For the twelfth day of Women’s History Month, I honor my maternal grandmother, Margery Binkerd Wells Steer.
She was born on a farm in New Canaan Connecticut, August 29th, 1899. She died at her daughter’s home in Merchantville, New Jersey on April 10, 1992. In her 92 years, she was fond of remarking how much change she had witnessed and participated in. She came of age as women won the right to vote. She learned to drive, but didn’t choose to operate an automobile, or to travel by air. She chose to write.
Over her lifetime she wrote more than 800 columns for the Salem County Farm and Dairy. As a rural farmer’s wife and mother of two, she had to find her writing time around a substantial schedule of chores including housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, canning freshly killed meat, tending, harvesting and preserving the bounty of a kitchen garden.
My childhood memories include shelling peas with her under a weeping willow tree, visiting the tiny North Lima library to check out as many books as allowed, eating fresh honey from the comb, and cavorting with kittens, foals, and calves. I remember the delight of raspberries picked fresh from the thorny bushes, and the purposeful walk across wet grass to pick a bouquet of wildflowers for her table.
Margery Binkerd Wells Steer inspired love and dedication to the written word. She was a newspaper clipper and sharer. She maintained a voluminous correspondence with writers and thinkers worldwide, including the historian Mary Beard.
Not only did she inspire me as writer, her impending death pushed me to become a publisher. My mother and I worked with focus from Thanksgiving, 1991 until March of 1992, when we were able to hand her a beautiful cloth-bound copy of The View in Winter, the illustrated book of poems covering her lifetime of work. Thus began Southbound Press.
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