One Woman – Making One Helluva Difference!
Essentially a loving tribute to her mother Bernice, Grace Kerry’s beautiful and challenging book ‘The Senator’ is a must read for anyone interested in history and social politics and the development of community and cultural life in Nigeria during the last century.
It also offers vital lessons for a modern society that may be losing its way.
In our go-getting, self-centered 21st Century world equality of the sexes and equal opportunities for all are often promoted and discussed at great length, but seemingly sometimes with little real progress. The Senator is a history of a lifetime of effort and determination by one person to improve her life, her family’s life and the lives of those in her community in a tangible and meaningful way, leaving a legacy of a hugely successful woman, wholeheartedly devoted to her many causes and, as a result, beloved by those who knew her and benefited from her efforts.
We hear a lot these days about the “Developing World” and perhaps this is sometimes a phrase that disguises the reality of lives for everyday people in poorer or less economically successful nations.
Those country’s leaders and international movers and shakers may grab the headlines, for reasons both good and bad, but where the everyday work of improving lives is actually carried on, far more quietly, but with much more vigour and sincerity and of course, beset with never ending obstacles and upheaval, is less well known. The book The Senator deals unashamedly and very proudly with real-life, as it was lived by everyday people in Nigeria during the 20th Century, reflected in and examined through the lifetime and remarkable achievements of one woman, the author’s mother.
Born and raised in a rural West African community, Bernice Kerry became one of the first female politicians of note in a newly independent Nigerian nation.
Traditional family values in rural Nigerian society commonly dictated that women were considered little more than child-bearers and meal-makers, subservient to men in the vast majority of cases. However, in the history revealed in this exciting book Mrs Kerry proves a wonderful example to us all of the exciting and fulfilling life available to women, then and now, that doesn’t require excluding or replacing motherhood or family life with a self-serving strident rejection of those traditional roles, but demonstrates how self-reliance, determination and a strong faith, both as a Christian and when placing trust in others to support you, can enable a loving and devoted mother and wife to equally be a prominent and successful businesswoman and community leader.
If history can be told on a personal level, its relevance becomes that much more significant for us all
Whilst heavily focused on recounting and acknowledging her mother’s significant personal achievements, the perhaps greater value and wider significance of this work for many readers will be the meticulous documentation of family and community life in a bygone age and, for political historians, the wealth of references to prominent and influential figures: evaluated less in terms of newspaper headlines and much more in relation to their interaction with their own society on a more local or personal level. The good, the bad and the ugly events from the past are all covered, to a greater or lesser degree, including commentary on the Biafra crisis and Nigerian Civil war in the late sixties; the author poignantly recounting the suffering of both displaced communities and starving soldiers. The latter were helped by the author’s family simply because it was the right thing to do even though this later led to a summons to court for Bernice Kerry and an appearance on charges akin to aiding and abetting the enemy.
The Senator begins in the early part of the 20th century and documents the arrival of white, Christian missionaries in Nigeria
Contrary to much we hear these days, this book observes the positive influence the missionaries had on the author’s maternal grandparents and, later, on her own fathers finding his vocation as a clergyman and his rise to prominence within the church. This history is cleverly and entertainingly supplied as a backdrop to Bernice Kerry’s many adventures, sometimes involving a good deal of risk and self-sacrifice, but always supported by her husband and her wider family. There are stories of daring-do and of making do, all infused with the author’s clear and overwhelming admiration for her parents example, in itself a further reminder to our increasingly fractured society, of how true love and devotion to one another, whether that be in a traditional marriage or not, will underpin and support all we may wish to achieve in our lives, however our ambitions may appear unconventional or be unappealing to others.
The final pages of the book offer an outspoken critique of the historical denial of rights for women in Nigerian society and question the degree to which any progress has really been made.
This is provocatively and challengingly set against the personal and wider social and political successes of the story’s chief protagonist. There is also criticism for some of today’s would-be religious leaders and some frank observations on the history and development of politics in Nigeria. Thus the commentary within the narrative becomes much more than simply a veneration of one woman’s life. Ultimately though and most importantly this story enables us to both learn a great deal about the value of an everyday commitment to improving opportunities for all and to understand how, as individuals, we might contribute to that whilst living a very full and rewarding life.
The Senator is available to purchase via Amazon Books for £9.99. It will educate, entertain and challenge you to reconsider the real meaning and value of equality and human endeavour.