Today I attended the funeral of Ruth Hardy Funk, a past general president of the Young Women's and a dear family friend. I had the privledge of interviewing her last year for the Mormon Women Project, and was pleasantly surprised that the MWP was cited as a source for her obituaries in the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News. Church leadership was out in force to honor this great lady, and I got to shake President Monson's hand before the service began.I also got to see my friend Caroline, Ruth's granddaughter, participate in honoring her.
Contrasting this experience to the funeral of Mary Foulger that I attended a few months ago, I was struck by how both of these women left strong legacies of womanhood both with their families and with those they interacted with generally. I ask myself, How did these two women feel so empowered by their womanhood in a way that many women of the Church today don't? Was it there innate sense of confidence? Their understanding of and personal relationship wtih the Savior? Certainly these things contributed, but in both cases I noticed also an understanding that their membership in the Church allowed them to become what they wanted to become, to spread their wings, so to speak, and maximize their potential as women in their chosen activities. Yes, they were both mothers primarily and Ruth's journey included a complex decision not to pursue a professional performing career and focus her inestimable strengths on church leadership instead, but even so they blossomed in the sphere and time in which they were placed. Women in the Church today have the opportunity to do the same thing: to view womanhood as an opportunity for free development of the self in the time and place we live, rather than as proscriptive in its limitations. Our time is very different today than the time during which Mary and Ruth were raising their children and coming into their own, and I would suggest that this makes it even easier to develop ourselves than it was in their time. We have flexibility and resources they did not have. And yet, we can continue to look to them as women who made the absolute most of what they had and found satisfaction in pushing themselves to the extent of their capabilities. I am immensely grateful for the examples of these two women in my life.