Last weekend I read about two women who have made history. One was on the front page of the newspaper and is of the “I am woman hear me roar” school. She is known and admired by many for her intelligence and aggressive pursuit of power. She is tough and politically savvy.  She will be entering an international arena to help project the policies of the new Presidential administration. No doubt she will eventually get a sentence or two mention in the history books of the 21st century.

The other woman was referred to in a brief paragraph in the obituary section, stating only the time of the family gathering at the funeral home in a tiny village in the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania. The little lady in the casket was my wife’s mother, who died quietly in her sleep at the age of ninety-four on Thanksgiving Day. She was a warm-hearted and kindly person known for her sense of humor, sturdy work ethic, faithful attendance at the church and love for and dependence upon God. She will not be mentioned in any history books outside of a family genealogy.

My wife’s mother, Irene Cromwell Leapline, was the oldest child in her family and she took the prominent role in raising her five siblings after her father died at the age of 29. In due course, she married a coal miner (yes, I married a coal miner’s daughter), and had ten children. The Depression era was a very difficult time to be raising a large family in a poor rural valley but their faith and hard work sustained them. When she died last week, Grandma Leapline could count not only her ten faithful children (two deceased), but forty-eight grandchildren, seventy -three great-grandchildren, and nine great-great-grandchildren.

Among that number and their spouses are missionaries, preachers, mechanics, schoolteachers, railroad men, computer programmers, soldiers, factory workers, and a host of home-makers. She and her husband Lester who died in 1971, instilled in their children a love for God and the importance of family. They saw themselves as a link in a chain that extends into the future and they instilled Christian values that would withstand the trials and tribulations of life and would be just as sure and true to the generations yet unborn.

It’s hard not to notice the contrast. One is a public figure who grasps at power and prestige like a drowning man to a life preserver, who is admired because she can shoulder her way in a world once deemed to belong only to men. She seeks dominance, perhaps for its own sake. And then there is a modest country woman whose success can be measured in the productive lives of her many descendents and the remembrance by hundreds of her steady and consistent virtue passed on to generations. They were both in the same newspaper. Which one has the real power?

Bill Potter