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The Women in Literature and Life Assembly
The National Council of Teachers of English
Editor:  Patricia Kelly kellyp@vt.edu
Volume 7
Fall 1998

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On Receiving the Rewey Belle Inglis Award

Leila Christenbury, Virginia Commonwealth University
from a Speech delivered at the 1997 NCTE Annual Convention, Detroit, MI

I grew up in a matriarchal family where women, not men, were the major actors. It was the influence of my great grandmother, my grandmothers, my great aunts, my elderly female cousins, and my mother that shaped me. While none of these women were achievers of any note, or even teachers, and while none of them left behind much of a mark on the larger world, they taught me well. They were all readers; they were all talkers; they had an avid interest in almost all aspects of life. They encouraged me to think for myself, to express my views, and within some boundaries, to be bold. As a child, as a girl, and as a young woman, they never talked to me of limitations or barriers. They just, in their provincial small town southern ways, conveyed to me clearly that I, the next generation, would enter and conquer the world.

This is a major source of my strength and is, I feel, one of the most valuable legacies we can give each other. Consistently, clearly, we need to convey to our female students and colleagues that, as one of my favorite bumper stickers cites, "a woman's place is in the world."

In this room today are almost all the people who, in the profession of English education, have supported me and helped me grow. Many are man, and very many are women. To all of them, as well as all of the long passed but beloved members of my family matriarchy, I give you sincere thanks. You modeled for me the virtues represented by this award, and I have tried to be your good student.

Reference Citation: Christenbury, L. (1998). "On Receiving the Rewey Belle Inglis Award." WILLA, Vol. VII, p. 14.

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