|Venessa Fae Macro
The first women in the United States to broadcast the morning livestock markets via radio, my mother takes her well-deserved place in the Plaza of Heroines.
DORIS LUCILLE NELSON was born December 31, 1921 in a farmhouse near Soldier, Iowa. She grew up in Soldier where her father drove an oil truck and her mother took numerous odd jobs from sewing to cleaning, to make ends meet. Upon graduation from Soldier High School in 1939, Doris boarded the train for Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls Iowa. After the brief training of the era, she returned to Soldier to teach in a one room country schoolhouse.
Hard times, however, proved the impetus to her family’s move to Sioux City, Iowa two years later. All sought jobs -- Mother Fae went to work for Younkers Tea Room while Father, John, sought employment with Windstar.
After a short stint in the Office of Price Controls, Doris took a job with the United States Department of Agriculture at the Sioux City Stockyards. It was there that she accomplished a historical first. The male- dominated world of livestock market broadcasting found a new voice--the voice of my mother. With her boss hovering over her, worried at how things would go, my mother's voice found its way into the homes and barns of area farmers who were surprised, but as history would tell it, not unhappy to hear her voice each morning. When her broadcast was complete she returned to her office to complete her administerial tasks.
It was during this pre-packing house era that the stockyards flourished. My mother was a participant in this all-too-often forgotten part of our Midwestern heritage. As for so many women of the time, working was a financial necessity. In the end, however, I suspect it was more for Doris Nelson--I suspect her joy in working and being with others transcended the need for income. Undoubtedly, a bit of her soul drifts through the Sioux City Stockyards just as her voice once floated across the radio airwaves.
Neither this story nor my mother's accomplishments ended with her departure from the Sioux City Stockyards after 19 years of service. It was then, in 1963, that she became Doris Kuhlmann and embarked on her second career -- a partner in my father's farming operation.
Moving to the small hamlet of Charter Oak, Iowa, she quickly adapted to her new way of life and her new community. I am amazed at the apparent ease with which she made the seemingly drastic change in lifestyles -- moving in with not only a new husband but also his nearly grown three children and their maternal grandmother, adapting to a new community, new friends, and new church. When reflecting on those years, however, she remembers neither unhappiness nor consternation. Instead, she credits those around her for making the transition a joy. To a large extent, however, I imagine her adaptation had more to do with the kind of person she was then she would ever admit.
Her new career required long, yet rewarding, hours. She served as cook to the endless stream of hired help that found their way to our kitchen table during the summer and fall months. For those of us who grew up in an era of microwave simplicity, the meals of meat, potatoes, and pie she created each day for men who always took two or more helpings seem unimaginable.
Her organizational skills also proved invaluable to the business aspect of our family farming operation. Each January, our dining room table was covered end to end with large black ledgers containing seemingly hundreds of columns, each filled with my mother's handwritten numbers. Many an evening I went to sleep hearing her fingers run across the adding machine and many a morning I woke up to that very same sound.
I could fill hundreds of pages with her attributes as a mother. Suffice it to say she put as much energy, if not more, in to that endeavor as she did everything else. In the process, she touched the lives of those beyond our family boundaries. As 4-H leader, she exemplified the clearer thinking, greater loyalty, larger service, and better living that the 4-H pledge requires. As a hostess, she welcomed such groups as the Iowa State University Cross-Country team of which my brother was a member andthe University of Northern Iowa speech team to which I belonged.
She has always found time to give to church and community. Her speaking abilities pervade much of her community life where she is frequently chosen to serve as spokeswoman or speech-giver. She has also used her communication skills to participate in Democratic party politics. In 1988, she supported Senator Paul Simon in the Presidential Primaries. Her contribution included a presentation to local groups in which she recited the Senator's back-ground and political platform.
Despite the abundance of blessings with which our family has been endowed, her life has not been without adversity. With each conflict or sorrow, however, she selflessly supported others first, providing comfort and quoting scripture by memory. This is truly one of her most remarkable qualities.
Today, I remain in awe of her. She continues to excel in all that she does. In selecting her name to be placed in the Plaza of Heroines, I reflect most on how she encouraged me to achieve. Her most influential encouragement, however, was by example. She has taught me that achievement is not in being provided the opportunity of a lifetime, but making a lifetime out of opportunity, no matter how limited that opportunity may be. Surely, my mother did not take a job with the USDA because she had aspirations of being the first woman to broadcast the morning livestock reports. Instead, that feat occurred because she made the most of a given situation, and proved she was capable and competent. Therein lies the secret to the true advancement of women and one to which I credit her.
-Venessa Fae Macro
Submitted on 12/22/95