I have always thought of Marian Tompson as somewhat of a legend. Many times, I had heard the story about how La Leche League had been started at a picnic near Chicago. As I understood the story, seven women were at a picnic in 1957, and decided to start an organization. Marian Tompson was one of those women. But when I interviewed Marian, I had a much clearer understanding of how the story really unfolded.
Marian had just had her fourth child, and her doctor very much encouraged her to breastfeed. Mary White, another mother, and the wife of a doctor, was having lunch with Marian in the park, and the two women discussed how good it would be to have support from other breastfeeding mothers. It was later that they pulled five of their friends along for more mother-to-mother support. While I had always assumed the “picnic” was a planned and boisterous event among seven giggling women, it was more like a quiet lunch shared between two friends in a park. They certainly didn’t realize they were starting a not-for-profit organization.
Talking with Marian was like stepping back in time. With a little real-life experience and a lot of imagination, I conjured up the scene in my head. I imagined Marian with one of those I Love Lucy hairdos, toting a Melamine bowl of potato salad in one hand, and holding a baby in the other while half-chasing a sandwich on a paper plate near the Windy City. I found it a bit more difficult to imagine, though, how she would be feeding her baby in the park. Wouldn’t that be breastfeeding in public? Hmmmmm. It occurred to me that in some ways, today’s woman is faced with many of same issues that Marian and her friends faced.
As you celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, dream a little. Marian’s is a story of how one woman and her friend had a dream, and made it come true.