CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Throughout West Virginia, she's recognized as a champion for women's rights. State president of the National Organization for Women from 1988 to 1992, Bettijane Burger fought fiercely to correct gender inequities.
Equal pay, reproductive rights, domestic violence, harassment -- she tackled it all with a fearless, progressive spirit inherited from her trail-blazing mother.
Threats did not deter her. Lawsuits and demonstrations, lobbying and letters to the newspaper, she did whatever it took.
It would take a chunky book just to chronicle her achievements as a feminist leader, not to mention the kudos she earned as an innovative English teacher, writer, radio commentator and community theater performer.
A newspaper column can't tell it all. There are stories galore lurking between these lines.
Settled into a new role as caregiver for her beloved granddaughter, Olivia, she looks back on a life that has made a definite difference.
Like mother, like daughter.
"My mother came to Morgantown in 1928. She was asked by the Presbyterian Church to start a Sunday school because the Presbyterians were very concerned about the poverty in Scotts Run right outside Morgantown. Then kids came to her with hunger and no shoes and she realized she had to do something else.
"It evolved into a community center. In 1931, she got an old company store from the coal company and named it The Shack. All these years later, it's the Shack Neighborhood House. I donated her diaries to the state.
"I wish I had thought of the marker while she was alive. She died in 1988. I petitioned the state and raised the money, and we put the marker up as a memorial to her.
"My parents were very progressive. My father was an accountant. In 1954, he was with the Christopher Coal Co., and they laid him off in a merger with Consol. He was devastated and humiliated. He became depressed.
"There were three children to raise. I remember my mom laying all the bills on the table and putting a few dollars on each one. My mom literally looked at her hands and said, 'I have to save this family.'
"She started making doll clothes and eventually established a very successful business called the Doll House where she restored and costumed dolls and sold dolls. What I learned from her is creativity and innovation.
"We didn't have money for dancing school, so she made the recital costumes, and we got the dancing free. We couldn't afford piano lessons, so a piano teacher came and taught from the upright Steinway in our house, and we got free piano lessons.
"She was a political activist. She went to Vietnam with Church Women United and came back radicalized, and she marched for Martin Luther King and started several social action things around town. I grew up with a lot of political discussion around the table.
"My parents belonged to the NAACP in the 1940s. I grew up knowing there were causes and problems to be solved. My mother's father was a Presbyterian minister and he was a social activist, too.
"He had a Sunday school class with 300 people in it. Out of college he went to the Philippines and helped start the public school system there.
"Because we needed the money, we rented a spare room to foreign students. I learned so much from those people. It was an international kind of house. There was never a dull moment.
"In ninth grade, I decided to be an English teacher. I wanted a classroom full of creativity. I never wavered from that. That was my career for 27 years, full-time teaching in four different states.
"In 1981, I taught at the State Police Academy. They all had to stand at attention until I sat down. That was fun. The class was technical communications. They had to learn how to do research and to speak.
"In high school, I was in the band. We marched in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Band students weren't allowed to take journalism, but I always loved to write. I was the third sister in my family to write the weekly column for the then-Morgantown Post called Town Teens.
"In the summer of '66, I went to England to study for a month and went to several countries. We think something is old when it's 50 years old. In England, things are 700 years old. You see history come alive.
"When you travel, you are never the same. Your world widens. You are never small again.