Role Models: In the Company of Women

By Katter, Eldon | School Arts, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Role Models: In the Company of Women


Katter, Eldon, School Arts


I have lived most of my life in the company of women. I guess you could say that women have always dominated the bright side of my life (as opposed to the dark side of Camelot). Adrienne and I quickly filled our house with three daughters, and we now have one granddaughter. My wife is one of four sisters, so family gatherings are dominated by women's voices -- and they are listened to.

As a young child I had bouts of severe pain in my legs and sometimes could not walk, so I depended on my sister to pull me everywhere in a little red wagon. I was inseperable from my sister and probably spent as much time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother as in the fields with my dad. I even quilted with the Ladies Aide Society on Thursday afternoons, acquiring a lasting appreciation for the fine art of quilting.

My schooling was also dominated by the voices of women. Most of my elementary and high school teachers were women, as were most of my undergraduate professors, more than one of whom became lasting mentors. I don't think I had a male professor in my major subjects -- art and journalism -- until I went to graduate school at the University of Minnesota. There I studied art and journalism only with men, often with great frustration and without a lasting or memorable mentor. This was not by choice. I don't think there were women teaching graduate courses in those departments at the University of Minnesota in the 1950s.

Did any of this matter? Did growing up in the company of women and being guided by women's voices make a difference in my life? Yes, I think it did. I think it made me a more confident father to daughters, a more compassionate husband, and a more supportive teacher of young women as well as young men. It might also explain why so much of my professional work has been in collaboration with women. There's trust in all these relationship.

But then again, maybe it didn't matter. Perhaps being in the company of another gender had nothing to do with the feelings of inspiration, self-worth, support, and encouragement that I experienced in my formative years. …

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