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Woman of Steele: A Personal and Political Journal

Woman of Steele: A Personal and Political Journal

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Woman of Steele: A Personal and Political Journal

240 pagine
2 ore
Nov 14, 2011


Woman of Steele: A Personal and Political Journal, gives us an inside look at Bobbie L. Steeles view of her early farm life in Mississippi, her challenges as a teen, and her drive and determination to fulfill her dream of completing college. She accomplished this goal in spite of marriage and the blessing of five children before finishing college and two more after..

Steele let us in on personal struggles, tough choices and awesome faith that helped to prepare and shape her for years of community work, twenty six years of teaching in the Chicago Public School System and twenty years in elected office as Cook County Commissioner. This role ultimately resulted in becoming the First Woman President of Cook County Board of Commissioners, the second largest County in America..

The message that resonates in her book most is that it is possible to achieve and generate resources that are not in plain sight and win most battles fighting the good fight, hanging fairness and equality high on lifes banner while standing in the corridors of power on the right side of moral and ethical issues..

Many of her friends who worked and stood with her salute her single-minded determination, recognizing that Bobbies determined attitude is what triumphs in battles.neither easily fought nor won.

Nov 14, 2011

Informazioni sull'autore

Bobbie L. Steele: President, commissioner, community activists, teacher and mother. Steele is the product of the Lawndale Community of Chicago by way of Cleveland, Mississippi. Steele graduated from Cleveland Colored Consolidated High School in 1954. She attended Alabama A. & M. College in Huntsville Alabama two years before moving to Chicago in 1956. Upon arriving in Chicago Steele worked many odd jobs to earn tuition so that she could return to college. During her lengthy job search she met and a married Robert Steele (a loving relationship that lasted 52 years). But marriage did not prevent Steele from losing sight of her goal. After the birth of her first 2 children Steele enrolled in evening school at Chicago Teacher’s College and after 10 years of evening school and five additional children she finally accomplished her goal by receiving a B.S. Degree in Elementary Education. Steele was passionate about helping to educate children and thought of becoming an elementary school principal. She later enrolled in Roosevelt University evening graduate program, where she received a Master’s Degree in Supervision and Administration of Education. In 1982 Steele’s teaching reputation and community organizing activities caught the attention of Congressman Harold Washington who was contemplating running for Mayor of the City of Chicago. He chose Steele as his running mate in the 24th Ward. Steele was not successful in the election but was appointed by Mayor Washington to the Commission on Women Affairs for the city of Chicago. As a member of the commission, Steele was able to interact with women from all over the city and was soon asked by Cook County Democratic Women to run for Commissioner on the Cook County Board. Steele accepted the challenge and with the help of Mayor Harold Washington she was elected to the Cook County Board of Commissioners with an overwhelming victory, 534, 000 votes in 1985, a position to which she was elected 5 additional four year terms establishing her as the longest serving woman in the history of Cook County government for her time. Finally Steele’s distinguished and dedicated service on the County Board gave rise to her becoming the first in her area of service. She was the first woman to serve as Finance Chairman of the Cook County Forest Preserve Committee. She also was the first and only female Cook County Commissioner inducted into the Chicago Women’s Hall of Fame. And in 2006 she made history by becoming the first woman President of Cook County Board of Commissioners with oversight authority of a 3.2 billion dollar budget. Steele is now retired but serves as an active member on three civic Boards: Illinois Counties Board of Directors, Illinois Women in Leadership Board of Directors and Lawndale Christian Development Board of Directors. During the time Steele was pursuing her career goals she was also active in her church, Mt. Hebron Baptist Church where she served as a teacher in the youth department of the Sunday school and Baptist Training Union. She was a founding member of Mt. Hebron Baptist Church Gospel Choir and Chairman of The J.N. Wordlaw Church Scholarship Committee for 25 years. In 1996 Steele united with United Baptist Church where she is an active member in Sunday school and the hospitality committee. Steele’s guiding principle is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all thine hearts; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” She also has a daily commitment from one of her favorite songs that says, “If I can help somebody as I pass alone, if I can cheer somebody with a word or a song, if I can show somebody that they are traveling wrong THEN MY LIVING WILL NOT BE IN VAIN.”

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Anteprima del libro

Woman of Steele - Bobbie L Steele







Chapter 1

Rural Beginnings

Chapter 2

Mother Was My Role Model

Chapter 3

The Early Years

Chapter 4

Abraham Lincoln

Chapter 5

Two men with great courage

Chapter 6

The Beginning of the Rodges Family

Chapter 7

After High School

Chapter 8

Why Did I Get Married?

Chapter 9

Becoming a Mother

Chapter 10

Getting Focused Again

Chapter 11

1961: More than Enough

Chapter 12

1963: Becoming a Community Organizer

Chapter 13

Lasting Friends

Chapter 14

The Joy of Serving Others

Chapter 15

The Housing Problem in North Lawndale

Chapter 16

Moving On

Chapter 17

My New Career in Teaching

Chapter 18

Time for a Change

Chapter 19

Gary’s Stint in Pro Football

Chapter 20

Helping Our Children Plan for

Their Future Is Key

Chapter 21

New Era in Politics

Chapter 22

1985: A Big Setback

Chapter 23

The Door to My Future in Public Life

Chapter 24

If Not First, Then Last

Chapter 25

Election Day

Chapter 26

From Candidate to Commissioner

Chapter 27

A New Day in the Boardroom

Chapter 28

The Courage of A Few Elected Women

Chapter 29

Turmoil in the Chicago City Council Reaches Cook County Board of Commissioners

Chapter 30

Remembering Mayor Washington

Chapter 31

A Stormy Start Gives Birth to a

Great Reward

Chapter 32

1990: Cook County Government

Gets a Face Lift

Chapter 33

Taking the Provident Hospital

Opening From Dream to Reality

Chapter 34

The Personal Toll on My Health

Chapter 35

And the Beat Goes On

Chapter 36

John Stroger Jr., the First African-American

President of the Cook County Board

Chapter 37

Reflecting on an Ill-advised

Political Decision

Chapter 38

Back to Work as Commissioner

Chapter 39

A Strategy for the Future

Chapter 40

Election of the First Female President

Chapter 41

Reflections on My Tenure as

President of Cook County Board


To my mother, Mary, who passed away July 24, 1999 and my husband, Robert, who passed away January 27, 2009.


There are many to whom I am thankful for encouraging me to write this book: Judge Eileen Brewer, former assistant to the late Cook County Board President, John H. Stroger Jr.; Judge Shelvin Louise Hall; Judge Patrice Ball Reed, who insisted that I write daily notes on my life’s experiences; and to my dear friends, Jo Ann McClandon and Barbara Irvin.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also thank my one-and-only sister, Jeanette Reynolds, for her continuous support in everything that I do. Jeannette is my toughest critic and my best friend.

Thanks also to Connie Jones and Robert Freeman, trusted administrative assistants, and to Evangelist Vera Bonds, and Melva Brownlee, who always kept me up to the minute on current affairs while I was Cook County Commissioner and also as its President.

Thanks also to Tracie Dean Ponder and her wonderful staff for an outstanding job of producing the documentary "Woman of Steele."

I can’t forget my grandchildren who helped type the first draft of this book: Ahja, Tyra, and Brittany; and my niece, Barbara Hawkins who helped prepare the draft.

There are so many who influenced this book in other ways. That list includes: Rev. Coach Wayne Gordon; Rev. Napoleon Wordlaw; Rev. Wilson Daniels; Rev. Leslie Sanders; Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.; Illinois Senator Rev. James T. Meeks; U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis; Illinois Senator Ricky Hendon; Erika Lindsey; Friends of Bobbie L. Steele; and Women on the Move. I must also express gratitude to Dr. Christopher Reed, Lerone Bennett, Jr., Gail Harris; and consultant, Jeanette Rouselle.

Finally, my love and gratitude to my seven children: Garyion, Val, Joyce, Robert, Byron, Donna, and Eleshia and to my husband, Robert, for his patience and understanding, for enduring the late-night and early-morning typing and the phone calls while he was trying to relax or when he only wanted to watch his favorite baseball team, The Chicago White Sox.


In her youth, Bobbie L. Steele, a self-challenging, African American farm girl, lived through times that were not kind to her but they could not contain her will. Her story is one of family, struggle, leadership, and loyalty. It is a story in which the main character dutifully plays the roles of working student, wife, and mother, while aspiring not only to influence the way things were done but how they were run.

In President Bobbie L. Steele’s video documentary, Woman of Steele, the support and admiration expressed by her peers, supporters, leaders in government and community are both evident and inspiring. The heartfelt love, endearment and expression of genuine gratitude from her family and friends are a testament to her courage, creativity, and perseverance.

The book, Woman of Steele: A Personal and Political Journal, gives us a look at Bobbie Steele’s view of her challenges along with the choices and decisions she had to make.

For anyone aspiring to enter public service or politics, Bobbie Steele’s experiences could be a handbook! They most certainly offer a testament to hard work, determination, and faith. Perhaps the message that resonates most is it is possible to generate resources that are not in plain sight and that most battles can be won by fighting the good fight.

Bobbie L. Steele worked in Cook County government for more than twenty years, hanging fairness and equity high as her banners. She stood in the corridors of power on the right side of issues and that earned her love, respect and a reputation in the community that has followed her across this country.

Those who worked and stood with her salute her single-minded determination, recognizing that this is the stuff that triumphs in battles… neither easily fought nor won.

—Judge Patrice Ball-Reed


"To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heavens."

—Ecclesiastes 3:1

For many years, I struggled with the thought of writing a book about my life experiences, but the time never seemed right. I was too busy to think about how to get started, let alone find time to actually get it done. Thanks to many people who have encouraged me to share my story, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that the season has arrived and this is my purpose.

Now retired after forty-six years in the workforce, I have time to reflect on the memories that I want to record for my family, friends, and any others who may find my life interesting.

To use the words of Langston Hughes, life for me has not been a crystal staircase." Growing up on a farm in the Mississippi Delta taught me many things, including to fight back, remain strong, look for possibilities, get an education, learn fast, and always do my best. It was a life filled with hard work and difficult times, true enough, but there is something good to be said about being the daughter of a sharecropper. While I grew up in an environment that demanded hard work, I was also taught Christian values, and respect for my elders. I learned survival skills and empowering life values that have remained with me throughout my life.

Many of my friends have told me that my story embodies the essence of unwavering determination. I hope that my quests for achievement convey the spirit of never giving up, never quitting. I believe these values are what have led me to succeed. If Woman of Steele inspires someone else to achieve more than they would have otherwise imagined possible, then telling my story will have been a worthwhile endeavor.

Chapter 1

Rural Beginnings

I had humble beginnings growing up on a farm in the Mississippi Delta. I found my niche later in city life through serving my community. I managed to penetrate the well-established Chicago political system to become the longest-serving, elected African American woman in the history of Cook County government. Cook County is the second largest county in the United States. My journey on this path led me to become the first woman in 2006 to be elected president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, a body which served 5.3 million people and managed a $3.2 billion budget.

As I look back over my life and think about growing up on a farm in the Mississippi Delta, learning to chop and pick cotton at an early age and starting school in a one room church school, where grades one through eight were all taught together by the same teacher, I am grateful that I was encouraged to dream big while working in the cotton field. I am grateful that I had parents who believed in me and taught me to be prepared with a good education at an early age. My mother always said to me: When preparation meets opportunity you must be ready to seize the opportunity. I’m grateful that I was taught to work for what I wanted and not to expect accomplishments to come easily.

Life on the farm was rigorous. It set me on a course in search of liberation as early as age ten. I never liked chopping or picking cotton. The steaming hot sun that beat down on my head despite the hand-me-down straw hat that I wore, gave me severe headaches during cotton chopping season. Then there were the calluses, corns, and blisters that covered my hands as a result of the firm grip I kept on the handle of my hoe during the planting season, not to mention the long and tedious work hours I endured.

It didn’t get any better when cotton picking season arrived. Our family picked cotton from sunup until sundown, twelve to fourteen hours a day, often without breakfast or lunch. Supper was the only meal we actually sat down to eat during chopping and harvest seasons. It didn’t take long for me to decide that this was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Despite working so hard on the farm, we were a pretty happy family. Daddy, mom, my four siblings and I always had tasks to perform around the house. We were each assigned chores in the garden or wherever daddy found something for us to do. Abraham Lincoln Rodges believed in work. Hard work was all he had ever known.

In addition to working in the cotton field, we raised most of our own food: sweet potatoes, white potatoes, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, greens, peanuts, and other vegetables. We also raised cows, chickens, and hogs. There was never a lack of work to do. It kept us pretty busy.

My mother was a strong believer in education. She never missed an opportunity to read and, in fact, made sure that she found time to do so. Although books and other printed materials were scarce, mother read to us regularly. She ordered books and they arrived via U.S. mail. Mom read everything she could get her hands on, from romance novels to Ebony and Life Magazines. She cherished her books and magazines and I still have some of these magazines from the early 1950s and ’60s.

Make no mistake, mother was as hard a worker as any on the farm and could chop and pick more cotton than the average field hand; she always set a goal of picking three hundred pounds of cotton a day during harvest time but at night she would somehow find time to read by the light of our kerosene lamp because we had no electricity. She had a burning desire to learn and she passed that on to her children. Although mom was only in seventh grade when she married my dad, she continued her education through home studies, evening classes, and summer school. She attended school most of her adult life and proudly graduated from Mississippi Valley State College many years later along with my youngest brother, James. He was twenty-three and mother was forty-four when they each received their college degrees in Elementary Education in 1959.

Chapter 2

Mother Was My Role Model

In 1950, we left the farm and moved to the small town of Cleveland, Mississippi. I was twelve years old and ecstatic to leave the farm. I thought we had made it to the Promised Land! There were no more before or after-school farm chores. There were still plenty of other chores, however.

My mother was a multi-tasker long before the term was coined. I have never figured out how she could accomplish so many things at the same time. She could work crossword puzzles and hold a conversation without losing her train of thought. While I didn’t understand how she worked so many jobs and went to school at the same time, I guess that I inherited a little of her energy, because after I married and started my own family, I attended extended evening school for ten years to complete two years of college. My mother was a role model.

Mother was not only a role model for me and the rest of her children, but for countless others who saw her as a strong black woman who worked hard, had little and accomplished much. She was unselfish, sharing her gifts generously with others. For example, during our years in Cleveland, Mississippi, she attended school, taught herself how to play the piano and then became the musician at the church where she taught Sunday school.

Years later, she went on to play the piano for two church choirs for fifty years. She taught four generations of choir

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