Why I’ll keep my maiden name

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Blogger’s note: Before what I’ve written below or my headline makes you angry or uncomfortable, please give it a read. It’s good to see through other lenses, and learn new and different perspectives. Also, know that what I’ve written below are views of my own – I have no judgments against those who don’t agree or those who have done things differently.

“It’s traditional.”

“It’s disrespectful if you don’t take his last name.”

“Which name will your children take?”

It’s always the same – every time I tell someone I’ll keep my last name if I get married.

And it’s upsetting. They simply don’t get it.

I am an advocate for all women’s rights and for all women to be treated equally – that’s what being a feminist means to me.

For me, feminism isn’t wanting to be better than men. I’m not an insane person who wants to burn my bras and leave my children. I’m not. Feminists aren’t.

Here’s three reasons why I’ll keep my last name.

  1. I’ve been published with my full name and my career matters.
  2. I’m not traditional.
  3. The historical context of ownership behind the concept is pretty oppressive.

Let’s break it down.

I’ve chosen a career in journalism

My byline has 13 letters – Hannah L. Strong. It’s so readers know who researched, interviewed and wrote the piece they are about to read. And so readers can call you to complain, or know who to send hate mail to.

Those 13 letters define who I am in the career I’ve chosen. Those 13 letters are attached to the work I’ve done. Those 13 letters have to be brave. They have to be published on hot topics and difficult stories to tell.

I’m no famous reporter. Chances are I’ll never be. But I’m doing work I want my full name stuck to.

I’m not traditional

No part of me feels the need to be seeking a husband so I can get married, settle down, have kids and be a stay-at-home mother.

It’s not me.

I hurt for the women who feel they have to get married very young. The ones who aren’t taught to be independent or ever encouraged to work hard for their own dreams.

I know all stay-at-home mothers aren’t miserable. And not all women who are married young regret it.

Getting married young doesn’t mean you can’t reach your dreams.

My grandmother was married at 15 and stayed married to my grandfather for 58 years before she died.

I understand it. I respect it. It’s just not me.

History

Two years ago, I’m reading No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women by Estelle B. Freedman for a class at Winthrop.

I’m sitting and feeling sad for the women whose families were actually making, what seemed like, a transaction. A father giving away his daughter to another family. The merger of two families, which money played a huge role in.

I learn these women – most of the time – had no choice in the transaction.

They had no choice to keep their last name.

And I read in that book what it was like in Europe in the 1700s: “Influential commentaries on English common law emphasized that in marriage the husband and wife became one legal entity, represented solely by the man…A married woman had no right to her own property or her own wages.”

Living in coverture – the law that gave the husband all the power – gross.

And then I read an 1849 poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson the book cited: “Man to command and woman to obey; all else confusion.”

I do want a marriage, but I don’t want to play into a system where one spouse is held higher than the other.

My name matters. It’s who I am. That’s how it’ll stay.

Follow Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter and Instagram @HannahLStrong

A bumpy ride, a shooting & 17 shell casings

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I didn’t know what we were about to walk up to.

I knew I had my camera bag. That my adrenaline was rushing. The White Street construction made the road bumpy. Greg’s manual transmission truck was shifting us back and forth as we sped down the road.

We knew we were headed toward a shooting – thanks to the newsroom police scanner for the tip.

We saw the blue lights before anything else when we got to the end of East Meeting Street. An ambulance and a ton of city police and sheriff’s cars. And a ton of bystanders in the gas station parking lot.

“Start snapping,” Greg said before the car came to a complete stop.

I had already started frantically turning the window knob on the door counterclockwise before we reached the parking lot.

The ambulance doors were still open. Someone was in there. But they closed the doors when they saw me taking pictures of the scene.

We stood back like we always do, and respected their area.

Of course after the ambulance left, all the officials came over to talk to Greg.

Everybody loves and knows Greg.

We left. Looped around the side street where the shooting happened. And I saw a few handfuls of people on the side road where the crime first started.

One girl was standing on the side of the road in her pajamas crying. Cars were pulling up quickly. And there were more blue lights at the end of the road.

There was more.

We pulled back onto the main road and the police had already marked off 17 shell cases they had found.

Seventeen. And the victim had only been shot once, and ran to the gas station for help.

Greg made a comment that the shooter wasn’t very good if it took that many rounds and he only shot the guy once.

We found out police are now looking for three males in a gray sedan with the back window busted out.

That was my Monday afternoon.

 

Follow Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter and Instagram @HannahLStrong

It’s no secret

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A Sunday was the perfect day to make one – my first pound cake.

Sugar. Butter. Self rising flour. All purpose flour. Milk. Eggs. Vanilla, lemon, almond extracts. And Crisco. You can’t forget the Crisco. Or the fact that unsealing a new can of it is enough to give you a heart attack.

It’s no secret recipe. She would share it with whoever wanted it.

She could have given it out to every single person in the world to make, but nobody could top the way hers turned out.

If you knew Reba Bruton, you knew she loved to cook. And that she was beyond good at it.

She was especially known for her pound cakes. And she was always baking cakes for Cedar Grove Baptist Church’s youth fundraisers.

She passed on Jan. 31, 2017 – two weeks before Valentine’s Day.

My mother found her handwritten recipe lying on the dining room counter a week later.

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Grandma had promised to make a pound cake for the Valentine’s dinner at church – a quaint, southern church outside of Conway, SC.

So, my mother baked the cake.

Her, my father and Papa watched it auction off for $280, the highest price of the evening.

My mother sent me a picture of the recipe the Sunday before Valentine’s Day.

I read my grandma’s handwritten recipe. And remembered her homemade grape jelly I still had. I remembered pouring hot water over tomatoes before canning them with her one summer.

I pulled out her old mixer – one she gave me when I moved into my own house. A tan Oster mixer that also turns into a blender. I’m sure it’s from the late 1970s. It’s mixed hundreds of pound cakes.

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I know my grandma had a good laugh up in heaven watching me fight her old mixer, trying to get the top part to lift up. Nobody told me there was a secret button underneath.

I could hear her saying, “Don’t tear it up!”

As the ingredients mixed together, I gave the bowl a few extra pushes to keep it turning. And looked at how pretty the batter was – just like hers.

I greased up one of her old pound cake pans, the kind with the hole in the middle. And poured the mixture in.

Nearly an hour and a half later, I pulled out a nice, golden pound cake.

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With batter still on my arms, I waited for it to cool. Put a plate on top. Flipped it. Cut it.

Fluffy on the inside and a brown crust on the outside.

Just like hers, but not quite as good.

Follow reporter Hannah Strong on Twitter and Instagram @HannahLStrong

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Two hugs for grandma

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When my grandmother passed away last week, I was writing in my head over the exhaustingly long days. Unable to fully get it all on paper, I wrote small notes on a page full of Hardee’s coupons. Little notes to remember the memories…

…like when she told us not to tell Papa a man “held her hands” when she got a manicure.

…or the time she taught me how to shoot the bird.

…or how a girl goes tinkle outside.

…or that I’d always give her two hugs before I left.

…and the time she cussed when we saw a snake in the river.

She hated snakes. And she was classy but rough around the edges.

As a full-time writer I’m constantly thinking about my life on paper. What I can write to save for later. What I can write to cherish moments forever.

I’m finally decompressing by writing. Surprise, surprise.

Life goes on – which is the hardest part after a death. Or is it your ex calling you sadistic after you get upset he didn’t reach out after the loss? I don’t know. But I do know what a death teaches you – who your real friends are and their true colors.

It’s who sends the long texts. Who follows up to make sure you’re okay. Who brings you chicken pot pie. Who says they are thinking about you. Who drives the distance to give you a hug and share tears. Who sends the flowers, cards, Shari’s Berries.

What’s also therapeutic during the grieving process is comic relief. A cousin getting left at the church after the funeral because our family is so big we can barely keep up with everyone. Or when your uncle’s and cousin’s suits accidentally get swapped – one coming out in a huge suit with a coat to his knees and the other in the back bedroom trying with everything he has to get the pants buttoned.

I also learned what funeral food is in the south. It’s boat loads of macaroni and cheese, fried chicken and about 10 different cakes.

But the best lesson I learned from the week was from my Papa.

“To have good friends you have to be a good friend,” he said.

Journalists have emotions, I promise

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You never know what your day will be like as a reporter. Of course you have the day planned and deadlines never change. But, walking into the newsroom in the morning you brace yourself for anything the world may throw your way.

Hate mail from a furious reader, a child who has died from asphyxia, a 44-year-old man who has sexually assaulted a 9-year-old girl, even a UFO sighting. No comment on the last one. All of that happened to me in one week.

It can be tough – challenging me mentally and testing my patience – but I’m growing.

Last Friday, I was sitting at my desk with mascara on from the day before. I think I was wearing clean jeans, surprisingly. Two stories ahead of me – one breaking news and the other I’d been working on for a bit.

I was tired with a headache, but I had a job to do. A job that is more than just a job. A job that I have a passion for, that I have a calling for. My day isn’t complete until I finish the job of informing the public.

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People hate the news media – don’t they? Well that’s fine. I think it’s the people who don’t really know what we do who hate us the most.

A little over a week ago I was able to get the word out about a student-led fundraiser for their fellow classmate who has cerebral palsy and in need of $50,000 for stem cell therapy.

I spoke on the phone with a high school senior who was absolutely beautiful on the inside, leading the fundraiser to help her classmate. Crying on the phone because she felt so strongly about serving her friend. And humbly giving credit to all who were involved.

I was in tears too. I can’t speak for all of us, but most journalists have souls and emotions. I promise.

Later in the week, I found myself in tears again speaking with an elementary school principal. One of their fourth grade babies had died the night before. In shock, the thought of having to speak with the parents next haunted me. Feeling like I should give them time, but wanting them to let others know how their child should be remembered. And to clear any rumors around the mill.

This week through a FOIA request, I received the incident and supplemental police reports – 11 pages of very specific details from the scene. Reading it over and over for the article, to be sure it was accurate. It was emotionally draining.

Reporters, editors, freelancers, photographers. We all have a job to do. We’re often taken for granted. We write articles that may only be read by three people. And we get treated pretty unfairly.

But without us, you’ll be left wondering what happened.

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Follow reporter Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter and Instagram @HannahLStrong

That one desk in the newsroom

At one of the eight desks in the newsroom is a desk that has everything you’ll ever need as a reporter. That desk has the most current AP Stylebook, a can of “community keyboard cleaner,” a police scanner and a boombox from the early 2000’s that plays oldies all day.

At this desk sits Greg. One of the long-time reporters at the paper, other than the famous sports editor.

In addition to the accessories at his desk is a brain full of knowledge about who is who and what is what in the county. He knows who to call, where to go, what to do.

And he always has two rules to go by for any said topic.

He will make you laugh, and he will butcher your articles if you ask him to proofread. But he knows what he’s doing.

Sometimes he’ll tell you to call someone and spout their number off while you’re still trying to write down their first name. It’s because he knows the city and folks like the back of his hand.

I don’t think anyone in the newsroom could do their job to the fullest if it wasn’t for that desk and guy who sits in it.

And I forgot to mention, the deer mounted on the wall of the newsroom…yeah, Greg shot it.

Follow reporter Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter @HannahLStrong

One month in as a reporter

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I’ve been reporting for a little more than a month and I’ve already learned one of the most important things a young reporter could learn: observing.

It may sound like an obvious thing for a reporter to do. But I’m not just talking about observing to make mental notes within the settings you cover, which do add great details to a story, but observing other reporters in the newsroom and your editor. Especially asking your editor to do side-by-side editing, if there is time before going to press. The reporters know the area well, and some know certain numbers of contact off the top of their heads.

My favorite thing to do on quieter days when I have the time, is go out on breaking crime news with the crime reporter. I know I sound like a little girl anxious for an adventure when my head pops up and I immediately say “can I go?” after we hear 10-75 on the police scanner.

I love listening to the police scanner. The other day we heard 10-75, it turned out someone had shot himself with a flare gun. I stayed in the newsroom that day.

Being new to an area comes with its struggles. Like driving up and down Catawba Street looking for City Hall and continuously passing it for no good reason.

The town is quaint and small and easy to learn your way around. I learned when my parents came to visit that the three of us could have a sit down breakfast, coffee and all, for $19, tip included. It blew my mind.

Although I have my first “big girl job” I’m still not finished learning, and I’ve realized that I’m a sponge trying to soak up all the water I can. My professors at Winthrop did an amazing job preparing me for my first reporting position, but you don’t know a deadline until you’re coming up on 15 minutes until your story goes to press and you have a few more graphs to add.

Stay tuned, if you wish, because I have a feeling weekly blogs will be a regular as I gather many stories to tell from my first job as a reporter.

Follow reporter Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter @HannahLStrong