July 10, 2012

Ann Dunham Was the Mother of . . .

On the cusp of the women’s movement, a young anthropologist, an idealistic woman from Kansas and other parts of the country, travels to Indonesia. She studies textiles and blacksmithing in small villages. She creates microcredit programs while working for the United States Agency for International Development. She advises banks and international organizations on creating microcredit programs. Bank Rakyat Indonesia, one organization she advised, is now the second largest bank in Indonesia in terms of assets. Because of its emphasis on microfinance it was largely untouched by the East Asian financial crisis of 1997.

The woman’s name, Ann Dunham, elicits questioning eyebrows whenever I mention her. Then I say, “Barack Obama’s mother,” and everyone nods in understanding. Ann Dunham’s work was not recognized until after her son became famous. I wonder how many women today are still defined by their children’s accomplishments rather than by their own.

(For more details about Ann Dunham, read A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, by Janny Scott.)