“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”

― Brigham Young

The big number of 2016 is 23.

It’s not Hillary’s poll number over Trump; it’s much more impressive. Hillary Clinton will become the 23rd woman on the planet to lead a country, following Chancellor Angela Merkel, of Germany; President Dilma Rousseff, of Brazil; and Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, of Denmark, to name a few.

Of course, we can see at this point that this is not going to make a large number of American alpha males very happy. I don’t think it’s wise to say whom I will be voting for — that’s a personal thing. I won’t mention any names, but I love her collection of pantsuits.

Of course I want a woman to be president. I am a man who loves women, be they actresses, doctors, lawyers or the great salad makers at Shelby’s cafe in Oakland, Maine; so leader of the free world is the natural next thing.

I am a lifelong Democrat, and my readers know that I would be in the streets for Elizabeth Warren or Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar. But this piece is not just about politics. It’s about how I got to who and where I am in this world, and how, in this historic century of women, it was all due exclusively to the great American women who nurtured and taught me from birth.

It started, of course, with my mother, Veronica Conlon Devine. She was strong woman, who, when my father died and left her with only a Navy pension and the two smallest of her nine children, got her act together at once, went to nursing school at night and eventually became a nurse and imbued me with two basic principles: Always be respectful to women and don’t oversalt the cabbage.

With her at school or work for daylight hours, I spent much of my time alone.

That led me to the women who were the greatest influence in my life, starting with Sisters Rosanna, Mary Magdalene, Jane Behlmann, Amilda and Mary Kramolowsky, whose rosary I still have.

These were all the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, at the Mother House convent directly across the street from where I was born and raised. I was their fifth Devine boy, and I took it seriously.

First was Sister Amilda, the keeper of the garden and grounds, who taught me how to plant flowers. In her potting shed were two framed pictures of Jesus, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt cut from Life magazine. A liberal was born.

There was Sister Rosanna, my favorite, who taught me to read even before I started school up the street, and got me my first library card and first book, “Aesop’s Fables,” and taught me how to roller skate.

Tiny Sister Magdalene took me down to the bakery in the basement and showed me how bread was baked and how the hosts were cut from flat sheets of bread with a tiny cutter. Sister Mary gave me my diploma upon graduation from kindergarten and signed it. I have it still.

I learned the basics of the tango from my sister Rita, and a history of art and how to paint in oils from my sister Eileen; from the great Geraldine Page how to put tuxedo pants on backstage, by standing on a chair; and how to recognize the soft ones in a box of chocolates, from Olivia de Havilland.

My aunt Mamie taught me how to fry chicken the Southern way, in a big black iron pan while drinking cold beer.

On summer afternoons over lemonade, Aunt Winnie explained to me the plots of her favorite soap operas, “Our Gal Sunday” and “Mary Noble, Backstage Wife.” A radio actor was born.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention Rosemary DeBranco, who taught me to slow dance in the rain; to Mary Gorman, who taught me never to wear stripes with plaids; to Barbara Johnson, who taught me that I was tying my shoestrings all wrong, and how to do it in the dark without looking.

I learned from Marie Collette, of Paris and the Berlitz School of Languages in Manhattan, to eat my desert first and salad last.

From She and our two daughters, I learned New England manners, correct punctuation, how to update to iPhone 10, and everything I know about love.

And last, but not least, I learned from Hillary Rodham Clinton how to stand up against bullies, keep smiling while waiting for the right moment, and that living well truly is the best revenge.

Hold onto your Bud Lite cans, boys. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.


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