When I was thirteen my mother gave me a paperback copy of Bess Streeter Aldrich’s A Lantern in Her Hand. The book told the story of a girl who grows up in the Nebraska Territory in the late 1800s.We had just moved from Nebraska to California, and the gift may have been my mother’s way of encouraging me to know and appreciate my heritage on the plains. It worked! I developed a love for history, Nebraska, and reading.
Eventually, we returned to live in Omaha where my mother helped me expand my interests to include film, theater, dance, and music at venues like the Jewish Community Center, Omaha Community Playhouse, Omaha Ballet, and Omaha Symphony. I have fond memories of seeing classic films (before they were routinely available on cable television), volunteering through my teen years as an usher for Omaha Ballet so that I would have the opportunity to see every single production, and hearing Itzhak Perlman with the Omaha Symphony playing music too beautiful to have imagined.
Today, I continue to cherish A Lantern in Her Hand and the effect it had on me. Beautifully written, it not only infused me with a lifelong love of history and reading, but also helped me develop my passion for the arts and humanities..
As associate director for the Nebraska Humanities Council, Mary Yager enjoys visiting communities as state coordinator for the Museum on Main Street program, and working with individuals and organizations across the state as manager of the council’s speakers bureau and in counseling grant applicants and recipients. Mary also assists with fiscal and administrative matters for the council. Mary received a B.A. in history from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and prior to joining the staff at the Nebraska Humanities Council spent 21 years developing, managing and evaluating programs for the National Arbor Day Foundation.