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Celebrating Her Life: Edwina Froehlich
January 5, 1915 – June 8, 2008

Trisha Noack
LLLI Public Relations
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 44, No. 2, 2008, pp. 2-3

Edwina Froehlich of Inverness, Illinois, USA died on June 8, 2008. In the days following her passing, she was memorialized in publications and on Web sites around the world. The Dallas News called her "a feminist pioneer." The New York Times said she was a "pioneer on several fronts of motherhood." The Wall Street Journal wrote that she "helped make America, and then the world, safe for breastfeeding." As Leaders, we knew her simply as Edwina, and were inspired by her as a mother, a friend, and a co-Founder of La Leche League International.

Edwina was married to John Froehlich in 1948. Together, they raised three sons: Paul, David, and Peter.

In 1956, after that first meeting of the LLLI Founders in Franklin Park, Illinois, USA, the group of mothers quickly attracted the attention of other women in the community and became known as La Leche League.

Edwina's home in Franklin Park was the mailing address for LLL in the early years. She would divide up the mail and send it to the other Founders to answer mother's questions. She would care for her children and do chores while walking around the house with a phone receiver attached to an extra-long cord, tucked between her shoulder and ear, counseling women from around the country, according to her son, Peter. "She had all these domestic qualities. But she had an unwavering commitment to help women take care of what she thought was their natural right."

Edwina took on various roles in LLLI up until her passing. In March 2008 she had just resumed her position on the LLLI Board of Directors. Edwina, according to her co-Founders, had an indomitable spirit. When La Leche League was facing difficult times, Edwina said:

We are not going to let this kind of thing get in the way. This is a problem that we are going to have to live through, and work through, and resolve, so that we can continue to do what we originally set out to do -- help mothers successfully breastfeed their babies.

The founding of the organization and fond memories have been well documented in books such as the LLLove Story, Seven Voices One Dream, and The Revolutionaries Wore Pearls. It's clear that Edwina was the type of woman who always made a lasting, positive impression.

After meeting Edwina for the first time, Betty Wagner Spandikow said, "Everything she said I agreed with. All evening I listened intently as Edwina talked. She was so vivacious and interesting."

Marian Tompson said, "Edwina had such an efficient and professional manner. I thought she would make a good president of La Leche League. In her later years, Edwina impressed me with her positive and humorous reaction to the infirmities of her advancing years. I called her my Dutch Uncle friend because, in discussions, she could cut through to the heart of the matter."

Mary White reflected that what she will remember most about Edwina is, "her cheerful optimism. I loved her dearly and it was always great to be with her."

Viola Lennon remembered, "Edwina was the one who was so helpful when I had my first baby. Her gift was her ability to be insightful. The Founders always agreed on the basic things, but when we didn't agree I noticed how closely Edwina listened."

Mary Ann Cahill commented, "I loved Edwina. I loved working with her or just talking with her. She was a careful listener, always interested in what the other person had to say. And her enthusiasm never failed her. Just this April, she traveled with Janet Jendron and me by train to the LLL Michigan Area Conference in Grand Rapids. It was a wonderful event and now, an especially precious memory."

Mary Ann Kerwin said, "Edwina inspired me from the first time I met her. She listened carefully to me during our first meeting at Greg and Mary White's home in October 1956 even though I was over 16 years younger and had only one breastfeeding baby at that time. Edwina remained a good listener throughout her life....As we say goodbye, I always will remember Edwina's enthusiasm."

Chairman of the La Leche League Board of Directors Jane Tuttle had many opportunities to meet with and work with Edwina during her career as a Leader. "Edwina was a very wise woman and shared her wisdom when asked. I remember her as being very kind in her messages. She reinforced how important it is to take the high road and stay true to your beliefs no matter what people say about you. Years back, she came to an Area Conference in Kansas and told us that mothers would come to LLL for breastfeeding information, and they will stay for the mothering support. She understood mothers," Jane remembered.

Executive Director Barbara Emanuel got to know Edwina as she took on her leadership role in LLLI. "I remember with great fondness having lunch at Edwina's house with her and other Founders once a month during the past couple of years. We talked mostly about the organizational work being done and what that means for LLL. We talked about the differing opinions and I remember Edwina saying that there's always been strong opinions about things in LLL and Leaders who have not always agreed. She said this wasn't news and that the organization always seems to move on. I feel so privileged to have had the benefit of her wisdom."

The world is a richer and kinder place because she was here. Thank you, Edwina; we will never forget you.

People around the world have been inspired by Edwina. Her influence will be felt for generations. Here are some of the kind words from Leaders that have been pouring in since Edwina's passing.

"[At a chance meeting during an LLLI Conference] she said to me, 'We have to continue doing this work, there are still many mothers around the world who have to learn that breastfeeding our children is the best we can do for them.' Her words strongly resonated in my mind....I remember very clearly her radiant face telling me that powerful message."

-- Jenny Perez Marquez, formerly of Colombia and Bolivia, now living in Thailand

"She was wise and so full of enthusiasm...I learnt quite a lot from her....[she was] someone I saw as a model. And it may be because of her that I am still involved in LLL, in spite of the fact that I am getting on in years. Thank you, Edwina."

-- Martine Chazelle, France

"She never missed an opportunity to talk about her wonderful family -- sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, without any sense of self-pride or 'taking credit.' She was fiercely independent and still humble....Every moment with her seemed somehow cosmic to me, and I feel her spirit and presence still."

-- Janet Jendron, USA

"Her simplicity, her enthusiasm for everything, and her natural radiant love for all inspired me and I try to emulate her in my life with my family."

-- Kathy Dounoulis, Greece

"Edwina was a model of commitment to mother-to-mother support and an example of humility...And what to say of the joy she radiated, and the caring way she helped each person she encountered feel really special. Thank you, Edwina!"

-- Carmen Vandenabeele, France

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