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Celebrating Edwina Froehlich
January 5, 1915 – June 8, 2008

Teresa Pitman
Guelph ON Canada
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 25, No. 3, 2008, pp. 8-9

The hotel where the Michigan Area Conference was held in April, 2008 offered a free breakfast buffet, and when LLLI Co-Founders Edwina Froehlich and Mary Ann Cahill chose a table each morning they soon found themselves surrounded by Leaders and mothers eager to talk with them. Like many of the Conference attendees, I had several lengthy chats with Edwina at that Conference, memories that are more precious than ever now because she passed away on June 8th, 2008, just two months later.

Edwina had been full of enthusiasm and making plans for the future at that Conference. She was excited to be back on the LLLI Board of Directors because she believed so strongly that mothers still needed what LLLI could give them.

Her death feels like a personal loss to most of us who have been involved with LLLI because she is the first one of the seven Founders to pass away. It is like losing a cherished grandmother or deeply admired friend. Knowing what she did for us, we feel the loss more strongly.

The rest of the country also acknowledged her accomplishments and contributions to mothers, babies and families. The Dallas News called her "a feminist pioneer." The New York Times called her a "pioneer on several fronts of motherhood." The Wall Street Journal said she "helped make America, and then the world, safe for breastfeeding."

While we feel close to her because she taught us so much, many of us don't know much about Edwina's past. Edwina was married to John Froehlich in 1948. Together, they raised three sons: Paul, David, and Peter. Along the way, she and six other women helped create La Leche League International.

For the first several years, Edwina's home in Franklin Park, Illinois, USA was the mailing address for La Leche League. She would care for her sons 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 an unwavering commitment to help women take care of what she thought was their natural right," he says.

She also felt strongly about LLL. During one difficult patch, 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.

While all of us in LLL appreciate Edwina's contributions, the other co-Founders have a particular appreciation of her strengths and abilities after many years of working together.

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 says, "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 says 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 remembers: "Edwina was the one who was so helpful when I had my first baby. Her gift was her ability to be insightful."

Mary Ann Cahill also speaks from her heart: "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."

Mary Ann Kerwin adds, "Edwina inspired me from the first time I met her. Edwina remained a good listener throughout her life....As we say goodbye, I always will remember Edwina's enthusiasm."

It is hard to say goodbye to someone who has meant so much to mothers, babies, and Leaders around the world, whether we've been fortunate enough to meet her in person or we got to know her only through her words or the organization she helped to create. Yet what an amazing legacy she leaves us. What a difference her life has made in so many other lives -- including mine.

Thank you, Edwina, for your wisdom and for generously sharing that wisdom with all of us.

A memorial for Edwina Froehlich is available on the LLLI Web site at www.llli.org/edwina.html

"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 Tuttle, Chairman of LLLI Board of Directors

 

"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."
--Barbara Emanuel, LLLI Executive Director

Memories of Edwina

Judy Torgus
River Grove IL USA

Edwina Froehlich was a source of inspiration to so many people for her entire life, and I am glad I was one of them. My memories of Edwina go back a long way. I met her in 1960 when I was a young mother attending La Leche League meetings with my first son. At that time, the Founders were including a personal note with every copy of the loose-leaf version of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING they sent out. When a mother wrote in to order a copy for $2, she also received the name and address of another mother she could contact if the book did not answer all her questions. Often, mothers would write back just to say how much they appreciated all the information and to tell about their personal experiences with breastfeeding.

As a result, the Founders were flooded with correspondence, and a lot of the letters were written by and to Edwina because she was the official secretary. Of course, the Founders were pleased with all the publicity and proud that they were able to help so many mothers. But they were feeling overwhelmed! After one meeting, I approached Edwina and hesitantly offered to help write letters. She enthusiastically accepted my offer and a few days later I visited her home to pick up a supply of books, stamps, envelopes, and letters from mothers. She gave me a quick course in how to reply to the letters and told me to call her if a mother wrote back with a question I could not answer. And that began my 48 years of volunteering for LLLI.

In 1964, I was invited to join the Founders on the LLLI Executive Board, which later became the Board of Directors. Our Board meetings in those years were much less formal than they are now. We usually met weekly in one of our homes and the discussions would often become intense and go beyond our time schedule. I recall one time when Edwina was stopped by police for speeding because she tried to get home from my house in time to give her boys lunch. In 1977, when my term on the Board came to an end, I became a member of the LLLI office staff, working under Mary Carson in the Publications Department. But Edwina's office was just across the hall and she continued to be a source of information and support. At this point my questions were often about dealing with teenagers! When Edwina retired from working at the office in 1983, we all missed her.

I'll never forget the phone call I received from Edwina in March of 2000. She asked me if I would like to join her and a group of her friends on a trip to Italy in September. Most of the traveling I had done until then had been to attend LLL Conferences, and I had never traveled to Europe and never really thought I would! But Edwina made it sound so enticing that I found myself joining her on that trip and several others in the following years. Edwina was a wonderful travel companion. She was always ready to try new things and enjoyed every aspect of each trip. She never complained no matter what happened and she taught us to look at every difficulty or setback as a new adventure with endless possibilities.

When I retired from the LLLI office staff as Executive Editor in 2007, it was again Edwina who helped me face the changes this would bring in my life. She told me, "You will soon love being home every day," and she was right once again.

Edwina really knew how to enjoy life. She loved spending time with her family and friends. She treasured old friends and never stopped making new ones. She loved to travel, cook, read, shop, attend movies and shows, meditate, and pray. She never stopped learning and growing and reaching out to others. She lived her life to the fullest for 93 years and she died peacefully. Who could ask for anything more.

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