Friday, May 9, 2014

Mother's Day 2014

Jordan photographed with her mother,
Arlyne Jordan, Governor For a Day,
June 10, 1972
For Mother's Day this year, we thought it would be interesting to put something together about Jordan and her mother, Arlyne.  Like many mother-and-daughter relationships, their relationship was complicated but loving, and at the root of it all Arlyne was extremely proud and supportive of all her daughters and their accomplishments.

Arlyne (born Phothie Arlyne Patten) herself was a speaker of note as a child and teenager, known as one of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church's "star orators," speaking at youth revivals and missionary meetings. After she married and started a family, she gave up public oration, choosing to focus instead on family and church life.  Arlyne and her husband Benjamin both pushed their three daughters to work hard, study hard and make something of themselves. Jordan was to say later that one of the reasons she decided to become a lawyer and a public service was because she understood that Arlyne had given up something she loved and was good at to care for her family.
Arlyne Jordan outside the family
home on Campbell Street, ca. 1975

Arlyne wasn't exactly excited about Jordan's decision to go to law school (Jordan said later that Arlyne
wanted Jordan to choose something "more sensible"), but as Jordan went from strength to strength in her political career, her mother was among her strongest supporters.  Arlyne was even an inspiration and catalyst for some of Jordan's political work.

Jordan’s mother Arlyne was widowed in 1972 and as a homemaker she received no income other than a small widow’s benefit from the government; because Arlyne had not worked outside the home (like many women of that generation) she was not able to contribute to the Social Security system with wages, thus she was not eligible for benefits on her own.  Jordan realized that her mother was not the only woman in their community in the same financial situation.  Jordan decided there was a need for equality in the Social Security system in terms of recognizing “homemaker” as a legitimate occupation.  In her first Congressional term, Jordan set about cosponsoring a bill to provide Social Security benefits for homemakers.  The bill died at the House, but Jordan attempted to revive the bill a couple of years later with still no success.  Jordan continued to push for the bill during her terms in Congress though, and was also an active supporter for the ERA.  For Jordan, these were equality matters that hit close to home.
Jordan and her mother at
Jordan's portrait unveiling,
February 8, 1975

During Jordan's last term in Congress, Arlyne began to develop symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, and was cared for in Houston by daughters Bennie and Rose Mary.  Jordan visited her mother often, spending as many holidays with her as she could.  Arlyne passed away in 1997, one year after Jordan's death. Photographs that remain show Arlyne's pride in Jordan's accomplishments.