The Women Who Inspire Us – Tellica “Mother” Briggs
Throughout the month of March, we will be sharing the stories of our members of the women who inspired them. Today's submission comes from Natalie Apparicio-Farrell, MD, MBA
As I ponder the ever-changing role of women in society, I cannot help but reflect on my personal ancestral history in the Caribbean. My grandmother - who is now deceased, God rest her soul - was a towering matriarchal figure in my life. The world knew her as Tellica Briggs, but, to us, she was “Mother”. As a mother of eleven kids in the era of the 1940s, when women were relegated to the role of homemaker, she navigated the daunting challenges faced by her contemporaries with a disarming simplicity and natural elegance that belied their often harsh day-to-day realities, and single-handedly changed not only her own life for the better, but my mother’s also, and mine by extension.
Despite being forced to terminate her education at the elementary level in order to assist in the care of her ailing grandmother - her mother was the sole breadwinner - she was still able to engage in her first major entrepreneurial venture in the agriculture sector later in life, through the purchase of an estate, whose produce was sold in the local markets in the capital city of Port of Spain, in Trinidad. This estate is a family legacy; a safe haven for many individuals and families to unwind from the busyness of life, a place that gave me such wonderful, fun-filled childhood memories.
My grandmother considered education to be indispensable to the progress and empowerment of women and pushed back wisely against my grandfather’s narrow-minded wishes at that time, ensuring that her eldest daughter, my mother, was given the opportunity to pursue tertiary level education, like her sons, instead of the traditional life of a homemaker. This “each for equal” decision impacted the future generations of our family, as I was fortunate to be raised in an environment where I was taught the significance that education plays in women’s ability to actively negotiate their future.
Having such a role model motivated my decision early in my medical career to be “my own boss” and venture into private practice.
I felt a tremendous sense of fulfillment in being able to negotiate terms and conditions and was able to break free of the overcrowding and bureaucracy issues that plagued the public sector. I was able to effect change in the lives of individuals by adequately channeling my energies and skills to investigate and treat clients in an efficient, timely manner. Seeing my grandmother challenge the status quo, allowed me to have the confidence to embrace the opportunity to diversify my career as a woman in medicine, leading me to a new career path in the male-dominated finance industry.
The empowerment of women is undoubtedly essential to the development of society. Currently, there are several factors which highlight the need for the professional empowerment of women in this post-modern world. These include but are not limited to the following: the unstable economic environment worldwide coupled with the rising cost of living force both husbands and wives to enter the workforce in order to make ends meet; the prevalence of single-parent homes where the “missing fathers” element as well as the high divorce rate make it imperative that women be equipped with the necessary skills and qualifications in order to be able to sustain themselves and their homes.
Consequently, with these and other variables inmind, women need to ensure that they are marketable, that they possess the knowledge and skills to effectively hoist themselves up into leadership and other positions in the workplace. Organizations such as the Federation of Medical Women of Canada serve as a great platform for medical women to interact with each other, thus providing amazing solidarity and comfort in the exchange of ideas and experiences. Providing access to a variety of resources, raising awareness of issues which still affect women such as access to equal and fair remuneration, and helping women achieve their goals through positive mentorship will allow the organization to have an impact on the current and future generations of women.
Standing on the shoulders of my dearest grandmother, it is my mission to fly the flag of her legacy high by using my unique, diverse expertise to make a difference in the lives of others, wherever and whenever I can.
Natalie Apparicio-Farrell MD, MBA