Soft spoken, blue eyed Mrs. Jane Maxwell Pritchard, selected as the 1956 American Mother of the Year, so lived her life of mutual help, affection, work, study, prayer and play that her home could indeed have been a corner of that Kingdom.
The story of Jane Maxwell is a saga of Mother love and sacrifice. She was born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1889. At the tender age of 10, due to her mother’s illness, she assumed responsibilities of the home. At 19 she married Benjamin Pritchard, a machinist. She gave her time in these early married years to the destitute children of miners. When she and Ben moved to Detroit she continued to work with poor families. She loved children and planned a family of her own but after the loss of her first baby she learned from her medical advisors that these plans would probably never be fulfilled.
The Pritchard’s first child was a nine months old undernourished baby, suffering from rickets. The doctors gave them little hope but she is grew into a woman of great beauty and character. Their next child was a three year old, unwanted and abused, whose little body bore the marks of ill treatment. She, too, grew up to noble womanhood. Then came the miracle of the Pritchard’s life, a son was born to them, their one and only natural child.
But the family still increased. A dying mother of five appealed to Mrs. Pritchard to care for her young family and so the Pritchard three soon numbered eight. The next baby came from a broken home during the darkest years of the depression. He was a difficult child, hating all around him. He grew into a fine man. The final two were twins and moulded back to normalcy by the skilled and loving hands of Jane Pritchard.
The years of the depression were hard ones for this family but through sickness and trials they triumphed under the guidance and devotion of this remarkable mother. In 1947 Ben Pritchard died.
Mary Beck, President of the Common Council of the City of Detroit, sums up the life of Jane Pritchard in the following words: “Mrs. Pritchard voluntarily reached out over and beyond the duty of a natural mother to assume the responsibilities of caring for children not her own and has discharged that responsibility in such a way as to call forth not only admiration but genuine amazement…It is inconceivable how so much energy, patience, devotion, courage and love could be concentrated in one individual. The only answer is that somehow she created a fortress of inner spiritual resources which sustained her in an apparently insurmountable task. what a constructive and benevolent force she represents in the matter of strengthening the family unit and providing for children the opportunity for normal growth and development, factors very vital in counteracting forces which are contributing to the rise of juvenile delinquency and adult crime.”
Jane Pritchard’s life work reached beyond her home. At the request of the Juvenile Court she served as a foster mother to delinquent girls. Her labors in this field were phenomenally successful.
Dale, her only natural son, grew as just another member of this remarkable family. He received no special favors but worked his way through college and was an outstanding member of his community. Dale wrote of, ” the privilege of being one of her sons, to share in her love and attention. She is something to marvel at and my most prized possession. Her tremendous faith in God has guided all her life. For her there is no compromise between right and wrong. Pity and compassion for helpless humans has been a major part of her life.”
Men and women everywhere can give humble tribute to this Mother who has served her God and country far beyond the call of duty.
Excerpts taken from the 1956 American Mothers Annual Conference Program