MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mollie McLin, a retired Memphis City Schools teacher, grew up in the world of sharecropping, a practice that was a step away from slavery.
“When we would go to the fields, my mom would always be there,” she said. “It was like she was a duck and we were her little ducklings trudging along behind her.”
McLin was one of eight children in rural Milan, Tennessee who looked up to her mom growing up.
The former teacher said her mother, Vera Jenkins Fisher, was a tenacious woman: a sharecropper who picked cotton, strawberries and okra to provide for her family.
“She couldn’t drive when my dad left,” recalled McLin. “So she taught herself how to drive. I don’t know where the car came from, but anyway (laughs). She’d drive because she had all those kids.”
Fisher also refused to allow her kids to be raised by other family members, determined to keep the children all under the same roof.
Fisher provided the basics.
“She even made some of our clothes and of course, at that time, you have the hand-me-down clothes,” laughed McLin.
Her mom also instilled strong values.
“Faith-based person,” added McLin. “I got that from her. The way that she treated people, I got that from her.”
Because of severe asthma, Fisher carried her inhaler with her everywhere. In the fields up until about 1960, and later when she worked in a garment factory.
“Her heart had been worn out from all that hard breathing for so many years,” she said. “But she didn’t let anything stop her.”
McLin shared what she believes is her mother’s legacy.
“I would like for other people to look at her strength and what she was able to do as a single parent," she said. "I always call her my shero because a lot of people couldn’t have done it."