By Joyce Voss
There are moments in life that feel like dead ends. It may be a job that is no longer fulfilling. A once solid relationship that has crumbled. The place we call home is far from where we are and want to be. These and other life changes can stop us in our tracks.
Helen Steiner Rice knew such moments. She lived in the first 80 years of the twentieth century and in the course of her life experienced life losses and discrimination in the workplace. Helen fought against these in positive ways. She redefined the work she could do, and in business she encouraged and supported other women in their careers.
Among her personal life perils were two big tragedies, in particular, that would test her.
Her dream was to be a lawyer, but life intervened. Her father, a railway worker, died from Spanish influenza in 1918. He became ill on a railway run early in the epidemic. Helen had no choice; she had to become the sole support and breadwinner for her mother and sister. There was no one else.
She was gifted with drive, creativity, and a sunny attitude. Into the business world she went, first to the local electric company, then on to her own Speakers Bureau, and finally to the Gibson Greeting Card Company that later in her career allowed her name to be attached to her verses that appeared on their cards.
In her late twenties she met Franklin Rice, a successful businessman she eventually married. Wed in January 1929, their life together seemed secure and happy. But, In October of that year, the Stock Market crashed. Franklin was heavily invested. His attempts at recouping failed. The loss of his job and the loss of his fortune led to serious depression. He struggled for months but finally succumbed to suicide.
From childhood, Helen had written poetry. It was to poetry she would go, not only in times of sadness, but also in times of gratitude and joy. While she certainly acknowledged the darkness of life, Helen had a strong faith and believed that we are here to help our sisters and brothers. It was one of her life principles. In the last twenty years of her life, this became very evident with the establishment of the Helen Steiner Rice Foundation. As a nonprofit corporation, its purpose is to award grants to worthy charitable programs that assist the needy and the elderly.
Like the rest of us, she had life events that led her to darkness. These setbacks and disappointments STOPPED her, but time and her poetry brought her through these dark places. Today we are grateful that we can tap into her poetic inspirations in times of need. The following is but one example of what I think are poetic prayers:
“The End of the Road Is but a Bend in the Road.”