SIDNEY — Doris Moore was a feminist decades before the term came into common usage.
An outspoken advocate for women’s rights, Doris — like her mother and grandmother before her — spent much of her life chasing the equality she sees as the due of all women.
To date, that chase has lasted just five years short of a century, and Doris sees no reason to abandon it despite the recent passage of her 95th birthday. Still as sharp as a well-oiled chainsaw and just as likely to cut to the quick anyone approaching her with “idiotic” opinions, Doris is the very picture of class and refinement; she’s also a battle-hardened brawler ready to go down swinging in defense of her ideals. It’s in her blood.
“As a child I had a grandmother who always said there was nothing a man could do that a woman couldn’t do better,” Doris says, only half-kidding. “She was a women’s libber way back then. A lot of that went into my mother and I suppose, into me.”
She has strong and well thought out viewpoints on any number of hot button topics and frankly, she isn’t inordinately concerned about what you may think of them. Were Doris not so utterly charming and diplomatic, she could easily leave a trail of shattered egos in her wake.
Many well-known institutions and groups are easy targets for Doris’s acerbic wit.
What problem could anyone have with the American Legion, an organization dedicated to helping veterans?
“They would not allow me to join because I was a woman,” Doris explains. “They told me I could join the women’s auxiliary. My husband, Fred, and I would never have anything to do with the legion after that.”
The legion’s policy on women has long since changed, but Doris’ memory is long and terrifyingly clear.
The Amish? Doris, who worked many years as a school teacher, is appalled by the lack of education provided for the church’s girls.
“I’ll be frank,” Doris said. “I’m very perturbed that the Amish girls are allowed to quit school after eighth grade. The state law says 16. How do they hope to learn enough by eighth grade to teach their own girls anything? I think the Amish should have to meet certain standards, too.”
Even her son, Mike Moore, who shares a house with her, has long ago given up trying to rein in his mother’s exuberant nature.
“Oh, yeah, she’s opinionated, all right,” Mike says. “She has no problem saying what she means.”
Doris’ outlook has a decidedly continental aspect, owing in large part to the fact she and her husband Fred, who died several years ago, lived and travelled all over the world. From Milwaukee to Okinawa to Germany and England, their journeys allowed them to soak up cultures from around the world and examine social mores very different from those “back home.”
Her service with G2 — military intelligence — during World War II also exposed Doris to places and cultures most people never experience.
“I’ll admit I’m very liberal about things,” Doris says. “I guess living around the world and traveling as much as we have had that affect on me. When we went on vacation it was usually to the Mediterranean or over to Thailand. I saw a lot of the world. One of the places we really liked was Cypress. I loved Cypress.”
Despite her multinational background, Doris never completely lost contact with her local roots.
“I’m Danish 100 percent,” Doris says with pride. “I do some things with the Danes around here and like some of them a great deal. Coming back here sort of renewed my ties to that.”
Now living in Sidney, with an estimated 90 cousins in Montcalm County alone, Doris sometimes has a tough time keeping track of them all. Unintended slights were rife during her recent 95th birthday party.
“One cousin who lives in Lansing said I should have invited all the cousins from that area, too,” Doris says. “That would just have been too much for me. I figure life’s too short now for me to spend much time doing things I don’t really want to do.”
Even so, Doris does her best to temper her strong opinions and — if not respect, then at least tolerate — the opinions of others with divergent viewpoints.
“I’m not a religious person at all,” Doris says. “But I thoroughly believe in the Golden Rule. I try not to be mean or nasty to anyone unless they are to me; then I can snoot with the best of them.”
Looking back over her long, rich life, most of Doris’ memories seem to be happy ones. The notable exceptions are those surrounding her husband’s death. The stress of his passing, she believes, cost her her vision in one eye.
During Fred’s final days, Doris woke one morning to discover she could no longer see out of one eye; an extreme physical reaction to extreme emotional distress. Hearing her describe the couple’s marriage makes it easier to understand.
“We had an equal partnership, which was unusual back then,” Doris says. “He knew how outspoken and opinionated I was and I think he enjoyed it. Sometimes he got a real kick out of it. He understood my need to speak out about things I feel strongly about.”
Though her overall health is good — some might say amazingly good, all things considered — Doris is too honest to kid herself about the future and the amount of time she may have left to spend there.
“My plan for the future is to take it one day at a time,” Doris says with a laugh. “I’ve had a wonderful life. I’ve often thought that, if I could have planned every aspect of my life, I could never have planned anything as wonderful as the life I’ve lived.”
But that’s just her opinion.