not fallen on deaf ears. It has fallen on a now softened heart.

  5. johnnybracey - February 20, 2021 12:34 pm


  6. Julie Patterson - February 20, 2021 1:07 pm

    It must be allergy season; my eyes are leaking again.

  7. Becky Kaufman - February 20, 2021 1:07 pm

    Women do things like this! hank you for writing about them.

  8. oldlibrariansshelf - February 20, 2021 1:08 pm

    When life gets tough, the tough keep going and going and going! God is good.

  9. Patsy A. Boshears - February 20, 2021 1:09 pm

    It is through our tribulations in life that God hones us and shapes for the ministries He has prepared for us in our futures.

  10. Jo Ann - February 20, 2021 1:11 pm

    Thank you, Sean. These stories would never be told if you didn’t tell us. Strong, compassionate women who went out of their way to help another in need. One to one. Blessings to all.

  11. Leigh Amiot - February 20, 2021 1:37 pm

    This is the apex of “paying it forward”.
    Blessings on all.

  12. Ronnie Thomas - February 20, 2021 1:49 pm

    Sean, I enjoy your column everyday but this one is a particularly wonderful one! Thank you for not only brightening my day but for filling my heart..

  13. Jane - February 20, 2021 1:52 pm

    Great story.

  14. Connie - February 20, 2021 1:54 pm

    Beautiful. Here’s to strong women everywhere. Thank you for being so vocal in your support. Love and hugs.

  15. Gay - February 20, 2021 1:55 pm

    Paying it forward, so thankful these strong women chose life and not abortion.

  16. DAVID A WILSON - February 20, 2021 2:14 pm


  17. Barbara J Schweck - February 20, 2021 2:37 pm

    Beautiful story. Thank you

  18. Lisa Bowman - February 20, 2021 2:45 pm

    It a good woman who will extend a hand to help another woman. It’s an especially good woman who extends her hand, knowing herself, the uphill climb a young lady faces – because she is empathetic.

    What a beautiful story!

  19. JACKIE LEON DARNELL - February 20, 2021 2:48 pm

    Great story my friend. As always this is a good read. Everyone should love a strong woman, there are a lot out there.
    Thanks, no try to be good.

  20. Pam - February 20, 2021 2:54 pm

    Beautiful. And so true. It’s who we are.

  21. C. V. Dickson - February 20, 2021 2:55 pm

    You are SO GOOD!! Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you!

  22. Leesa - February 20, 2021 2:55 pm

    Here is to strong women. May we know one. May we be one. May we raise one. Thank you, Sean. Quite powerful!

  23. Linda C - February 20, 2021 3:19 pm

    Family is not always related by blood. Family is often the ones you chose. What a powerful story! How sad too that their families could not see fit to be supportive instead of judgemental

  24. Alice-Ann Ferderber - February 20, 2021 3:28 pm

    Thank you Sean. It is nice to “hear” wonderful multi-generational stories of true kindness. Sometimes we make our own family which brings us more joy than we ever had.

  25. Dawnie B - February 20, 2021 3:34 pm

    Wow! Beautiful legacy of compassionate women in his life! They may not be related by blood, but they will always be related by something even stronger – LOVE!

  26. Erin LaRoche - February 20, 2021 3:45 pm

    Powerful words… thank you!

  27. Bar - February 20, 2021 3:59 pm

    Go ahead, Sir, tear my heart out … and add to the guilt for all the times I (a redhead) haven’t helped when I should have. Thank you for your great moving stories. (I assume you were that Johnson-era California baby.)

  28. Laurie - February 20, 2021 4:44 pm

    I can hardly swallow for the emotional lump in my throat. God has blessed you mightily.

  29. Patricia Gibson - February 20, 2021 5:11 pm

    God is good❤️

  30. Linda Moon - February 20, 2021 5:20 pm

    Strong women. I was surrounded by them when I was growing up. I hope I’ve become like them now that I’m grown. They were related by blood, but other ties can bind us, too, as the young man’s letter to the writer proved. I love strong women, redheads, and writers. You covered them all today! Thank you for telling their stories.

  31. Sheila Smith - February 20, 2021 5:38 pm

    This is a beautiful story.

  32. Brenda Turner-Griffin - February 20, 2021 5:59 pm

    Almost every day, you are one of my first blessings. Thank you for your words and your open and loving heart. When a stone is thrown into the water, no one can ever know what distant shore the ripples may wash against. Every time we hold out a helping hand, it may truly change the life of someone we may never meet. Your words are inspirational.

  33. Trina - February 20, 2021 6:23 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. We need more redheads in this world regardless of who is the President.

  34. chuck - February 20, 2021 6:58 pm

    I love sturdy women-they paddle their own canoe,Don’t NEED a man and can carry their own backpack full of life’s crap and when it gets to heavy accept help when offered and do thhe same for others

  35. MAM - February 20, 2021 7:07 pm

    Another wonderful story, wonderfully told. Thanks, Sean!

  36. Cheryl Buchanan - February 20, 2021 7:10 pm

    The power of love!

  37. Linda H - February 20, 2021 7:50 pm

    The strength of women and the power of love.

  38. thouse1001 - February 20, 2021 9:13 pm


  39. Jennie Stultz - February 20, 2021 9:29 pm

    Dear Sean,
    I’m part of an almost identical story. I come from a long line of red heads although I’m a brunette-turned-silver. Your story echoes the stories of two lost young pregnant girls who have saved each other. It’s God’s work for sure. I’m beginning to believe She’s a red head too! 🤗

  40. Charaleen Wright - February 21, 2021 7:39 am


  41. Phil Jennings - February 21, 2021 12:17 pm

    Communities are not always towns, neighborhoods or churches. Sometimes they are unrelated people who become related through commonalities.
    They have that connection of helping one another solve problems or build upon common experiences. This redheaded writer is a awesome beneficiary who is now sharing that wonderful line of love begun so many Presidents ago.
    Thanks Sean.

  42. Laura King - February 21, 2021 1:49 pm

    Your words always make my heart smile. Thank you!

  43. Julie - February 21, 2021 2:19 pm

    To Sean, from one REDHEAD to another…I love the fact that we have our red hair in common❣️ But mostly, I love you and your column…more than you know, because you are too humble to imagine the magnitude of it❤️ Then multiply that love times Googoplex, which is the highest number in the world❣️

  44. Judy Smith - February 22, 2021 2:40 am

    Thank you from one red head to another My Mother was a strong woman, she made me one too.

  45. Dennise Pate Romine - February 22, 2021 7:33 pm

    I come from a long line of strong women who always came together to help others. My cousins and myself fell very blessed to have so many women before us who have taught us well To pay it forward!

    Here’s to all the strong women that have shaped us all!

  46. Tom Wallin - February 23, 2021 9:08 pm

    Sean, I’m not a Redhead, but now I want to be. One of your ALL TIME best stories! The truth is always the best even when it is a hard reality. Thanks so much for sharing and showing what hard work and perseverance can do for a person. Have a wonderful day. See you tomorrow. From one of your many friends.

  47. Brenda - February 23, 2021 11:57 pm

    A very strong woman sent me your column today… about depression in young people. I am a very strong woman, with a very depressed disabled daughter. Strong people have no specific gender, and like you, are willing to share. Thank you! I taught LD students for thirty years and others for five years before my second grad degree in SpEd. The strong ones are the ones who want to succeed, the rest, just get lucky! Strength is a virtue! I plan to stick with your daily thoughts, thank you Sean~ Brenda

  48. cronkitesue - February 27, 2021 7:40 pm

    Uplifting and positive. I am also a red-head. I like to be helpful when I can, and encourage those who need it.


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