When Angela Anderson speaks of her mother, she uses words like “fierce” and “powerful.”
“The thing that really struck me about my mom was that she was a really powerful woman, but she didn’t have a lot of opportunity. And watching her struggle was really impactful for me.”
Colleen Howell grew up near Cincinnati in a family of six siblings who experienced deep poverty. She finished seventh grade, but had to drop out of school in eighth grade to start working. She married young and had Angela at nineteen.
After the marriage ended, Colleen worked in restaurants and factories for years. Then, after Angela left for college, her mother entered into an abusive relationship with a man she later married.
“She had a fierceness about her, but whenever she would get into a relationship, she gave herself over to that entirely and became disempowered,” Angela said.
Growing up in Florida, Angela watched her mother struggle and vowed not to live the same life. She decided at age five that she would go to college. But at 11 she started working at the restaurant where her mom worked. As a high school senior working three jobs, she didn’t have time to complete all the steps to apply to college.
But her aunt had seen an article about Berea College, and one of Angela’s high school teachers had attended Berea. Her guidance counselor called the college, and Angela was accepted over the phone. She arrived at Berea College in 1988 and majored in English.
Over time she learned the power of women supporting women. She’s grateful to Barbara Wade, a professor at Berea College, who supported her when she was struggling. “I would not have graduated if it weren’t for her.”
In her twenties, she became an informal coach for her boss and a group of women. Together, they helped each other meet goals.
“I just want to mention how important it is to have other women who’ve already been there, who’ve already done the work, really help you and support you,” Angela said. “Because we can’t become ourselves by ourselves. So many women feel alone and are trying to do everything by themselves.”
Now Angela has her own business as an empowerment coach for women. Like NOSW, she helps women identify beliefs that limit their progress. “In the work that I do with women, it’s all about agency.”
Angela first heard of NOSW while a student at Berea. “It just sounded like such an amazing organization to help people exactly like my mom.”
She established the Colleen S. Howell Memorial Fund to honor her mother, who died of cancer at 48, and to provide opportunities for women at NOSW. Click here to contribute.