Women’s History Month: Trailblazer Ann Wheeler Smith

There aren’t enough heroes in these challenging times, at least ones we can mutually agree upon and hold up as examples of cherished values and admirable qualities who show us how to overcome challenges.

And that’s a problem. Especially for our young people who grapple with who they are and what they strive to become.

Everyone needs a hero and one of mine was Ann Wheeler Smith.

March being Women’s History Month, a brief retrospective on this determined, dynamic and pioneering octogenarian seems appropriate.

Ann Smith—no relation by the way—grew up in Chicago with Midwestern values and became a classically-trained dancer early on. She was known around these parts, a perennial summer resident of Onekama.

Healthy living for all ages was her button and main goal. She spent over 50 years lecturing, demonstrating and writing about the need to move and stretch. Vivacious, intelligent and younger looking than her years, Ann always had one foot in the traditional world of wife, mother and homemaker, while the other foot was planted firmly as a cause-oriented entrepreneur with strong ideas and big dreams. Her aspirations and drive were atypical at the time and frowned upon by many.

Here are only a few of her stunning accomplishments:

  • Ann wrote 5 books – the first one ever written on Stretch Exercise was published in 1969
  • She wrote the book, Celebrity Exercise, featuring interviews with famous people like actress Helen Hayes, musician BB King and Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Thinking
  • She appeared on the early Oprah show and the Mike Douglas Show and on QVC…twice!
  • Ann taught stretching to the LA Rams football team
  • She taught at the National Institutes of Health in Washington DC
  • She testified on Capitol Hill in support of health and fitness programming
  • Ann went back to college at age 70 to study kinesiology and movement
  • She produced 6 videos, including one to assist women recovering from breast cancer surgery
  • Ann’s Rise and Shine DVD hit number #1 on Amazon.com for the best-selling video in the country
  • She gave a world-wide simulcast for Voice of America, giving exercise advice on a global call-in show
  • Thousands of newspapers and magazines coast to coast carried featured stories on Ann. She was in Flight magazine, Seventeen magazine, The Washington Post, NY Times, and every major paper
  • And then there were dozens of radio and television appearances
  • She gave scores of lecture/ demos at YMCAs across the country, spreading her exercise philosophy to seniors, men and women
  • Ann sold hundreds of thousands of her videos
  • And her work has helped young and old, cardiac patients, arthritis sufferers, singers, women in the trades, and those with depression and the average person—all to help them be healthier
  • Also, Ann made time for every one of them

Many of these achievements came after the age of 70!

Most of us go through life wanting to leave a mark and make a positive difference. Without a doubt, Ann Smith did just that… with kindness, caring, sophistication and unbelievable determination.

Ann would want us to learn from her life and from her example:

Here is a favorite quote of Ann’s:

“What the Mind Can Conceive, Man Can Achieve.”

Ann would say:

“What the Mind Can Conceive, Man and Woman Can Achieve”

The definition of an idealist is this…

A Person Who Strives For Perfection To Make The World A Better Place.

Gone but not forgotten, my one word to describe Ann Smith is:   IDEALIST.

She made the world a healthier, kinder and more positive place.