Helen Holt: Memoir of a Servant Leader
by Patricia Daly-Lipe



Pen Women Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-981-56932-3.
Reviewed by Anita Lock
Posted on 03/22/2015

Nonfiction: Biography

"When it comes to doing things for others, some people stop at nothing."
These words are not just a frequent aphorism of Helen Holt. They are a true reflection of her 23 dedicated years as a public servant. Holt's list of accolades is nothing less than remarkable. Yet the 101-year-old icon and first woman to hold a statewide-office in West Virginia is not at all shy to admit that she became "a professional woman by necessity."

Author Patricia Daly-Lipe presents a woman who unwittingly becomes a trailblazer for women in the political arena. The real irony is that Holt never gives politics a second thought until she marries the youngest U.S. senator (1935-1941) from West Virginia, Rush D. Holt, Jr. in 1941. Holt immediately gets involved in her husband's work, and Rush is quick to teach Holt "how to work with men and to feel comfortable working with them," since she is a lone woman in a man's world. That is only the beginning.

Daly-Lipe takes readers behind the scenes to their home life. Deeply in love, Holt and her husband are blessed with a boy and a girl. But amid many joyful moments, their short-lived marriage is filled with trials and tribulations. Tragedy strikes with the sudden death of Rush's sister, leaving the responsibility of raising her son to her brother and sister-in-law. Aside from adjustments, their nephew is a welcomed addition to the Holts' growing family. Yet more problems ensue as Rush has bouts with the cancer that eventually leads to his untimely death in 1955.

Daly-Lipe clearly portrays Holt's overwhelming conundrum as she is left to raise three children with absolutely no income; pension is granted only to public officers 50 years of age and over. Rush was 49 at the time of his death. Yet in an amazing turn of events, Holt is able to provide for her family when she takes over Rush's position in the West Virginia House of Delegates. A pay increase comes two years later when Holt is sworn in as Secretary of State of West Virginia. President Eisenhower commissions her in 1960 with "the task of creating a program to fix the nation's ailing network of nursing homes" because, as Holt puts it, "they had to get a woman—no man was sufficiently interested." Holt tirelessly carries out this job over the course of seven consecutive presidents of the United States.

The American people owe much to Holt for her marvelous example of leadership and for her diligence in developing the Assisted Living/Nursing Care programs and homes that are in existence today. Many kudos to Daly-Lipe for conveying the powerful essence of Helen Holt in this Memoir of a Servant Leader.


Author of seven books, Patricia Daly-Lipe is the past President of the National League of American Pen Women-La Jolla Branch and later President of the Washington, DC Branch. In 2007, Daly-Lipe was speaker for the National Capital District 36 Toastmasters 2007 Spring Conference. Her presentation was titled "The Power of Words." In 2015, she was elected Secretary of Write By The Rails. Visit her website.

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