By Liz Bobo
Former WGC Advisory Board Member 2003-2007
Coming in on the ground floor of the Women’s Giving Circle in Columbia, Howard County, Maryland was a great opportunity for me to take a look back at my life as an adult woman.
I majored in literature in college at the University of Maryland. A few years later I attended and graduated from law school as a young mom with two children. Living with my family adjacent to Columbia I developed an interest in how James Rouse went about building that new town, as he named it, “a garden for growing people“.
Now, at the age of 78, looking back on my life as a young woman, I see a quite shy person. In the late sixties, a friend told me about a women’s group that gathered on a weekly basis in Columbia’s first village centers-sometimes Wilde Lake and sometimes Harpers Choice. I can visualize myself so clearly sitting on a bench in the corner of the room with my knees drawn up and my arms around my legs. I would literally pray that no one would notice me much less call my name. Yes I was very shy.
I don’t know where that shyness went, but as the years passed I became involved as a community activist in Howard County. I led an organization of neighbors encouraging our county government to avoid environmentally degrading the many stream valleys along the Middle Patuxent River which ran through the new town.
In years following, I led the community action effort to build Howard County General Hospital and give it time to get on its feet before adding competing hospitals. This led me to develop working relationships with elected representatives and community activists from other communities between Baltimore and Washington.
As I became more recognized as a community leader, I eventually campaigned to become a member of the Howard County Council, and, after eight years serving on that body, two years as chairperson, I ran and won election to the position of Howard County Executive. I was the first female county executive in the state of Maryland. There was considerable talk about a woman not being able to handle the job. That talk ceased when during my term in office, Howard County became the first in the state of Maryland to receive a AAA bond rating.
After 20 years serving as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing West Columbia and parts of Ellicott City, I chose to end my time as an elected official. During my last year in office, my first grandchild, Zachary, succumbed to a brain tumor which had first been discovered years before, and following several years in remission, came back.
Zachary spent a good deal of time with me during his last years, having a profound impact on my spiritual life. I attended a weeklong silent retreat led by a Buddhist monk for five consecutive years. My meditation practice has led me to a deeper more pervasive way of thinking about life.
I am so grateful to have had the experience of attending the Women’s Center in the early days of Columbia and also of being a part of the Women’s Giving Circle in later years.
I offer a deep bow of gratitude to those women who are keeping it alive.