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Bry: My mother’s best lesson



Editor’s Note: This is a part of a collection of stories SDNN will publish throughout the month of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. Join us as we recognize Women’s History Month by sending in your stories too and checking SDNN every day for stories from other women in our region. Happy Women’s History Month!

Nude marathon therapy. EST. Psychoanalysis. Gestalt therapy. Group therapy. LSD. Encounter group therapy.

My mother – Adelaide Bry – tried them all and wrote about her experiences. If she were alive today, she would be 89 years old. Sadly, she died in 1983, and my major regret is that she never got to see her granddaughters (now 25 and 28) grow up, and they never got to know this extraordinary (and sometimes difficult) pioneering woman. Think Auntie Mame on steroids, and you would have Adelaide— a fiercely energetic, audaciously passionate, intellectually engaged woman who continually re-invented herself in her effort to live life to the fullest at a time when women faced major hurdles and discrimination.

During World War II, she was an editor of an aviation magazine that told her to write under the name “A.J. Bry” so no one would know that she was a woman. After she and my father were divorced in 1964, she bought a house for $22,000 and had to get a male friend to co-sign on the mortgage, even though she was earning $15,000 a year—more than enough to afford the mortgage payment. In the era of the TV show Mad Men, she was the first woman vice president at a large Philadelphia advertising agency where she was paid less than her male counterparts, and there was nothing that she could do about it.

In her 40s, she re-invented herself again. She went back to college to get a master’s degree in psychology and then became a psychotherapist and author. Before her death in 1983, she wrote more than 10 books including “The Sexually Aggressive Woman” (guys wanted to meet me after hearing that!), “Directing the Movies of Your Mind: Visualization for Health and Insight” (one of the first popular books about the mind-body relationship), and “EST: 60 Hours that Transform Your Life.”

After she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1983, she handled her terminal disease with grace and humor. As the illness progressed, her La Jolla home was filled with friends and family. Often it felt like a party with Adelaide freely dispensing advice to everyone in the room. After her death, we celebrated her life in my backyard with her favorite food (salmon and croissants) and the telling of “Adelaide” stories for several hours.

I feel blessed to have had Adelaide as my mother. After a devastating divorce in the 1990s, remembering her life inspired me as I coped with being a single mother and the task of re-inventing myself (like mother, like daughter) as an entrepreneur in my 40s. I thank Adelaide for telling me that I could succeed in a male dominated world, that I could be different than most of the other women with whom I grew up, and that you’re never too old to try something new.

Barbara Bry is the associate publisher and executive editor for USLNN (SDNN’s parent company).

Submit your Women’s History Month stories to [email protected] for consideration.

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