Today January 17, 2012 the WOD is Ann Dunham the mother of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.
In an interview, Barack Obama referred to his mother as "the dominant figure in my formative years ... The values she taught me continue to be my touchstone when it comes to how I go about the world of politics."
Stanley Ann Dunham (November 29, 1942 – November 7, 1995), was an Americananthropologist who specialized in economic anthropology and rural development. Born in Wichita,Kansas, Dunham spent her childhood in California,Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas and her teenage years in Mercer Island, Washington, and the majority of her adult life in Hawaii and Indonesia.
Dunham studied at the Honolulu University of Hawaii Manoa campus, and the University of Hawaii Manoa's East–West Center, where she attained a bachelor's in anthropology or mathematics and master's and Ph.D. in anthropology. Interested in craftsmanship, weaving and the role of women in cottage industries, Dunham's research focused on women's work on the island of Java and blacksmithing in Indonesia. To address the problem of poverty in rural villages, she created microcredit programs while working as a consultant for the United States Agency for International Development. Dunham was also employed by the Ford Foundation in Jakarta and she consulted with the Asian Development Bank in Pakistan. Towards the latter part of her life, she worked with Bank Rakyat Indonesia, where she helped apply her research to the largest microfinance program in the world.
On August 21, 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state to be admitted into the Union. Dunham's parents sought business opportunities in the new state, and after graduating from high school in 1960, Dunham and her family moved to Honolulu. Dunham soon enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. While attending a Russian language class, Dunham met Barack Obama, Sr., the school's first African student. At the age of 23, Obama Sr. had come to Hawaii to pursue his education, leaving behind a pregnant wife and infant son in his home town of Nyang’oma Kogelo in Kenya. Dunham and Obama Sr. were married on the Hawaiian island of Maui on February 2, 1961, despite parental opposition from both families. Dunham was three months pregnant. Obama Sr. eventually informed Dunham about his first marriage in Kenya but claimed he was divorced. Years later, she would discover this was false. Obama Sr.'s first wife, Kezia, later said she had granted her consent for him to marry a second wife, in keeping with Luo customs.
On August 4, 1961, at the age of 18, Dunham gave birth to her first child, Barack Obama II. After one semester at the University of Hawaii, Ann Dunham withdrew from college to help care for her new family. Soon after, Barack Sr. accepted a scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in economics at Harvard University. Acknowledging her husband's life quest of revitalizing Kenya's economy, Dunham decided to remain behind in Hawaii. In 1964 Dunham filed for divorce in January 1964, which Obama Sr. did not contest. Obama Sr. received a M.A. in economics from Harvard in 1965 and in 1971, he came to Hawaii and visited his son Barack, then 10 years old; it was the last time he would see his son. In 1982, Obama Sr. was killed in a car accident, or possibly murdered
Approximately one year later after her divorce, Dunham returned to the University of Hawaii. With help from her parents and government food stamps, she was able to juggle a full schedule of classes while caring for her son. Despite life as a struggling young mother, Ann Dunham earned her undergraduate degree in four years. During her tenure at the University of Hawaii, Dunham became romantically involved with fellow student Lolo Soetoro.
Polite, even-tempered Soetoro was an international master's student from Indonesia. In 1967 he proposed to Dunham. Once married, Ann changed her surname to Soetoro and the new family relocated to Indonesia near the city of Jakarta. In 1970, Ann gave birth to daughter Maya.
Ann Soetoro was often grieved by the quality of life for local Indonesians. Those who were close to her say she was compassionate almost to a fault, and would give money to countless ailing beggars. As Ann became more interested in Indonesian culture, her husband Lolo began working for a Western oil company.
Bored by the domestic, traditional course her marriage had taken, Ann intensified her focus on formal education. She began teaching English in the American Embassy. In the mornings she would give Barack Jr. his English lessons, and in the evenings she would give him books on civil rights and play him Mahalia Jackson's gospel songs.
When her son was 10 years old, Ann sent him back to Hawaii to attend prep school and reside with his grandparents. One year later, Ann and her daughter also returned to Hawaii. Here she enrolled in graduate school at the University of Hawaii to study cultural anthropology of Indonesian peoples. In 1980 she would file for divorce against her husband Lolo.
After several years of schooling, Ann Soetoro returned to Indonesia for doctoral level fieldwork. Wishing to remain with his grandparents, 14-year-old Barack Obama Jr. declined to join his mother. Once back in Indonesia, Soetoro began working for the Ford Foundation studying women's employment concerns. From 1988 to 1992 Soetoro helped install a microfinance program in Indonesia where small business owners could gain small loans. Many credit Soetoro's research with informing fiscal lending policies, making Indonesia a world leader in microfinance loans.
Through the years, Ann and her daughter would move around the world to Pakistan, New York, and back to Hawaii. In 1992 Ann Soetoro finally finished her doctoral dissertation: a 1,000-page analysis of peasant blacksmithing. In 1994 during a dinner party in Jakarta, Soetoro complained of stomach pains. Months later she was diagnosed with ovarian and uterine cancer. She died on November 7, 1995 at the age of 52.
In his 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama wrote, "My mother's confidence in needlepoint virtues depended on a faith I didn't possess... In a land [Indonesia] where fatalism remained a necessary tool for enduring hardship ... she was a lonely witness for secular humanism, a soldier for New Deal, Peace Corps, position-paper liberalism."[In his 2006 book The Audacity of Hope Obama wrote, "I was not raised in a religious household ... My mother's own experiences ... only reinforced this inherited skepticism. Her memories of the Christians who populated her youth were not fond ones ... And yet for all her professed secularism, my mother was in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I've ever known." "Religion for her was "just one of the many ways — and not necessarily the best way — that man attempted to control the unknowable and understand the deeper truths about our lives," Obama wrote.