Queen of LifePublished 7:15am Thursday, May 9, 2013
Florance Thompson has a story to tell. Not just one story, but an intertwining of several stories that culminate into one common thread; the ultimate resiliency of the human spirit of women throughout the world. Florance has traveled many continents, viewed many cultures, and has witnessed the down trodden as well as celebrate the victory of women who have escaped medieval traditions.
Florance graduated from Fergus Falls High School in the 40′s, and then traveled to California as a single mom with four young children. Her resilient spirit refused to accept defeat in any aspect of her life. It only spurred her on to fight even harder for herself and her children. She returned to college, earning her Doctorate degree in Psychology, and set up a private practice in California’s Silicon Valley, where she practiced for 30 years.
Determined to be a good mother and a champion role model for other women, her own empowerment began quite by accident when she was chosen to appear on the “Queen for A Day” television show. “Queen for a Day” ran on national television from 1945-1964. Each contestant was interviewed and had to talk publicly about any recent hardships. An applause meter picked the winner – and they were showered with prizes and the opportunity to demonstrate the role of royalty for a short time.
Florance recalls her most vivid memories of her time as Queen were meeting the show’s host – Jack Bailey. She also says, “I met Nate King Cole backstage. I rode in the Budweiser wagon with the big Clydesdale horses, and my red robe with fur on it was quite warm. I received six sweater sets, a Julie Andrews’ swimsuit and lots of jewelry and makeup. Someone stole my watch with a crown on it several years ago. They also gave me a brand new bedroom set. I participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the grand opening of a nightclub on the California/Nevada border. I met several celebrities at a reception for Governor Brown.”
In the 60′s, Florance traveled to Nairobi, Kenya for the International Women’s Conference. She stayed near a small village and was able to meet several of the village women. She also had the opportunity to visit the Leakey Museum in Nairobi and furthered her study of women from that culture. She says, “I had read about the practice of genital mutilation and learned from the women that it was a common practice carried out through generations. Women endured horrendous pain and suffered indescribable torture. Many died very young. Women who did survive bore an average of 20 children. It was a male dominated society and women were no more than slaves. I was fortunate enough to travel to China to do similar research.”
Florance fell in love with the village women of Nairobi. She says, “they would sing and dance for us, keeping a steady rhythm while singing acappella and connecting with the people.” Florance belonged to a traveling Norwegian dance troupe for 25 years and was moved to dance with the African women. The next day, one of the women brought her her “best” vegetable as a gift of appreciation for sharing in their dance.
Florance said, “The burden of being a woman in those cultures disturbed me greatly. I was told there were only two ways to escape the brutal mutilation – either become a nun or become a prostitute. Some more wealthy females were able to send their daughters to relatives in Great Britain. Very few escaped.”
Florance has moved back to the Fergus Falls area and her Scandinavian roots. She has been to Norway over 20 times and to Sweden, as well. “Two of my son-in-laws are from Sweden, and my son now lives in Sweden”, she says. She still loves to dress in her Norwegian dresses.
Florance is not able to travel right now due to some medical problems, but her resilient spirit is keeping her determined to live every day as royalty and embrace the rewards of her full life.
By Jean Lemmon