Mothers and Daughters Making History: Positive Stories of Hope

At AdventureWomen, we know there is a special bond between mothers and their daughters. Sometimes this can create a bit of friction, but more often this special relationship results in sharing experiences that lead to empowerment and positive action.

In a tribute to Women’s History Month, here are three inspirational stories about daughters making history — cheered on by their mothers.


Transforming Her Mother-Daughter Story into Positive Action


Brittany Barnett, whose mother was incarcerated when she was growing up, went to law school with one mission—to reform the criminal justice system. Barnett heads Girls Embracing Mothers, a nonprofit organization that helps empower the daughters of incarcerated mothers break the cycle of incarceration by facilitating sessions between them, enabling them to have conversations about critical life decisions and encouraging mother-daughter bonding. Brittany’s mother has since been released from prison and works with Brittany to openly share her experience with others to encourage them and show them the power of second chances.

“Inmate # 1374671 also known as my mother.  This number was assigned to my mother by the Texas Department of Corrections in 2006 when she began serving an 8-year prison sentence.  I was 22 years old.  Even as young adults, my sister and I greatly affected by our mother’s incarceration.  For example, it was devastating that she was absent during holidays and birthdays; that she could not be at the hospital when my little sister severely injured her arm; not seeing her in the audience as I sat on stage during my Master’s degree ceremony.  I disliked the fact that I could not call her everyday even if just for encouragement as I tested for the grueling CPA exam or to discuss with her my overwhelming first days of law school—just so I could hear her say “You can do it.”

Notwithstanding my own experiences, even more heartfelt were my observations of younger girls during visitation and their interactions with their mothers.  I remember overhearing a little girl, who appeared to be about 8 years old, tell her mother enthusiastically about an awards ceremony where she was going to receive a certificate for making good grades.  Then her mother began to cry and the little girl, now crying herself, said, “Don’t cry Moma.  The certificate wasn’t a sad thing.”  She did not understand her mother was not crying because she thought the certificate was “a sad thing,” but that her mother was crying because she could not be there.  Evidencing the strength of the mother-daughter bond was the way the young girls would gaze into their mothers’ eyes and hug them tightly.  To them, the women they were visiting were much more than a 7-digit inmate number.  These women were their mothers.  And like myself, these young girls loved their mothers no matter what.”

Brittany Barnett


Overcoming the Odds & Reinventing Dance to Make a Dream Come True

Encouraged by her mother and father, Chelsie Hill has been dancing since she learned to walk and started competitive dancing at five years old. She followed her passion throughout school. By 17, Hill was an active member of her school dance team and became Central California State Champion in her senior year. Chelsie’s dream was to become a professional dancer after graduating high school. But three months before graduation, she was involved in a car accident that left her with a spinal cord injury that paralyzed her from the waist down. When she returned home from the hospital, Chelsie’s life dramatically changed. Her mom expanded her role to become Chelsie’s caregiver, helping to bathe and dress Chelsie and turn her while she slept.

But Chelsie wasn’t going to let her inability to walk stop her from dancing. Two years after her accident, she created the LA Rollettes, a six-woman wheelchair dance team made up of other women Hill had met during her hospital recovery who also had suffered from spinal cord injuries. Now, after banding together as a dance troupe featuring women in wheelchairs, the women of the LA Rollettes travel across the US to perform in festivals and expositions, showcasing their skills and inventive choreography.

Chelsie also recently took on the role as ambassador for Wings for Life World Run, a global event that raises awareness and funds for spinal cord injury research through their simultaneous running and wheelchair race. They also created the video Will You…Homecoming, with choreographers Josh Killacky and David Moore.

“I want to show that it doesn’t matter if you are walking or rolling, dance is still dance. Yes, we’re about being fun and lighthearted and following your dreams, but we’re also about excellence and superior dancing and fighting to be the best we can.” – Chelsie Hill


Saving Animals – One Goat, Cow and Horse at a Time

Another wonderful mother-daughter collaboration resulted in the HoofsnHorns Farm Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization in Picture Rocks, Arizona. Susan Brawley, now 55, and her mother, Sidney Smith, 83, started HoofsnHorns together almost 20 years ago to rescue abandoned, orphaned, disabled, and rejected farm animals. Creating a safe and caring environment for multiple animals including roosters, goats, and dairy cows, many of Brawley’s herd come to the farm to spend the remaining years or months of their lives with some requiring special needs and a lifetime of care.

Susan is well-networked locally and works with other local animal rescue organizations and the Pima Animal Care Center to provide homes for abandoned and injured livestock. She rarely turns down an animal in need. Brawley believes her past careers in retail management and as a paramedic have given her skills she is able to use on the farm.

“I know it’s what I was meant to do…” she says. “Before, I felt like I was a failure every five or 10 years because my jobs weren’t clicking with me. They were not my life’s mission. But now, at 55, I can look back and say, ‘That was all my education for what I need now.'”

-Susan Brawley

“The more a daughter knows the details of her mother’s life the stronger the daughter.” – Anita Diamant

“The older I get, the more I see the power of that young woman, my mother.” – Sharon Olds

“If you ever feel like giving up, just remember there is a little girl watching who wants to be just like you.” – Unknown