People want to know about their family history. They want to learn about their ancestors and forebearers – the “pillars” of their bloodline.

This is why services such as have become increasingly popular. Members of my own family have participated in these searches and are urging me to get involved.

Learning about our histories is important. The knowledge we gain can help us to understand health issues, such as heart conditions, blood pressure, cancer and diabetes, to name a few.

Family histories can also help us to understand “from whence we have come,” to contextualize the struggles that have been overcome and the generational “curses” that have been broken, and they can provide incentives to make healthy changes to familial maladies previous generations were unable to defeat.

As I contemplated how best to approach this article for International Women’s Day, I thought of the many noteworthy women throughout history that merit a place in this series.

But then my thoughts turned towards others. I began to think about the countless women whose names are not written in any history books – women whose stories may never be told, women who paved the way for those we read about and celebrate on so many levels.

Today, I invite you to join me in honoring those women.

Some were born in distant lands and came to America on slave ships, while others came to America as immigrants, searching for a better life for their families.

Some were born right here in the U.S., and worked their fingers to the bone, with no pay, or while being underpaid, unappreciated, abused, misused, unaffirmed and ignored.

Today, I honor those women who sacrificed their chance to “rise and shine,” choosing rather to remain in the background, working, serving, giving, loving, bending their backs, enduring arthritic hands, knees and feet, ignoring their own needs so that their children could have a better life.

There was a woman that I met many years ago. She was born and raised in Guyana, South America.

Her father was a pharmacist, and her mother was a school teacher. She was taught by her parents to honor the Lord with her life, to serve her community and to walk in a spirit of humility.

This woman’s home was a home filled with music. She was trained as a concert violinist who studied music in Guyana at the Trinity Music School and the Royal School of Music. She and her sister, a concert pianist, gave community concerts in the main public hall in George Town.

As a concert violinist, her opening and signature song was “Thai’s (pronounced “TAZE”) Meditation.” She was certified by the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, and was First Chair violin in the orchestra. She received credit for piano from the Academy of Music in London.

She met and married her husband in the early 1950’s. He had a dream of coming to live and raise their family in America. Together, they were blessed with four beautiful children.

This woman supported her husband’s life-long dream of becoming an American citizen. She did all she could to help him as he was accepted into Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio in 1960.

In 1961, she entrusted her three children (one had not yet been born) to her mother and family and came to America. She lived in New York for a season with family, working menial jobs to help send financial support to her struggling husband.

Having been raised in a prominent home in Guyana, this was truly a “labor of love” and sacrifice for her family.

Nonetheless, she worked with all her heart to ensure that her husband could finish his schooling to become a chemist, and their children and her mother could reunite with them in America.

I’ve heard her tell the story of working all week cleaning a woman’s home and cooking for her family. At the end of the week, the woman handed her $5 and asked, “What is a girl like you going to do with all of this money?”

Despite the horrible racism and indignities, she held her head high, looked at the woman and declared, “It is not the size of the gift that matters, but the manner and heart with which it is received.”

She said that the woman looked at her and inquired as to where she learned how to speak in such a way! The ignorant woman didn’t realize that she was in the presence of a Guyanese scholar!

A black-and-white photo of a family of six.This woman, her husband and their three children became American citizens. Later, they would have their fourth and final child, a “natural born American citizen.” Ultimately, they purchased a home in Akron, Ohio, where they raised their family.

In that home, she carried on the tradition of teaching her children about love, faith, prayer and trust in the Lord, cooking delicious meals, hosting guests, playing beautiful music and sharing family stories! She enjoyed working as a nursing assistant at Akron General Medical Center for approximately 20 years until her retirement.

This woman sacrificed a life of prominence in exchange for supporting the dreams of others, sadly, neglecting her own.

On Nov. 12, 2021, she was escorted by the angels to her heavenly home to rest with the Lord. No doubt, she is playing in the heavenly orchestra, fulfilling long-awaited experiences not realized here on earth.

Today, I honor my mother by saying her name: Patricia Helena Garraway Small – daughter, sister, wife, mother, concert violinist, scholar, teacher, advocate, immigrant, prayer warrior, woman of God.

Honor the shero’s in your life. Say their names! You won’t read about them in the history books, but you know them!

Say her name! Maybe it’s your mother, your grandmother, your auntie, your sister, the woman next door, the lady in the community, the ancestor upon whose shoulders you stand.

Say her name! You know her, you see her, you’ve heard of her. Honor her.

Because “her candle did not go out by night” (Proverbs 31:18, KJV), we are. Say her name!

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series for International Women’s Day (March 8). The other article published to date is:

Why I Didn’t Celebrate International Women’s Day Growing Up | Lina Toth

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