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by Frank Shortt
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Much has been written about the deeds done by women in the time of crisis, medical necessity,
literature and the arts, but the deeds done in the name of motherhood would fill volumes reaching from earth to the heavens above.
The Shortt children were playing down by Grassy Creek in Buchanan County, Virginia in the early 1950’s. It was an uncannily warm winter
day and all the snow had melted off leaving the rock formations by the creek very warm indeed. These formations, during summer, were
famous as habitations for copperhead snakes. The last thing we expected was being in danger from a poisonous viper in winter.
All at once a cry went up from one of the older sisters, “Snake! Snake!” All the children scattered like little bunny rabbits at a
dog convention. Our mother, Stella Addison Shortt, hearing the cries came running down the hill with dad’s twenty-two rifle. “Where’s
the snake?” she inquired of the oldest sister.
“It’s right there on top of that flat rock where we always play house,” sister replied.
The wily serpent had crawled out of his den under the rocks to enjoy some unusual sunshine. Mother walked carefully up to where she
could see the vile reptile, took careful aim, and neatly parted the snake from his head. Needless to say, that ended our playing down
by the rock formations, especially on warm days.
It was later learned that Mom, as we called
her, had learned to shoot at a very early age having been raised with more brothers than sisters. She became so apt at shooting a
rifle that she could drive a tack head through a piece of tar paper from several paces. She was also a guitarist, singer, and could
make anything with a sewing machine. She raised ten children, even under trying conditions, as dad was a coal miner and sometimes
there was not a great demand for his product. Mom’s voice will long be remembered in the Shortt Gap, Virginia neighborhood as being
‘clear as a bell’ and lark-like in all its beauty.
Most of the women in our neighborhood
were inventors out of necessity. If they did not have a certain item to finish a job, they would devise one out of whatever lay handy.
They could fashion hoe handles out of hickory, some could shoe a horse, make soap from lard and wood ashes, fashion baby diapers out
of flour sacks by somehow softening the harsh cotton material. A lot of my sisters’ dresses worn at a younger age were fashioned from
flour sacks. Patterns were designed and cut by hand from memory.
In school we learned of many women who helped shape our America by
their deeds of sacrifice and devotion to family. Frances Willard was a leader of the WCTU when she saw how fathers neglected their
families under the influence of alcoholic beverages. She urged the passing of laws banning the sale of liquor and tried to outlaw
saloons as one way to strengthen democracy.
Clara Barton who lived from 1821 to 1912, was a teacher, nurse, and humanitarian. She
founded the organization that would eventually become the American Red Cross.
Bethune was a child of former slaves who lived from 1875 to 1955. She was an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on issues
involving black youth. She was also instrumental in founding a school for African Americans.
Helen Adams Keller was born a healthy child in Alabama and lived from 1880 to 1968. As a two year old she was stricken ill and was
left blind and deaf. She was the first blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and later became an advocate for others who
were blind and deaf.
The mother of modern nursing was Florence Nightingale. She was convinced
that thorough cleanliness was the basis for proper healing. She was born in 1820 and died in 1910. During the Crimean War she became
known as the ‘Lady of the Lamp’ as she would travel at night to care for the sick and wounded on the battlefield.
In light of all the wonderful achievements accomplished by women, there remains the greatest feat of all, the bringing of life into
the human race. This is the greatest miracle of all.