From the artist Artemisia Gentileschi to a true equal rights crusader like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there are so many women that I have admired or been influenced by. But personally, I have recently lost a woman that was one of the most influential people in my life—my mother-in-law, Ann Lanier Spencer.
Ann was so much more to me than my mother-in-law. She was another mother to me as well as my friend, my mentor, my confidante, and (many times) my partner in crime. People often said we were “two peas in a pod” and I can’t think of a better compliment.
Ann taught me so much about building relationships with people, networking, and being gracious in the face of adversity. She embodied the cultural phenomenon of the true “Southern Lady” and I oftentimes stood back and admired her cleverness and quick wit with people. She gave me a lot of gifts, from teaching me social graces to pushing me out of my comfort zones and into opportunities that I would not have taken for myself. She saw greatness and leadership qualities in me that I was too young and too inexperienced to see for myself and always believed in me no matter what.
Ann was also my go-to for advice, from business to personal situations. This is probably one of the things I miss most—not being able to call her, talk, and get her perspective. But I still hear her voice and I want to share one of my favorite things she ever told me (as it is the best advice ever). She once said that when someone asks you a question that seems nosy, probing, or inappropriate, ask them this question back: “I can’t imagine why you would ask me that?”
I can see her and hear her Virginian accent saying those very words while she laughed a little wicked laugh and quieted any further probing!
Ann was an amazing woman. Her influence on me lives on not just during Women’s History Month, but every day of the year.