April 28th has been designated “Take Back The Blog” day – day to celebrate women’s full participation in all aspects of society. In thinking about this topic, I kept reminiscing about all the women — real and fictional — who inspired me.
I was born in the 1950s, too late for Rosie the Riveter and Mata Hari. Women were being relegated, once again, to the roles of helpmate and homemaker.  The range of women I had available as role models was limited by my generation, class and geography.

I remember one summer when I was about ten years old searching for a biography about a woman to read.  I’d covered Betsy Ross and Clara Barton and was having a hard time finding another female whose life story had been deemed worth writing about.  Finally, I came upon the biography of Francis Marion. I had never heard of “her” but I thought that anyone who had two girl names must be awesome.  I was quite disappointed when I found out he was a revolutionary war hero nicknamed the Swamp Fox!

During my elementary school years the two female figures who captured my imagination most were Nancy Drew and Anna Pavlova.

Nancy, of course, was the plucky, All-American, smart yet feminine detective, the star character of a seemingly infinite number of mysteries.  Anna, was the adored Russian prima ballerina, who traveled the world and melted hearts as she fluttered, in the spotlight, to her demise with strains of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in the background. Two strong threads intertwining. The one resourceful, brave and competent.  The other fragile, dramatic and adored.

Throw in the mystic St. Teresa of Avila and the preternaturally cute Shirley Temple and you get an idea of the range of feminine roles that were churning in my psyche.

In my teen years, fictional heroines drew my attention: Jane Eyre, the repressed and smoldering Bronte character.  (of course, Rochester may have been part of the attraction) and Scarlett O’Hara, the vixen, temptress and master manipulator of Gone With the Wind(of course, Rhett Butler may have been part of the attraction). Hey, I was a teenager.

Through the decades, my list of heroines changed and grew: Artemis, Charlie’s Angels, Barbara Jordan, Anne Rice, Jackie Kennedy, Susan Sarandon, Shirley Chisholm, Norma Rae,Christine Cegelis, Jane Addams, Susan Hu, Zephyr Teachout, Elle Woods, Rachel Maddow, Jane Campion, Elphiba and Glinda, The Dixie Chicks, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Wow. That is some conglomeration!

I wonder who inspires you.  Which women — real or fictional — make you feel empowered, or smart, or strong or connected?  Mae Jemison? Lady MacBeth? Mia Hamm? Marie Curie? Rachel Barton? Jo March? Eleanor Roosevelt?  Come on.  Dish.  

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