Liberia: Aging With Grace – Winnie Hodge Howe’s Secret to Clocking 100
Caldwell – Not many people are lucky to reach 70, 80 or 90 years. But great-grandmother, Winnie Hodge Howe is blessed to have celebrated her 100 birth anniversary on May 14, 2020.
By Mae Azango [email protected]
Great-grandma Howe, who was born May 14, 1920 in Big Town Gbenelu, Harper City Maryland County, was surrounded by her many grand and great-grandchildren, when the day finally arrived. She sat happily in front of her house in Caldwell, Bushrod Island, wearing a colorful African lappa suit as her many broods came around to wish her happy birthday.
As she only speaks a little amount of English, she told this newspaper in her native Grebo language that she became a young woman during the reign of President Edwin J. Barclay, who was President of Liberia between 1930 and 1944.
I was a small girl, around 10 years old. My breast had not even grown when they married me out. But my husband’s first wife brought me up until I became of age to start having children for our husband. I was very beautiful and had many suitors but because I got marry very early, so those suitors were afraid of my husbandGreat-GrandMa Winnie Hodge Howe
Her granddaughter, Boyonnoh Teh Williams, who helped with the translation from Grebo to English for this newspaper’s sake, said Great-grandma Howe further said that few years into President William V. S. Tubman’s reign, she has already had three children. Tubman became president in 1944. He served for 27 years until his demise in 1971.
“I was a small girl, around 10 years old. My breast had not even grown when they married me out. But my husband’s first wife brought me up until I became of age to start having children for our husband. I was very beautiful and had many suitors but because I got marry very early, so those suitors were afraid of my husband,” said Great-grandma Howe.
She further narrated that her husband’s first wife died few years after she had started bearing children, too, by their husband.
Her husband sadly died in 1971, on the same day President Tubman, whom she referred to throughout the interview as “Shed,” died, too.
According to her, she had 12 children, only three are alive today. Her three children alive are Alexander F. Y. Howe, 75, Roosevelt N. Howe, 68, and Steven Y. Howe, 61. She is blessed with 24 grandchildren and over 30 great-grandchildren. She has one sister who is in her 80’s.
As Great-grandma Howe recalled her youthful years with her husband, she said after the death of the first wife, she was the only wife. But she remembers that her husband was a womanizer. According to her, in those days, the men had the free will to bring home as many women as they wanted. “Me, I used to love my husband,” she said beaming with smile.
“When I found out about my husband’s girlfriends, he begged me not to feel bad, so I allowed him because I loved him. I used to allow his girlfriends to come spend time with us; and I used cook for them and lectured with them. And at night, I will allow them sleep with him, while I stay in my quarter. They did not have any children for my husband so I did not have any problem with them,” she said with laughter in her voice.
When asked why she was not jealous, as other women usually are when they discover they husband cheating on them, she said, “Why be jealous when your man respects you?” She argued that if her husband’s head wife had been jealous of her, she (head wife) wouldn’t have raised her from small to become second wife to their husband.
“When my husband used to come from trips and brought gifts like lappas, cooking utensils and fish, he would set my own separate, and after giving mine, he used to call me again to choose from the other gifts. I will take and when I finished, I will share among the other women,” she said with a satisfying laughter.
According to her, she did not have time to be jealous. She believes that if a man has a girlfriend, his wife should not bother him, because the same way he loves his wife, is the same way he loves his girlfriend.
“No need to kill another woman for a man business, because man will still look for woman, no matter what you do. It is not good to embarrass your husband for girlfriend business, once he respects you as his wife, it is what matters,” she said.
I am tired now, because my body can hurt all the time. I can’t even sleep in peace, so I want God to call me home nowGreat-GrandMa Winnie Hodge Howe
She narrated that when her husband passed in 1971, the traditional practice made her married one of her late husband’s brothers. She added, however, because she loved her late husband so much, that marriage to his brother didn’t last.
“I was forced to marry my husband’s brother, but because I did not love him, so the marriage did not last. I left him. We did not have any children because I was not happy,” she said
While she is grateful for reaching 100 years, she, however, shockingly stated that she is tired living because her bones ache.
“I am tired now, because my body can hurt all the time. I can’t even sleep in peace, so I want God to call me home now.”
Though she complained of aching bones, but on her 100th birthday, she was very happy to be surrounded by her many offspring, who made her laughed.
On her secret to long life, Great-grandma Howe said is for one to be patient and not be anxious for anything. “I never rushed in taking matters in my hands. If I were to be jealous over my husband having many girlfriends, by this time I am probably not alive because I was going to be worried too much and would have died from broken heart or high blood pressure.”