Monday, April 29, 2013

Powerhouse Women


Lately I have been going through a phase in which I read books, fiction and non-fiction, about women who are strong in who they are as individuals, don’t let their pasts define who they are in the present tense of the books and, most importantly to me anyways, are not wimpy.
Throughout my childhood and teen years, I recall watching many movies and tv shows with my parents, the majority of them being of the western genre, where so many female characters were wimpy, useless and likely to get themselves killed if they acted like frightened children.  I usually always hated them and don’t recall reading any books in my teen years or adulthood in which the women were in which the women were written to be unequal and inferior to men.  For the most part, in the books with lead female characters that I am drawn to, the women are strong, smart, work successfully in a ‘man’s’ world, daring and don’t back down from a fight.
One female character that has long been a favorite of mine is Scarlett O’hara.  Of course by the time the sequel to “Gone With The Wind” was written, she was Scarlett O’hara-Hamilton-Kennedy-Butler, because she was a woman who went after what she wanted and used men to get there.  I loved Scarlett and still do.  I have in the past heard her described as money-hungry bitch and she may have been, at times.  But there is much more to her character than just that description.   She was incredibly smart, business-savvy, bucked normal social conventions, didn’t always depend on men to secure her place in life or have financial security and didn’t worry what society in general thought of her.  For these reasons and more, I love her character.

I really enjoy reading books, whether auto/biographical or fictitious, where the women take risks, are bold, adventurous, spirited, courageous, determined and fun.
Here are some of the books I have read lately that had these kinds of women in them:

The Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels (fiction), War Brides by Helen Bryan (based on historical facts), Eighty Days: Nelly Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman (non-fiction),   Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman and Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach (autobiographies), and Mama Moon (True, inspirational story of courage, love & triumph!) by Susan Gayle (biography)

It has been a while since I read Mama Moon, but it was about a poor immigrant from the Asian continent (sorry, I forget the country), who labored tremendously to get herself out of her destitute situation and raised a family, all the while just being grateful to be in a country with so many opportunities for work and bettering your life.  There were many times she could have thrown in the towel and gave up, but that was not her.  Quitting was not in this woman’s blood.  She worked on well into her retirement years, worked through and survived cancer, and endured a few unfortunate business decisions and in the end made something of herself.   Mama Moon wanted to be an inspiration to all around her and definitely lived the old adage “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”
The books I have read by Alice Steinbach show her to be a woman of strength, adventure, loves to learn and wants as much out of her life as she can get.  She travels to various countries to learn something about their cultures and embraces any bumps she finds along the road.  These bumps in her path allow her to learn from experience and maybe even have a different experience than what she planned.  I admire her willingness to travel for educational reasons.  It is great to immerse yourself in another culture as much as you can to see how others live, to open up any closed minds and eradicate old prejudices.

To prevent this entry from being exceedingly long, I will not summarize the other books, but if you have time or the interest, I would recommend reading them.
This entry was born because lately I have been casually considering some of the hardships past women were put through because of men and the battles they had to face to show these insulting, selfish, demanding and power-hungry men that women are much more qualified for work and success than just cooking and cleaning.  We still have to fight these battles, though on a much smaller scale fortunately.  One example of my casual consideration is this:  when we all went to vote last November, I really felt that it was my duty to vote, not only because it is a civic right, but because of the past, courageous and fearless women who fought, were beaten and jailed for, this most basic of citizen rights.  We all deserve to have our opinions count in these matters.  *Let me just clarify that I have voted in several previous elections since turning 18, but this was the first time I really felt the great struggles of past women’s rights activists so we could vote.  And I felt proud that I could/can vote because of those strong women.*

So to these women and others I am thankful.  I am thankful for the stories written about real and fictitious women.  I am thankful that many women of prior centuries blazed a trail for recent generations of women to able to work in jobs traditionally held by men, give the opportunities for higher education, give the option to have the men stay home and cook, clean and raise the kids and to remind us to never give up and keep moving forward.  I hope stories of these real and imagined women never stop being told and written.