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The “Everywoman” of Martha’s Task

For those of us with stable economic lives, it is almost impossible to imagine the lives of many women in our country who live in poverty. As I think about the women we meet through Martha’s Task, I want to give you a glimpse of the “Everywoman” who we serve.

“I heard you can earn money from selling items you sew” says Everywoman who came in a while back. As I began to inquire about the conditions that led her to us, Everywoman’s story unfolded. The most pressing need presented itself first: Everywoman had not had any income for a month. Her ordeal began when she and her boyfriend got into a physical altercation, and both were arrested. Every woman was released the following day and took $400 in cash from the apartment. Her boyfriend, who was still in jail had the keys to the car they owned together. Later, when Everywoman returned to the apartment to collect some belongings, she discovered that her boyfriend had taken the car that they jointly owned and left town.

For the last month, Everywoman and her two children, ages six and eleven stayed in a motel. Each day, the three of them walked six blocks to a mission that served lunch, their only meal of the day. When her cash was gone, Everywoman and her two children moved in with her stepmother who she had not seen in two years. Everywoman’s father died six years ago.

Everywoman earned a GED and had previously worked in fast food restaurants and as a maid in a motel. It is impossible for Everywoman to keep a job because her eleven year old son has epilepsy and she is frequently called to school to pick him up after he has suffered a grand mal seizure. She has been fired from the last two fast food jobs she had for missing too many days of work.

Everywoman’s step mother is seventy years old and lives on social security. She owns a two bedroom trailer home on the west end of town and agreed for Everywoman to sleep on the sofa and her two children to share one of the bedrooms. The stepmother asked Everywoman to pay the utilities and to split the cost of groceries. Everywoman reported that, “ Stepmother likes to go to the casino each day, and is unwilling to babysit.” Everywoman had been looking for a job for the last few weeks, but lacking a car, she was unable to drive to the east side of town where fast food and motel jobs are available.

If Everywoman cannot pay nearly $150 in utility costs at the end of next month, she and her children will have to leave the trailer and will be homeless. Luckily, school has started, and both children ride the school bus to school and back to the trailer. I immediately refer Everywoman to a local social agency that can help her with utility costs for one month. I also inform Everywoman that she can stay today to earn $20 in emergency assistance by decorating some gift bags that we sell in our shop. She tells me that she took home economics classes in high school before dropping out and she learned basic sewing in one of the classes.

After a tour of our center Everywoman decides that she wants to join our instructional sewing program. She is relieved to discover that our center will cover the costs for her to take city transportation to our center and back home. Everywoman is thrilled to find out that we will pay her a modest stipend of $30 weekly as long as she attends six hours of sewing instruction.

After a month of sewing instruction, Everywoman begins to make curling iron covers and aprons that are passing quality control. In fact, Everywoman’s items appear here in our online store! From her online sales, Everywoman is able to pay the utilities and is contributing toward monthly grocery purchases. This month she will receive a used sewing machine and an iron that she can use at home to sew in the evenings and on the weekends. Please stay tuned for following blogs that will describe the new developments in Everywoman’s hopeful journey to greater stability!

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     Bobbi Sexson