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The Village Godmother


My last blog about women in television news was, in part, a reflection on the ways in which some women must assume facades and artifice and superficial images in order to reach what passes for success in the popular culture.

Today’s reflection is about a Real Woman, a genuine heroine, someone whose legacy will live for generations in the lives of children who have called her Godmother. She wears her own shoes, too — I have seen them, and they are the sturdy shoes of a woman who has done the hardest kind of work from her youth to her elder years. Even well into her eighth decade, she could run circles around those carefully constructed television personas with their five-inch spikes.

Irene Hobson is a living legend for many young people in her neighborhood today. She is also the legendary “Miss Irene” who worked here at Trinity for 55 years, from 1945 to her retirement in the Year 2000. Through my student days and on into my professional life at Trinity, Ms. Hobson’s steady, cheerful and wise presence each day was one of Trinity’s great charms.

But it took a member of our new first year class, Ms. Ashley Judd, to teach me about the great power of Miss Irene’s presence in the lives of other young women. Ms. Judd wrote one of the most moving admissions essays I have ever read. She wrote about her Godmother: “There are many people who have influenced me…but none of them come close to being like my Godmother, Irene Elizabeth Hobson. She is truly an inspiration to many others and me…My godmother has been through a lot of trials and tribulations in her life. Even still, she bounces back with her head held high and ready to accept her next endeavor.”

Ashley describes Irene’s young life: “Being born December 18, 1919 was a struggle within itself. A struggle to survive as an African American woman in such a segregated and racist time. In addition to the day-to-day struggles, she had to deal with the death of her mother at the young age of seventeen. By losing her mother, she had no choice but to drop out of school and get a job to support herself.”

Ms. Judd goes on to relate the story of Ms. Hobson’s work life, first with a doctor’s family, then at Trinity starting in 1945 at the age of 26. Irene retired in 2000 at the age of 80. While at Trinity, “Ms. Hobson became very fond of the nuns and they of her,” writes Ashley. “I have learned that just as she is my mentor, the nuns were her mentors and she refers to many lessons learned from them….” Ashley writes that one of Irene’s most joyful moments was receiving her long-delayed high school diploma in 1999 at a special ceremony at Archbishop Carroll High School.

The real meaning of Irene in Ashley’s life comes through in these words: “Ms. Hobson has never has any children of her own, but she has certainly been a village mother. She has been a godmother to many children…helping them to have a better, stronger and wiser life. Even at her age, she is still assisting the younger generation…”

The best compliment that Ms. Judd accords to Ms. Hobson is the desire to follow her example: “I am positive that I will not take on the responsibility of a godmother until I have given it strong consideration. Having a godmother such as Ms. Hobson lets one know that it is a major responsibility and I would not be any less of a godmother than she. Often times, I wonder if she has thought about the impact that she has had on children’s lives…”

Ashley closes her tribute to Irene with this poetic imagery: “As one grows older they will see and understand some of the things they may not have understood when they were younger. They will appreciate many individuals who have helped them to bloom. They will reach back on the memory of all of the village people. In my thoughts and reflections, there in the middle of my village will stand a short, strong-minded, once hard-working individual whom I have called Godmother.”

Irene Elizabeth Hobson, we salute you! Thank you for being the Village Godmother for generations of young women, Trinity Women, Sisters of Notre Dame and all who have had the pleasure of knowing you! Many thanks to Ashley for giving me permission to share this wonderful tribute with the Trinity family.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: