J. / by Laura J. Lawson

The middle initial. Is it pompous? Does it give a melodic number of syllables? Is it better for SEO? Sure. That’s not why I use mine.

Maybe you’ve worked with me before, and I had to politely insist that my J. is included in my name when printed. Here is my explanation.

My name is Laura¹ Jane² Lawson³.

¹Laura, after a close friend of my mother.
²Jane, after Dorothy Jane Lawson, my grandmother.
³Lawson, my father’s last name.

Dorothy Jane Broyles was born on July 19th, 1925 in Callis, Texas, which was 25 miles northeast of McKinney in Collin County. She married my grandfather, Henry Lawson, at age 16. Henry fought in Europe during World War II, and had a long career as a Methodist minister. Together they had three sons, the youngest of which is my father.

Dorothy had many roles: a preacher’s wife, a homemaker, a farmer, a saint (for raising those three boys), a skilled quilter, and generally “artistic.” She took some art classes and made artworks, but I am unsure that she or anyone else definitively called her an Artist, full stop, no buts. Reader, she was.

[These photos are framed under glass, and were taken with a cell phone camera as-is on the wall. I’ll photograph them professionally one day!]

As far as I could tell, she enjoyed her life as it was with no complaints, and she was a wonderful grandmother to me. Even though she was all smiles in my lifetime, I can’t speak for her. If I were a young wife and mother in the 1940s, I would probably be frustrated, scared, angry, tired, and never quite content. It is easy for homemaking to overwhelm even one drawing project.

While there is still much to fight for when it comes to equal rights, I am so relieved to have the freedom to make the choices I have made in my life so far. I’m an artist, a college professor, and an unmarried mother of two cats. Though I have no human children, I am proud that her name and creative legacy continue with my brilliant and wonderful niece, Emma Jane.

Dorothy worked hard in raising her family, tending to farms and livestock, and carving out time for quilts and paintings. I’m proud to have her name, and I hope that by using that name professionally, I can honor her work as an artist.