The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Essie Shor


While just about everyone has heard the story of Anne Frank, how many have ever heard of Essie Shor and her story as a teenage fighter with the Bielski Partisans?  My awareness came about rather serendipitously.  After watching the movie Defiance I wanted to know more about heroes of this story:  the Bielski Brothers who fought to save more than 1,200 of their fellow Jews in Belarus from annihilation by the Nazis. 

One of the recommended books was about Essie Shor, who was only 16 when the Nazis invaded her country and slaughtered her whole family except for her and her father.  She escaped from the ghetto and was one of the first group of Jews to join her cousins, the Bielski Brothers, who valiantly vowed to FIGHT BACK!  Essie wrote, "Living in the forest, we no longer felt like cattle as we had in the ghetto.... This was a different kind of fear.  We went from being caged to be hunted."  

Essie was proud to be a resistance fighter and learned how to protect herself and her fellow Jews in their forest community.  Essie's story is written in a straightforward manner in less than a hundred pages.  She is still alive, now 80 years old, a retired school teacher living in New York.
Sioux Remer

For more information, visit Essie's website.

Thanks for checking out our virtual quilt and learning about 31 inspiring women.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Katharine Hepburn


As a kid, I would watch any movie with Katharine Hepburn.  I guess I never really thought about why I liked her movies.  It is only now looking back on it that I realize she always played spunky no-nonsense women, the kind of women I wanted to be.  She played Jo March on screen (one of my literary heroines), matched tempers with John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, and Peter O’Toole, and stood opposite Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy in some of Hollywood’s best comedies. She earned four Academy Awards, the most by any person.  

Off-screen she was just as impressive.  She eschewed Hollywood glamour for trousers and wore little make-up.  She avoided personal questions from the press and often expressed unpopular opinions.  At one point early in her career she was actually voted “Box Office Poison.”

In an effort to re-launch her career, she starred on Broadway in a play written specifically for her, The Philadelphia Story.  She had the foresight to purchase the movie rights to the play, allowing her to cast herself in the film and giving her a certain measure of control over production.  The movie was a huge hit.

Katharine Hepburn did not change the world by making some amazing discovery or overcoming huge trials, but on and off screen she was the role model of a self-assured woman who did not need to be rescued by the hero and always stood up for what she believed.  My daughter’s middle name was selected partly in homage to her.
Caroline Alderman

For more information, check out Katharine Hepburn's filmography.

Visit us tomorrow to learn about a heroine who survived the Holocaust by fighting back.

Monday, March 29, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Grace Darling


I suspect that Grace Darling appealed as a girlhood heroine because of a family affinity with lighthouses and a love of swimming in the sea.  My mother owned a cliff-top promontory in Scotland’s far north, where there was a manned lighthouse and foghorn complex to guide shipping in the Pentland Firth.  We made an annual summer holiday pilgrimage to climb the lighthouse tower, admire the polished magnifying lenses and peer over the cliff edge at the shattered remains below of a foghorn, victim of the persistent sea eroding the cliffs.

Here it was easy to imagine plucky Grace rowing out in the dark and wild seas to rescue the distraught passengers of the Forfarshire, run aground on the rocks near the Longstone Lighthouse, kept by her father on England’s Farne islands.  Just increase the magnitude of wind, add waves and rocks, paint in the dark grey storm and turn up the soundtrack of crashing breakers, cracking metal, splintering timber, screeching seabirds and the plaintive cries of frightened survivors of the wreck. Grace and her father rescued nine in their rowboat, Grace skilfully negotiating the rocks and balancing the boat in the roughest seas while her father helped the passengers aboard.

It still sends shivers down my spine.  Grace provided the spur to learn to swim properly, and she may also have been responsible for my late-blooming sporting career as a rower during graduate school.
Jane Legget

For more information, check out her biography.

Visit us tomorrow to learn about a heroine who starred in funny, dramatic and controversial films.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Lily Tomlin


Laughing has always been my favorite activity and I remember Lily Tomlin ALWAYS making me laugh!  She appeared on Sesame Street, an early favorite alongside The Electric Company, in an oversized rocking chair as Edith Ann - pulling funny faces, blowing raspberries and spouting off little pearls of wisdom.   Edith Ann was so cool.  Lily’s myriad characters were always masterfully crafted and full of energy.

As I got older I became more aware that physical comedy was good for a belly laugh, but if you wanted to keep ‘em entertained you had to use your brain.  On a family vacation to Washington DC, I brought my eleven year old ideas, my knowledge of the world and my growing social consciousness to the Kennedy Center to see Lily Tomlin in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.  Life has never been the same since.  In one night, my 11-year-old self grew up, made connections and saw everything through newly aware eyes.

Six years later, I met Lily at the 92nd Street Y in New York City and told her how much I admired her and that her intelligent humor and wry wit gave me inspiration to tap into my own inner funny person.  She kindly accepted her compliment and thanked me for it.
Ashley E. Remer

For more information, visit Lily Tomlin's website.

Check back tomorrow to find out about a heroine who made a brave rescue.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Elizabeth I


Technically we New Zealanders are still subjects of the Queen of England - but my favorite Elizabeth is not the sitting monarch.  It is Elizabeth I, who reigned over the most creative, fascinating time of English History.  Being the daughter of Henry VIII makes her a peripheral player in a most awful, misogynistic episodes of history:  imagine your mother’s head literally cut off by your father.  Yet Elizabeth rose to greatness through her deep sense of duty and love of England as well as her own personal strength, probably from overcoming such a bizarre childhood. 

“Young heads take example of the ancient,” she once said.  Elizabeth I is a heroine of mine because as a girl I imagined myself queen of all I surveyed.  I made a set of these imagined crown jewels out of colored paper and would walk around my house telling all of the family pets to treat me like an all-powerful queen.  Some would say I am still a little like that. 
Carrie Macaulay

For more information, check out the Elizabeth I website.

Check back tomorrow to learn about a heroine who made both children and adults laugh. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Alice


As a child, my heroine was always Alice from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.  Back then, I looked up to Alice because she was an intrepid adventurer - only seven years old yet intelligent, daring, and self-assured.  Reading about Alice helped me escape from my own difficult childhood and enter one in which a young woman could do anything she wanted with a little imagination. 

Now, at 30, I realize I also was drawn to Alice because she was one of the few strong female characters written for girls.  Alice was not a delicate princess whose mission in life was to meet a prince, be saved by said prince, and live happily ever after.  Instead, Alice was a regular little girl who wasn't afraid to be herself and who figured out on her own how to solve her problems. I know now that this kind of female character was an anomaly when Alice in Wonderland was written in the 1860s. This is why I still re-read the book as an adult, and why tales about Alice have endured for more than a century.
Jacquelyn Lewis

For more information, visit the Alice in Wonderland website, or you can read the book online.

Visit us tomorrow to learn about a heroine who ruled a nation.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Anne of Green Gables


There have been many popular books for girls written about intelligent and enterprising girls who are often orphaned and therefore confronted with challenging and surprising situations.  Their trials and tribulations, revelations and relationships are satisfying and absorbing themes for many young female minds.  The hapless but lovable Anne of Green Gables on idyllic Prince Edward Island in Canada was a character and a source of comfort I would return to repeatedly over the years.

She appealed to the dreamer and unintentional non-conformist in me.  I was roused by her extremes of childish passion and found her bitterly felt grievances, inflected with amusing melodrama, endearing.  Paralleled by my own dawning consciousness of boys was her grudgingly awakening respect for her admirer Gilbert.  Thanks to L. M. Montgomery, we have the pleasure of understanding Anne before she understands herself.  She was bookish, as I was becoming, contemplative, sensitive, homely and high-strung.  She was flawed and she was wonderful!

Kyla Mackenzie

For more information, check out Anne's website.

Check back tomorrow to learn about a fictional heroine who had quite a few adventures down a rabbit hole.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Emma Peel


Played by Diana Rigg in the mid-sixties television series The Avengers, Emma Peel was a force to be reckoned with, and I loved to watch her.  She was the transformation of my girlhood’s beloved Laura Petrie from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Marlo Thomas in That Girl.  

Charming, sexy and self-assured, she was a preteen girl’s ideal.  As Gloria Steinam, Bella Abzug, and Shirley Chisholm were shaping my political view of world, the fictional Emma Peel captured my sense of wonder and helped define the meaning of feminine power.
Beth Blitzer

For more information, visit The Avengers Forever.

Check back tomorrow to learn about a fictional heroine whose series of books is still read by girls today.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: St. Bernadette


St. Bernadette is best known as the young girl that Catholics believe experienced visions and apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France.  Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844 into a poor, humble and loving family and she suffered ill health throughout her life.  One day while gathering firewood a beautiful lady dressed in blue and white appeared to the fourteen-year-old Bernadette, the first of 18 appearances the Virgin would make to her.

The town of Lourdes was divided in their opinion of whether Bernadette was telling the truth or not and she faced intense interrogation and criticism.  Nevertheless, she stood firm in her convictions and she soon gathered a large following of faithful supporters.  Now Lourdes is one of the major sites of religious pilgrimage and millions of Catholics visit there every year.

At the age of twelve I visited Lourdes with my mother and grandmother and I was absolutely amazed to see thousands of devoted Catholics worshipping at the magnificent basilica in Lourdes, all a result of the experiences of a young girl not much older than I had been at the time. I could only imagine the courage it must have taken Bernadette to persuade her family, friends and neighbors of the apparitions.  Her implacable determination, as well as accounts of her humility, modesty and kindness, really inspired the young girl in me.
Sarah Lynch

To learn more, visit her saint profile.

Tomorrow, check back to find out about a fictional heroine who was a spy.

Monday, March 22, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Nadia Comăneci


In 1976, I was almost three years old, but I remember her absolutely. Standing there in stunning glory, so poised and so magnificent.  PERFECT 10.  Nadia Comăneci was my first girl heroine, inspiring my belief in the power of girls to change the world. 

Nadia was just fourteen that summer when she won three gold medals in the Olympics--the first gymnast ever, let alone from Romania.  I was never much of a gymnast, but her humility, grace, and seemingly magical performance inspired my romantic character.  I saw triumph of will, not sheer driving competition.  When Nadia won again in 1980, I was better able to digest the magnitude of her repeated greatness, reinforcing in my mind that girls can do things no one expects of them, more than once.  Nadia was not only an inspiration for the sport, but my first inkling of political awareness as well.  The revelations of cold wars and iron curtains were beginning to breach my consciousness.

Maybe it was some sort of cosmic connection.  Her dark eyes full of pride and pain were imprinted on my toddler brain, and I would see these eyes again, in the mirror and on other girls around me--the intelligence and grace to make something from seemingly little through hard work, sacrifice and fortitude. While the Olympics have not held my attention for decades, if I catch a glimpse of girls’ gymnastics, I am a child again and feel myself swell with tears.
Ashley E. Remer

For more information, check out Nadia's fan page.

Visit us tomorrow to find out about a heroine who was made a saint.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Amelia Earhart


Amelia Earhart was a Kansas-born girl with a passion for flying.  Her life was changed forever when she and her father visited an airfield in 1920, where she bought herself and her father a ten-minute ride in an airplane.  "By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground," she said, "I knew I had to fly."  Eventually in 1923, Amelia Earhart became the 16th woman ever to be issued a pilot's license.

After many roadblocks and extreme challenges, Amelia Earhart publicly announced her plans to circumnavigate the globe.  She attempted to do so in 1937 and the journey went well until she began to descend towards Howland Island.  There were a series of radio mishaps, and Amelia couldn’t be heard after the following transmission: "We must be on you, but cannot see you—but gas is running low. Have been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.”  Little did anyone know that was the last message they would ever receive from her.  Beginning approximately one hour after that last recorded message, a search north and west of Howland Island began but was unsuccessful.  The official search efforts lasted just over two weeks, ending on July 19, 1937.

But that was just the official search. To this day people are still looking for her - people who remember her as the legend she was.  People she inspired.  People who, like her, haven't given up.
Katie Babbott

For more information, visit the Amelia Earhart website. 


Check back tomorrow to find out about a heroine who earned a perfect 10.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Diane Arbus


Diane Arbus may seem like a strange sort of girlhood heroine, but ever since I discovered a large book of her collected works at my babysitter’s house when I was about seven years old, I was captivated by her particular vision of the world.

It wasn’t just her somewhat voyeuristic preference for depicting the so-called ‘freaks and geeks’ of society that piqued my curiosity.  It was also the uniquely romantic and melancholic mood that permeates every shot, which made me realize that art can be found in the everyday, if you have an eye for it.  Arbus’ brave and startling images revealed to me that the real world is as strange, startling and wonderful as any fairytale or movie, if not more so. Her brilliance was to befriend often-marginalized people and to become intimate with them to the point that she was able to capture everybody unmasked.

Her story also appealed my nascent interest in the bohemian myth of the tragic, brilliant, unconventional, tortured artist who, like Sylvia Plath, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix, represented a creative soul who was ultimately too beautiful and fragile to survive in the harshness of life, but whose work has outlived and influenced many.
Faith Chisholm

For more information, check out a virtual scrapbook of her work.

Tomorrow, visit us to learn about a heroine whose life and disappearance still fascinates us to this day.

Friday, March 19, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Amelia Earhart


When I was a girl, I had a thin book about Amelia Earhart.  It was written and drawn like a comic book and it sat on the shelf alongside my books about U.S. Presidents and Catholic Saints.  I read it dozens of times, marveling at her cropped hair and courage.

My family took many trips and always went by train or by car.  But in the summer when I was twelve, two days after I got my very first period, I traveled alone and flew from North Dakota to Kentucky.  I remember thinking about Amelia Earhart when my plane lifted above the clouds and took me to what had been a familiar home to her.

Every “great woman” I learned about as a girl made sacrifices for and dutifully served her family and community.  Her selflessness was always celebrated and rewarded.  It was Amelia who taught me that it is wonderful and important to be full of Self.  She was different than those other women because she, first and foremost, served the passion that came from deep within her.  She knew who she was and she had the confidence to create her own unique life path. 

On that great flying day when I was a girl, I thought about my heroine Amelia Earhart.  But thinking about her didn’t give me the courage to fly in an airplane.  Thinking about Amelia gave me the courage to marvel at my twelve-year-old Self and ask, “Who are you?”
Liz Morton

For more information, check out the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum.

Tomorrow, check back to learn about a heroine who captured ordinary people in photographs.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Laura Ingalls Wilder


When Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing about her life growing up in pioneer America (circa 1870-1880), she had no idea the fame she would soon have. The “Little House” books were published starting in 1932 when Laura was 66 -- she was hoping to make a little money to help offset the losses from living through the Great Depression. Twenty-five years later, a shy little fourth grade girl in suburban Detroit (me), devoured the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, and the next and the next.

From the very beginning, I was captivated by Laura and her family, compelled by the simplicity of her life, a life lived with not much fear considering the awesome adversity she and her family often faced. The vivid descriptions of nature, waking up to a snow-covered bed inside the house after a particularly brutal blizzard, not to mention inquisitive Indians checking out the new neighbors – all of these events kept me imagining myself in such situations.  How tough Laura’s early life was compared to even the hardest life lived today – I envied her in so many ways, as if I would have been a better (and braver?) person had I had such challenges.

I am grateful to Laura for giving me her stories of life back when our country was young and the people so courageous.
Sioux Remer


Visit us tomorrow to learn about a heroine who took to the skies.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Jeanne Jugan


One of my girlhood heroes was Jeanne Jugan, the founder of an order of nuns called The Little Sisters of the Poor.  I heard about this woman, now a saint canonized in 2009, when I was growing up in Louisville, Kentucky.  

Jeanne Jugan was born in revolutionary France with a knowledge that God had a vocation, as yet undiscovered, for her.  One night she found a blind, elderly woman dying on the street and took her to her own small apartment and gave up her bed to her.  This was to be the beginning of the order of nuns she would establish and lead. Jeanne herself was already 50 years old when her order was founded.

The Little Sisters of the Poor took care of the elderly poor with love and care in a clean and lovely setting.  They didn't try to change or convert the people they cared for.  If someone chewed tobacco, he or she could still chew - they provided a jar in which to spit. The only way that they had money to take care of their clients was through charity. They asked local businesses to help them and they prayed.  Their prayers were always answered. All of the members of this order of nuns were cheerful and seemed totally happy in their vocation of taking care of the elderly poor.  
Sara Morsey

For more information, check out Jeanne's biography here.

Check back tomorrow to find out about a heroine who wrote about her life as a pioneer.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Eloise


With very few real life and fictional girls that signaled a non-normative way of "doing girl" in the 1960s, Eloise was a huge influence on me during my childhood.  I was regularly encouraged by my Catholic upbringing to be a "good girl" (a subjectivity I still struggle with as an adult), yet regularly dismayed by the performances of insipid, narcissistic, and boy-centered girlhood represented for my demographic by the media and encouraged by many adults. 

Eloise reminded me that girls could be smart and rambunctious, creative and rebellious.  She was the first figure through which I developed my own particular way of performing a proto-feminist girlhood.
Mary Celeste Kearney

For more information, visit Eloise's website.

Check back tomorrow to find out about a heroine who dedicated her life to helping others.

Monday, March 15, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Bionic Woman


For the most part, my childhood heroes were male.  But when I found out there was a “Bionic Woman” sequel to the “Bionic Man” series I was thrilled.  I thought it was cool that there was a strong, superhuman woman that could do superhuman feats – rescuing people, catching the bad guys, and saving the world.  And Jamie Somers (as she was known in the real world) didn’t even kowtow to her counterpart and onscreen boyfriend, bionic man Steve Austin. 

Even as a young girl, though, I did notice that Jamie had her blonde, confused moments and was disappointed because I wanted her to be 100% strong.  As a young girl I identified with physically strong characters – which generally happened to be men.  But in the Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman (who I also admired) I could see strong women.  They made me feel it was okay to want to kick ass, to win over a boy with my physical prowess and to keep from crying – or all three at once.
Jane McGill

For more information, check out the Bionic Woman Files.

Come back tomorrow to learn about a fictional heroine who created her own adventures in one of New York's most famous hotels.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Aunt Sarah


As a young girl, I devoured Nancy Drew books.  I thought Nancy Drew was amazing.  Not only did we share the same first name, but she was independent, resourceful and smart.  I often imagined I was her.

In my small town, there was a used book store with a bookshelf that held nothing but Nancy Drew books.  My great-aunt Sarah often took me there to choose one to add to my personal collection. 

Aunt Sarah reminded me of Nancy Drew.  She was independent, having never married in an age when marriage was one of the few options women had for security.  She was resourceful, having taken care of her dying father while maintaining a career of her own.  And she was smart, able to debate the most domineering men on any topic thrown her way.

Aunt Sarah showed me that women didn’t have to follow the rules of society and always do what was expected.  She lived her life her way, taking less than ideal circumstances and making the best of them.  And she loved me unconditionally.

I still have my collection of Nancy Drew books.  When I look at them, I remember the two women who taught me as a girl that life is an adventure and the path that I chose to follow could be of my own making.  They showed me how to define my own life, rather than let the circumstances of my life define me, and that is lesson I will always treasure. 
Nancy Cravey

For more information, visit the Nancy Drew Sleuth website.

Check back tomorrow to find out about a TV heroine who was re-created to save the world.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Wonder Woman

 

I grew up in the mid-1970s.  A major event in my childhood was finally getting a color television - Hello America!  This new explosion of color was heralded by the dynamic presence of Wonder Woman.  She was all curves and dazzle. Her active role and bulging breasts, tiny waist and ample hips encased in the colors and motifs of the American flag, along with that mane of dark hair, signaled power to me – but not as I'd known it.  (At least I got the mane of dark hair.)  It stuns me that, within a few years, another fictive action-heroine in the film Alien would capture my imagination in entirely different fashion and without recourse to curves or color.

Eventually, my mother, concerned at my daily consumption of fluffy sitcoms, good guys and bad guys, got rid of the television and handed me books.  Kick-ass heroines are now common.  Wonder Woman, an early revelation, remains in my affections.  More sustaining, however, are the girls and women with depth and flavor who battle with themselves and, hopefully... emerge victorious.
Kyla Mackenzie
For more information, visit Wonder Woman's page on the DC Comics website or check out the Wonder Woman Museum.

Visit us tomorrow to learn about a fictional heroine who solved crimes and is still read by girls all over the world.

Friday, March 12, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Unknown Heroine


As defined, a heroine is "a woman of distinguished courage or ability, admired for her brave deeds and noble qualities."  I do not have a lone heroine.  I have multitudes.  Am I breaking the rules?

Is the heroine my mother...for teaching me, loving me, honoring ME!  Is it a teacher?  Was there one gesture or one moment in a classroom that changed my life?  Oh, I know!  The ultimate heroine is that movie star, the one I worshipped as a teen.  Sometimes, I still worship women that I do not know.  It has nothing to do with brave deeds.  I do not have a lone heroine.

My mind is filled with the multitude of unknown heroines who have passed through my life.  I doubt any of them are household names.
Lauren Caldwell

Tomorrow, check back to find out about a heroine who was the star of her own comic book series.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Princess Periezade


I first encountered the heroine of The Talking Bird, the Singing Tree, and the Golden Water during a quest of my own.  I was searching for evidence of girls who were:

a) physically strong
b) mentally resilient 
c) emotionally sensitive 
d) beautiful

In fourth grade, among the heroes and heroines commanding the library shelves of my small Midwestern town, these character traits were as infrequently mixed as the answers on a multiple choice quiz: boys were strong and resilient; girls were sensitive and beautiful.  When the world of literature ventured the question: “How do you identify?” I always seemed to be stuck answering:

e) none of the above

One Thousand and One Nights’ Princess Periezade was the first of my childhood heroines to embrace all of these characteristics.  She took up the same physical challenges as her two older brothers with ease and outpaced them intellectually and emotionally.  Her unique combination of sensitivity and prudence allowed her to heed advice from sources as diverse as old crones, dervishes, and talking birds.  When confronted with a task that had turned every man before her to stone, she used her intelligence and creativity to contrive a safeguard that enabled her to succeed unharmed.  In the end, her willingness to follow the culinary advice of the Talking Bird lead to the resolution of the story’s greatest mystery; the Bird used a cucumber stuffed with pearls to illustrate the sultan’s mental rigidity and reveal to him the whereabouts of his missing children.
Eva Marguerite Olsgard

 For more information, you can read the story of Princess Periazade online.

Check back tomorrow to learn about the many, many people in our lives who could be our heroines.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Jo March


Little girls by deem of sex are told stories about love and Prince Charming, where all that matters is the end result - a happily ever after.  That was the target:  to reach the point of marriage.  Josephine March taught me that this isn’t how it has to be.

Jo March is my girlhood heroine.  She loves books and is awkward in social functions.  She is a tomboy and doesn’t care how the neighbours see her. She becomes friends with the boy next door but turns him down in marriage.  She cuts her hair off to raise money and goes to New York to follow her dream of writing.  She is brave though with fault and tries to be good.  And I tried to be good just like her.

As I got older, I read much more into Little Women.  It is a story about resourceful women set in a time when women had very little freedom.  Jo is engaging and proactive rather than decorative and still writes even though she’s stuck spending days reading to her great-aunt.  She doesn’t treat Laurie as a superior but as an equal to her.  She does marry but marries an equal and uses what’s been given to her for good. There are, however, two things that still rankle:  she didn’t become a full time writer and she opened a school for boys and not for boys and girls.  But I believe heroines can’t be heroines without some faults.
Julie Anne Young

For more information, check out this radio story about Jo March.

Come back tomorrow to learn about another fictional heroine who demonstrated great bravery and intelligence.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Jane Goodall


When I was a young girl my career interests changed constantly. One week I wanted to be a doctor, and the next week a teacher.  When I was ten, I desperately wanted to become a biologist and study wild animals.  During that period when I was fascinated by field researchers, my mother told me about Jane Goodall and her work with chimpanzees in Tanzania.  I thought then, and still do, that Jane Goodall was incredibly brave to move to another continent and try something new in research.  Her independence, perseverance, and positive attitude were motivating to me when I felt discouraged.  

Growing up, it was important to have female heroines to look up to because they proved to me that a woman could be anything she wanted to be.  While my skills and interests led me to the museum field rather observing wild animals in the field, Jane Goodall has remained one of my heroines.  Her message of hope, understanding, environmental stewardship, and peace are encouraging in an uncertain world.  Jane Goodall accomplished so much, but she has not rested on her fame and achievements; she continues her tireless efforts to improve the world around her.  That dedication to positive social change remains a source of inspiration for me today.
Charlotte Wolfe

For more information, check out the Jane Goodall Institute or her youth service organization Roots and Shoots.

Check back tomorrow to learn about a fictional heroine who lived her life the way she wanted.

Monday, March 8, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Amelia Earhart


My girlhood heroine was and will always be the American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart.  After seeing my first air fair in Leavenworth, Kansas I became infatuated with Amelia.  Amelia made me realize that I can succeed at anything I set my mind to.  Amelia went after her dreams and succeeded in a male-dominated field.  Amelia Earhart is primarily known as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic ocean, but to me she represents soaring dreams and hopes for girls of all ages.

Amelia will always be a big part of my life, because her hometown is just a short drive away from me.  Amelia Earhart was born at her grandparent’s home on July 24, 1897 in Atchison, Kansas.  Amelia was first interested in a medical education to train as a nurse, but after visiting an air fair she was drawn into flying.  Like Amelia, I was also drawn into my field of study and I know that as long as I try I can succeed.

In 1928, Amelia was selected to be the first female passenger on a transatlantic flight by her future husband, George Putnam.  After flying solo across the Atlantic in 1932, Amelia began designing clothing for active women and published two books.  Although Amelia disappeared over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937 during a flight around the world, she will always be remembered for being forward-thinking in the world of aviation and dreams.
Samantha Bradbeer

For more information, check out the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum.

Visit us tomorrow to learn about a heroine who devoted her life to learning about another species.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Julia Child

Julia Child was definitely one of my girlhood heroines.  Growing up, I watched her on TV every Saturday evening with my family, as we celebrated food and togetherness through Julia Child.  From Julia I learned that good food does not have to be pretentious.  Still, I learned more than how to plate a dish or kill a lobster.  She exuded confidence and grace—even when things went horribly awry in the kitchen.  This grace under pressure, a self-deprecating sense of humor, and an undeniable zest for life were always present in Julia Child’s kitchen, alongside her compassion and warmth.
At ten years old, these thoughts weren’t so clearly formed in my mind, but the sentiment was there. This too-tall woman with a slightly funny voice wasn’t classically attractive, but she was a wonderful role model.  She exuded real happiness and love in everything she did.  As I learned later, Julia had been in the OSS during WWII, lived and traveled throughout the world, and yet was happy in the here-and-now. 
I didn’t want to be a chef when I was a girl, and I don’t want to be one now, but Julia Child was about more than cooking, even though she changed how Americans approached food.  She became an icon of cooking in America, but remained approachable and down-to-earth.  Julia Child was confidant and happy, and lived life on her terms, not those of anyone else.
Katie Weidmann

For more information, visit the PBS website for her biography and recipes or go on a multimedia tour of her kitchen at the Smithsonian.

Check back tomorrow to find out about a heroine who broke down an important barrier for women.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Bridie Philps


My grandmother believed in pixies and banshees and divine retribution.  She never killed spiders and she rescued birds with broken wings.  She was a sixteen-year-old runaway, a kitchen maid, a chorus girl, and a dress designer.  She cooked amazing Sunday roasts always followed by a pudding she invented called Satisfaction Tart.  She told tales of parties three days long in London during the war, of going to fancy bars where she bought one drink to last all night and filled up on free bar snacks to save money.

She could make anything out of anything - don't like that jumper? Well, unravel it and knit something else.  Don't throw those trousers away - make them into a skirt!  Why buy elastic bands when you can make your own out of old kitchen gloves?  My grandpa fell in love with her at first sight, not least because she was the best-dressed girl in the room.  She loved fancy underwear, eau de cologne on her sheets and biscuits in bed for breakfast. She loved her ramshackle house and digging up the garden surrounded by her ducks.

When she was in her seventies she taught me how to glaze a window, hang wallpaper and lay a patio of concrete slabs.  She not only showed me that you could be anything you wanted, but also that you could be as many different things as you wanted:  that the only limit to your life is your own imagination.
Lara Band

Check back tomorrow to learn about a heroine who taught America how to cook.

Friday, March 5, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Lisa Simpson


As part of the popular cartoon series The Simpsons, Lisa Simpson has become one of the most recognizable icons of modern girlhood.  Together with her brother Bart, sister Maggie, father Homer and mother Marge, Lisa’s image is known all over the world and many of us, including myself, have fond memories of following her throughout our school, college and adult lives.  Importantly, however, Lisa’s role is not merely to entertain the audience. Her character is intelligent, wise, peaceful, ethical and ambitious.  Her activities range from advocating human rights in Tibet, becoming proficient at playing the saxophone, promoting environmentalism and creating a doll called Lisa Lionheart to try to positively influence other young girls. In these ways Lisa’s character often acts as the moral focal point of an episode.

I looked forward to watching The Simpsons every evening after school.  I was particularly drawn to Lisa because of her intelligence, determination and integrity.  Even now there are few cultural icons who are girls and fewer still that promote positive attributes among young girls.  On a more personal level when I was growing up my own brother was mischievous like Bart whereas I was more shy and studious, and Lisa taught me that was all right.  She also taught me that it is important to identify and stand up for the principles you believe in.  In a world where most young girls are offered Barbie or Bratz dolls as potential role models Lisa Simpson is a breath of fresh air.
Sarah Lynch

For more information, check out Lisa's bio on The Simspons website.

Check back tomorrow to find out about a heroine who had her own unique sense of style and philosophy of living.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Harriet Tubman


I remember reading a picture book about Harriet Tubman in second grade and being fascinated by her life.  It was hard for me to imagine a world where freedom was not guaranteed for all, and this was the first time I had to confront the fact that I was pretty lucky to grow up in the time and place that I did.  I thought, what courage it must have taken for her to go back to where she could have been made a slave again, in order to save other people.  I was also amazed at all the strategies she knew, like running through creeks to throw off her scent trail and remembering that moss grows on the north side of a tree, thus pointing the way towards freedom.  

There was a stream running through my backyard, and I sometimes pictured myself slogging through the water, scared for my life and hearing dogs barking all around me.  At other times, I would go outside and look up at the Big Dipper and wonder how Harriet had managed to use only the stars to lead her people north.  To this day I wonder if I would have been brave enough to do what she did, to not only speak up against injustice but also risk my freedom and my life to help others.  I hope that if such a situation ever arises, I will be able to fully stand up for my beliefs.
Miriam Musco
 For  more information, check out PBS's Africans in America site or New York History Online.

Check back tomorrow to learn about a heroine who embodies strong girlhood - in cartoon form!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Christa McAuliffe


When I was in the third grade I knew that when I grew up I wanted to be a teacher.  While other little girls were combing their doll’s hair, I was lining them up and teaching them or passing back their assignments. (The graded assignments, by the way, my teachers had given back to me.)  In the third grade I learned that a teacher was going to get the chance to go into space.  What could be cooler than that?  I didn’t know then, but that teacher was selected from at least 11,000 applicants.  The plan was that she would participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Project.  She was meant to conduct experiments and teach two lessons from the Space Shuttle Challenger.

That teacher was Christa McAuliffe.  On January 28, 1986, we gathered as a class and sat in stunned silence as less than two minutes after launch she and the other passengers lost their lives.  I remember being so sad at the time.  What has remained with me all these years is that this teacher, this woman, was fearless.  For that reason, Christa McAuliffe is one of my childhood heroines.
Mercedes Pino


For more information, visit Christa McAuliffe's NASA Astronaut Bio.


Check back tomorrow to learn about a woman born into slavery who used her experiences to help free many people. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Judy Blume


Judy Blume!   Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Deenie, and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing were my friends and constant companions, along with all of Judy Blume’s books, when I was a girl.  I would walk around the house with a book in front of my face, doing chores with one hand so I could keep reading.  I looked forward to the visits by the bookmobile in my neighborhood so I could get a new stack.  Finding a Judy Blume title that I had not yet devoured was cause for an exclamation of joy, but old friends were welcomed just the same.  

Judy Blume was my heroine because she expressed so well what I and my fellow classmates were going through. The characters in her books kept me company and soothed many a hurt feeling - they were my friends. I still look back with a smile when I think of all the hours Judy and her creations spent with me and I continue my love of reading to this day.
Teri Yoo


For more information, check out Judy Blume on the Web.

Monday, March 1, 2010

31 Heroines of March 2010: Anne Frank


‘Who would ever think that so much can go on in the soul of a young girl?’

Having positive role models is essential for a healthy girlhood.  All of my girlhood heroes, both real and fictional, were known for their strength, will, intelligence and kindness.  However, the most significant person frozen in our collective minds as a girl forever is Anne Frank.  The tragedy of her life is how she touched and inspired others through dying.  Anne herself stood for qualities all girls should strive for: boldness, compassion, creativity, willfulness and loving being a girl.

I always get lost in the intensity of Anne’s eyes, as if she is speaking across time through them.  Through the words of her diary, Anne’s honesty and curiosity, fears and humor have inspired many to face their petty demons and rise above small-mindedness and hatred.  With Anne Frank as your friend across time and space, you feel the value of your own self-worth and never give up on dreams, always seeing the good and significance in the smallest moments, valuing life above all.  She is an unwitting hero who just wanted to be a writer, who just wanted to live.
Ashley E. Remer


For more information about Ann Frank, check out the Anne Frank Center USA or the Anne Frank House.


Tomorrow, check back to find out about a heroine who wrote some of the most popular books about girls of all time!