Anne Christensen and Jeannie Christensen Fischer speak with love and admiration of their big sister, Katherine Christensen.
“She was funny with a very dry, scholarly sense of humor,” says Anne (at right in photo). “We would joke about how she would just raise an eyebrow and give you a look.”
All six kids—five girls and a boy—grew up in the Seattle area. Katherine was the oldest. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Seattle University and her master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of California, Berkeley. After teaching briefly in the Bay Area, she moved east for her first full-time, tenure-track position at Berea College, where she taught history from 1991 until 2017. Her specific interest was in medieval history.
Katherine passed away in 2018 at 62. During her illness and after her death, Anne and Jeannie visited Berea and learned more about her life.
“We met so many people who were so kind and supportive and learned so much more about the area,” says Anne.
“She was so reticent to talk about herself and what she was doing. … She was really smart, and she did all these things that we just didn’t even know,” says Jeannie.
Katherine was passionate about education, especially for women. She was active in her Catholic community and was a quilter and calligrapher.
After Katherine’s bequests to various Catholic and educational organizations, the remainder of her estate went to her siblings.
“And that’s not money that we ever expected or wanted to have,” Anne says. “That should have been thirty years of retirement for her where she could travel and do the other things that she had not done.”
Anne and Jeannie landed on the idea of giving their share to NOSW in 2021.
“It just struck me that that would be such a wonderful way to support her dedication to women’s education and opportunity and also her love of that area that had become her home,” Anne says.
“Every one of us as siblings would give every penny to have her back, and we can’t,” Jeannie adds, “but we can allow what she did end up saving and her assets to live on in the work that other people are doing that she would have liked to have been doing. She would have liked to have been continuing to educate women and empower them to find their voice and be independent.”
Two things about NOSW resonated with the sisters: the NOSW tradition of women creating a quilt together, because Katherine was a quilter, and the closeness of the NOSW sisterhood.
Their generous gifts in honor of Katherine will create opportunities for women.