I am working on a long-term book project of interviewing and photographing women over 50, that I call The Beauty of Wisdom. It is an ongoing body of work that will become a book when finished, but I feel it is time to give birth to it, even while in progress.
This project began as I aged and directly experienced becoming more and more invisible in my daily life. I began to talk with other women about their experiences of feeling invisible. I started to observe people in many different environments, and I consistently found that the majority of people do not notice older people or give them the same respect and treatment that they give to someone younger or perceived as more valuable. This is particularly true for women and begins at a younger age for them. It also became clear that the older the person, the more pronounced this behavior was toward them. In many ways, they were not even seen.
My desire is that this project and book will open hearts and minds to a broader definition of beauty and a deeper understanding of what is truly valuable in a person. The finished book will have more substance than what I share here to prevent my posts being too lengthy, but each profile in the book will contain their responses to the interview questions, along with portraits of them, and some humor, of course! I am so grateful that these women, both those I have already interviewed and those I will in the future, are willing to share themselves with me, and with you. They honor us with this gift.
The first woman I want to share with you is Betty, gracious and lovely, at 91 years old in this photograph. I went to visit Betty at her home in Seattle. She was babysitting her son’s dog, Jackson, a massive guy who liked to lay on your feet, oblivious to his size.
Tell me about your background, Betty.
My family came to Seattle from Montana when I was a freshman in high school. I graduated in 1941 and got married in 1942. The war was on. There were no guys left, anywhere. They were all drafted or had joined.
I have eleven children. They say if you have a big family, you’re either Catholic or crazy, and I was both. The first three are the hardest because you are learning. I don’t think I had a girlfriend back then that had less than five children, and many had seven, eight, and nine. So, we were all in the same boat, you might say, and we all shared the same things. Capitol Hill was so prolific, so many big families then, that someone once said they were in a block in which the children, added up, for two blocks in a row, topped 100. Most of us belonged to the St. Joseph Parish and we used to laugh and say that we were repopulating the city after the war.
What are you most grateful for in life?
My family. They all come to see me. They each have assigned themselves a different day that they come. It was all their idea and it’s just wonderful that they do that. They call. I hear from them a lot. Even my son who lives in Europe calls regularly from every country he is in.
What qualities do you most admire in a person?
Honesty and wholesomeness. How they look at you when they’re talking and not looking around the room. People who are not boastful, but their whole self, coming over to you and being with you.
What would you most like to see changed on this planet?
I’d like a lot more peace.
This is a small sample of my interview with Betty and our time together. I hope you will enjoy reading the interviews as I publish them. As I mentioned, I am not finished with this project so if you know a woman over 50 (including yourself!) who might be interested in participating in this project, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below, if you like. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have and I would love to hear from you.