By Elizabeth Hein Akey
Executive Director’s note: This beautiful reflection on Elizabeth’s mother shows that so many of our donors have faced challenges similar to those facing the women in our programs—or have known someone with low self-esteem and lack of confidence in their abilities, particularly among women not in the workforce. This awareness broadens our sense of “Sisterhood.”
I have donated regularly for some years in honor of my mother, Fane Taka Hein (pictured above), who became a regular supporter after a visit to NOSW on a trip to Berea. That visit had a profound impact on her.
My mother was the daughter of immigrants from Greece, born and raised in Albany, N.Y., during the Great Depression. Her family knew poverty and discrimination, but she was raised to value education. She graduated from high school, but there were no funds available for college.
After marrying at age 20, she spent the next 20 years caring for our home and raising me along with five brothers and sisters. My father, who had the traditional wage-earner role, was not an easy man to live with. While not openly abusive, he was easily angered and erratic in his behavior.
After some of my older siblings moved away from the family home, my mother began taking college classes at a local campus. She majored in sociology and prepared several papers on what were known at the time as “displaced homemakers.” This term referred to women whose husbands had divorced them after they had carried responsibilities for home and child-rearing for years but had inadequate education or job training to support themselves. Much later she disclosed to me that my father was very unhappy that she was attending college, but she did not feel safe depending on him financially.
My mother eventually completed a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees. While seeking her master’s, she was hired by a regional campus to run a practicum placement course for undergraduates interested in local social service agencies. She continued in this role until she retired. She was a strong proponent of lifelong learning and she took joy in the chance to influence young and older students during their education.
I believe that when she visited NOSW your work resonated with many of the themes in her own life. I know that she was proud of what she achieved and she took pride in supporting your mission. I honor your work and her life each time I donate.