The amazing Jane Hawking, was an English author and teacher. She was married to Stephen Hawking and his carer for thirty years, yet despite the pressure, maintained her own interests.
The couple had been dating for a year when Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease. This would slowly break down his nervous system and paralyze him. Doctors said he would not see his 25th birthday, as he was not expected to live beyond two more years.
Instead of settling for the prognosis, two years later the couple married in 1965 and embarked on a 30-year marriage. Few 21-year-olds would take on such a challenge, but Jane made the decision to stay beside Hawking’s side, no matter what happened in the future.
The couple had three children. Not only did Jane need to deal with the usual demands of parenthood, and running a home, but she was also the caregiver for Stephen. From the start, their relationship was forced to take a backseat to Hawking’s academic ambitions. Even their honeymoon was at a physics conference.
Hawking refused to have anyone else help him but totally relied on Jane, besides refusing to talk about his medical condition. For years, Hawking refused the use of a wheelchair, acting as if his illness didn’t exist. “I’d be going out with Stephen on one arm, carrying a baby in the other and toddlers running alongside. It was hopeless because the toddlers would run off and I wouldn’t be able to chase after them. That made life impossible.”
The Amazing Jane Hawking was Committed
Jane never quit. “There was no alternative to just carrying on. I felt very committed to Stephen and I didn’t think he could manage without me. I wanted him to carry on doing his amazing work, and wanted the children to have a stable family behind them – so we just carried on.”
Only those who have been a 24/7 carer can fully appreciate the enormous pressures that Jane would have been put under.
Jane Returns to her Studies
Jane was also determined to prove she was more than a mother and wife of a man who had the same IQ as Einstein, 160. About 68% of people have an IQ score between 85 to 115, with the average being 98.
Jane was an undergraduate when she met Stephen in 1962 and determined to follow her own interests, despite having three children. She never gave up her dream of achieving her own academic studies, despite the daily struggles.
By 1979, the amazing Jane Hawking achieved a PhD in medieval Spanish poetry. This gave her an identity apart from her marriage. However, it took her 12 years to complete her degree, but she felt compelled to obtain her PhD.
Following her own pathway was good for her self-esteem, but she still felt unmoored in her marriage. “The truth was, there were four partners in our marriage. Stephen and me, motor neuron disease and physics.” Overcoming the Black Dog of depression was at times part and parcel of life with Stephen.
Jane’s Deep Faith
Jane was brought up in the Church of England faith, and throughout her life it was her Christian faith that maintained her. This was despite Hawking’s well-known total anti-God, atheism.
I personally can relate to this and fully comprehend the tight rope she walked. One of my husbands was a total sceptic. Yet, a deep faith is something that cannot be denied, despite the skepticism or opposition, even when life is tough.
Professor Stephen Hawking‘s last book was completed after his sudden death at age 76. His final words in the book are: “There is no God. No one directs the universe.” Words that Jane had no doubt heard many times before.
Despite all her years of devotion, Jane was forced to face the intense grief and pain of another woman in Stephen’s life. After all her years of devotion he turned to another. How many women have walked through this same ‘valley of death’ and known the depth of its agonies?
In the 1980s, while Stephen was working on A Brief History of Time he fell in love with one of his nurses. Finally, in 1990, Jane and Stephen separated and in 1995, they divorced. In just these couple of paragraphs it covers a gulf of anguish. There are two major valleys of grief: death of a loved one and unfaithfulness in a marriage. You can survive both, heal and come out the other side stronger.
Life After Divorce
Within two years, both had remarried. Stephen married his nurse and Jane married a musician friend of her husband, widower Jonathan Hellyer Jones.
Stephen and Jane maintained a relationship following their divorce, as they lived not far from each other and met regularly. Jane continued to support Stephen through his health problems.
Hawking eventually went through a second divorce, as he separated from nurse Elaine Mason. It was one thing to being a nurse to the famous man, but quite another to deal with him 24/7 as his wife. Yet that was something the amazing Jane Hawking had done for thirty years.
There is no doubt Stephen would have again looked to Jane for comfort and support over this time. Jane said following Stephen’s second divorce, “We were able to associate freely again and enjoy many a family occasion together. It was quite like old times.”
The Amazing Jane Hawkins Memoirs
In 1999, Jane wrote an autobiography as she didn’t want people coming along, 50 or a 100 years later, with their own version of her life with Stephen. Reflecting on her life with the theoretical physicist Jane said, “One of my most important jobs was telling Stephen he was not God.”
There is no doubt there would have been major clashes between Jane’s faith and Stephen’s atheistic beliefs. I have always had difficulty coping with Hawking’s anti-god attitude. Living with it must have been so difficult. Hawking died in 2018.
Seeing her memoirs made into an award-winning movie, Jane’s role in an extraordinary relationship, was fully revealed. That is not all, to date, the amazing Jane Hawkins has authored a total of five books.
Jane Hawking an Amazing Example
Why look at the lives of someone like Jane Hawking? Married to a famous man often makes the women just background noise, yet it takes enormous strength and courage to stand with a man like Stephen Hawking, or any man who stands out, especially as he had such a handicap and needed nursing.
We so often forget that women like Jane were human beings who carried a load not many of us could contemplate shouldering. A home to run with three children, a man with an illness and obsession, and still Jane was a woman with her own needs.
No matter how much is revealed about Jane, never can enough be said about her courage and strength. Any woman who is able to display the courage Jane showed, has never had a straightforward life. Adversity was not allowed to dictate who she was and her voice sends a strong message. No matter your circumstances, you too can survive and come out the other side, a much stronger person.
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Wendy is an inspirational writer, for which she has a strong passion. She is also very passionate about her garden and family. She says life is too short to waste, so live it to the fullest.