The Heroines

Patricia Stoeber

is honored with a Brick from Deborah Gordon.

My mother, Patricia Esther Stoeber, has been a heroine in my life for her courage, determination, and loving encouragement of me. From the time I was quite young, she insisted that I would have the formal education that she had always wanted but did not have. My mother is a very smart woman. Even after my parents divorced, my father would always acknowledge her intelligence. For her intellect ,I will always be grateful. The reasons that I honor my mother, however, run deeper.

My mother comes from a family of women of Eastern European descent. From the Pennsylvanian coal mines, they settled in Chicago. My mother grew up in Cicero in a tough ethnic Chicago neighborhood, although she went to a Catholic girls' school with the Mafia princesses. Her father and mother were separated when she was very young, and her mother had to support her and her two sisters, Loretta and Donna. There were Christmas' when there was no money for presents. One such Christmas my mother made her mother a beautiful drawing, but her mother rejected it, probably from feeling depressed and angry about their poverty. When my mother told me of this incident, I realized something of where she gained her appreciation for beauty and aesthetics. As anyone can see from her photo, my mother was a beautiful woman. She still is. This love of beauty and comprehension of the non-utilitarian side of life was something my mother passed on to me from a young age.

From her childhood experiences, my mother developed a strong sense of social justice for the poor. She worked at the University of California, Berkeley and for the University of California system for 23 years. When she worked for the General Council for the Regents, she was in charge of collecting hospital bills for the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center. There were often people who had been treated there who could not afford to pay their medical bills and did not have insurance. My mother would always advise the attorney who handled that center to "write it off" when they had a case involving people who were unable to pay. She always does what she feels she must, given her own sense of integrity. Her years of working for attorneys make her a strong advocate for herself, her family, and me.

Her advocacy has been a steady source of support as I moved from California to Kansas, and from being a graduate student to an associate professor. In the time I have spent on the tenure track, she has been a wry and witty observer of the behavior of academics. Her experience working at a university has enabled us to share something new in our lives, as two women who negotiate the wonders and pitfalls of academic life. Her persistent mothering has been invaluable to me and I am forever grateful to her for all of the love she gives to me and to those around her. Without her nurturance, I would not be the woman I am today. Mom, I love you dearly, and I will always be thankful to you for giving me so much of your wisdom and strength.

Submitted by Deborah Gordon

July 16, 1998