The women I know

Salma and Hendrik Kampen leave the mosque in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania after wedding festivities.

Throughout history, there have been billions of women who have lived and died, and were inspirational to other women. Their stories were never written and we will never know who they are.

Today, on the penultimate day of Women’s History Month, I’m going to briefly highlight a few friends and some of the local women I know who have inspired me. I will only name three friends as I’m almost sure none of them will hit me for mentioning their names.

Candice has been a good friend over the years and is always willing to put up with my weird habits and issues that arise because of my mental health concerns. She is one of the few people in my life that can just hug me without having to ask first.

Candice and I worked at the Star-Herald together. She was my copy editor. It was not uncommon for me to text her at 9 p.m., in a panic that I had screwed something up. More often than not, it was just me panicking, but she never made me feel bad for my increase in anxiety and freaked out phone call. She always worked with me, calmed me down, and fixed whatever did need fixing.

Now that we have both moved on to other jobs, she continues to be an inspiration to me. She doesn’t judge people and is one of the most understanding people I know. She’s always called me out on any bullshit thoughts I have, is willing to listen, and will give me blunt advice when I need it. I appreciate her honesty even when I know it’s going to hurt.

Salma impressed me from the first day I met her. Salma met her husband and my friend, Hendrik, when he was working in Tanzania. They fell in love and Salma moved to The Netherlands with Hendrik. They returned to Tanzania to be married and I got to witness a week-long Christian-Muslim-Tanzanian wedding. Salma is a couple of inches shorter than me, but I’ve never seen her let that be a hindrance to her. She doesn’t take shit from anyone. She has an infectious smile and is always looking to learn more about the world. I’ve never been around her where she didn’t make me laugh.

Salma is a fierce defender of her friends and if you wrong them, you have wronged her. She also speaks five languages. Once when we were talking, she paused and said, “I’m sorry Irene, I can’t think of what that word is in English.” I told her not to worry about it. She had a lot of languages bouncing around in her head and I only speak English fluently. We laughed and eventually figured out what she was trying to say.

While I only traveled halfway across my country to start a new life, Salma left her home in Tanzania and traveled to an entirely different continent where she had to learn a new language and new customs. She did so with such ease that I often look up to her in awe that she knew what she wanted and went for it.

I met Evangelia on the internet when people still didn’t know what the hell the internet was. She eventually met and married my friend, Gert. He’s Dutch. She’s Greek. They live together in Greece and Eva is a published author.

Eva inspires me because she has always successfully taken advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves to her. When things aren’t working out, she can change, modify, or leave whatever is happening and still come out on top.

I am impressed how Eva can say what she means and still be respected. At the same time, she is caring, affable, and friendly. If you ask her for an honest answer to your question, you always know you will get it.

As you look around your town, there are many women who are inspiring and making the world a better place. There are the lawyers who fight for justice. There are the psychologists, licensed mental health practitioners, social workers, and others working in the mental health field to help others.

There are women who work for Region 1, the Panhandle Partnership, and the Panhandle Public Health District who actually affect your lives in real and positive ways. They quietly work behind the scenes and rarely get the recognition for the things they do even though they are there improving all of our communities throughout the Panhandle. They are at The DOVES Program. They are at CAPStone. They are at CAPWN.

They are the women who work in local government. They are the women who work in tourism. They are the women in 4-H training a new generation of youth the skills they need to be self-reliant. They are the doctors and nurses who work in a variety of places taking care of you and your family. They are the local leaders who are always there to volunteer, to lead, to encourage others.

They are the members of the Panhandle Business and Professional Women Organization. They are the members of Sorptimist International of Scotts Bluff County.

If you ask them, and believe me I have, they will all say they are just doing their thing, doing what they think is right. Many of these women don’t see themselves as inspirational, but they are. Without them, our Panhandle communities would not be the positive places they are today. There is not a woman I personally know working in the Panhandle that has not inspired me in some way. They have given me wise information, guidance, and truth. I am a better person just for having met them.

There are many women – your moms, grandmas, sisters, friends – who are probably inspiring to you. Take note of them. Tell them how they have inspired you, helped you, consoled you, made you laugh. After all, when the history books are written, the most influential women in your life may never get an entry. Let them know now they had a positive influence in your life. They’ll appreciate it.

Tomorrow, I will finish Women’s History Month with the most influential woman of all in my life. I hope you’ll read about her and I hope you enjoyed my month of stories of women who inspired me.


Matilda McCrear


Lorraine Schoeneberger


  1. Judy

    Beautiful recognition. You are also an inspiration to many!

    • Irene

      Thank you. I will try to keep that in mind as I don’t often think of myself that way.

  2. Jerry Lewis

    You are such a beautiful person yourself, Irene. The articles have been inspirational. I so hope you are happy where you’re now working. Those with whom you work are so lucky to have you in their midst.

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