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?

Saturday, March 31, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette - Tragic Princess

As a girl of ten, I was hardly interested in that do-gooder Nancy Drew. Sure, she was smart, clever, and resourceful. But still, where was the tragedy or the romance that, in my mind, was every woman’s destiny? My heroine was cut from a darker, more complicated cloth, and bathed in the blood of the French Revolution.

Admittedly, ten was a difficult year. My parents had recently divorced, and I was not much more than snot, tears, and sadness. Tragedy was an after-school snack, a bedtime lullaby, a morning prayer; and like so many miserable girls before me, I found solace between a book’s hard covers—stories that took me, thankfully, out of time and place.

Just on the cusp of something I could not yet understand, as the small knots grew on my chest, I fell in love with Marie Antoinette. I must have picked the biography up, the name of which I no longer remember, at the school library.

In my girl’s mind, she seemed everything a woman should be: loved, reviled, beautiful, and doomed. Lying on my bed, I sobbed, heartbroken when she walked the scaffolding in the Place de la Concorde to meet the sharp blade of the guillotine.

But what struck me then, and strikes me still, was the grace with which she met her fate and the tricky path women must navigate to survive. I’ve since come to know that a woman’s worth, fate, and destiny need not be bound by tragedy—no matter how beautiful.

Darlene Deas

Friday, March 30, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Marie Curie

Marie Curie - Chemist, Nobel Winner and Legend

One of ladies who inspired awe in me as a young girl was the famous chemist and physicist Marie Curie.

I never knew much about Marie's life, but she appeared on the pages of my chemistry study when I was at school. This was notable, as she was the only female that ever appeared on the pages of my chemistry study when I was at school. 

I was taught that Marie had lived many years ago, in the pioneering days of our collective knowledge about radioactivity. She studied and explored the new world of science with her husband, also a scientist, and was driven by curiosity. She was a woman who had successfully held her own in a field that was almost exclusively male, and she had been honoured based on the merits of her own work.

Marie’s legacy showed me that there had been exceptional women who had refused to play supporting or behind the scenes roles within traditional male domains. That helped me to understand that a sexist status quo need never define nor limit my ideas or aspirations as a woman.

Sophie de Lautour Kelly

Thursday, March 29, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Suse Ochs

Suse Ochs - Inspirational Roommate

My college roommate Suse (Susan Leigh Skinner Ochs-Scher) from 20 years ago, I remember used to read bridal magazines and go to Pro-Choice rallies. Suse is my heroine because she has always been able to match wit and lightheartedness with a solid connection to her beliefs.

In 1989, Suse lent me her car to go on job interview. I found a goofy cartoon on the dashboard that said ‘See your future, be your future.’ A year later, I was having a hard time trying to get established in a new city. She sent me funny cartoons about my new life. Her philosophy and support helped me take a lighter look at the tough task I had set for myself - making my way in a world far from anything familiar.

This gift of carrying an ideal with wit, making life more fun, I still try to put into practice today. I make sense of her incongruous pairing of bridal magazines and interest in feminism like this: if you know who you are, and value those roots and your traditions, you keep what is good. To move forward, you must engage your ideology with your wits to be a revolutionary in your own life and engage in your future.

Through trial and error, I eventually got the jobs I wanted. And Suse? She got a graduate degree in feminist literature, married her college sweetheart, and has three thriving children.

See your future, be your future.

Maria Mortati

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Chiara Benzoni

Chiara L. - Trailblazing Teacher and Mother

My heroine is Chiara. As the first of four children born in a family with limited means, she was destined to go into a manual trade right after the fifth grade. She fought and worked hard for her right to an education and was the first in her family to get a university degree. As a teacher, principal, and active member of the community, she mentored many young people, guiding them to find their own heart's calling. She personally taught me the value of learning, hard work, honesty, and standing up for what’s right. Through her example, I've learned that there are no obstacles big enough to get in the way of achieving one’s dream. And, with a good dose of determination and willingness to do what it takes, anything can be accomplished. She's inspired many around her and has demonstrated many times that when we have the courage to go for our dreams and share our gifts, we set an example for others to follow.

She was and is a trailblazer in her community and I’m proud to say that Chiara is my heroine and my mom.

Ilaria Benzoni-Clark
Contributing Girl

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Norah Linton

Norah Linton - Brave Australian Bush Girl

Out of the many fictional girlhood characters that I met with over my childhood reading years, it is Norah Linton of Billabong Station that has remained my constant companion and friend. A construction of the lesser known Australian children’s author Mary Grant Bruce, Norah was calm, kind, brave and strong- all of the things I wanted to be! I eagerly followed Norah through her fifteen different adventures, both at home and abroad, written between 1910 and 1942 by Bruce for her "Billabong" series.

Being quietly unassuming and modest ‘to a tee,’ Norah herself would have balked at the idea of being anyone’s heroine - something that made her even more perfect in my eyes! As an Australian girl growing up in the city, to me she was the perfect image of the Australian bush-girl: so much so that if I ever have a daughter she too will be named Norah. As an adult today, I see some of Norah’s flaws. She lacked passion, and although you knew she loved her husband and son, present in the later Billabong books, this rarely shone through in the novels. So while my daughter will definitely be named Norah, I hope she will also have a sprinkling of Anne Shirley’s love of life and Jo March’s passion.

 Norah is not known to too many girls at the moment, even within Australia. However, I feel that if you ever discover her, you too will have found a heroine, and a friend for life.

Bronwyn Lowe

Monday, March 26, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery - Imaginative Writer and Famed Author

To say that Lucy Maud Montgomery is the most famous female author in Canada is an understatement - she is an international phenomenon. She was born in 1874 on Prince Edward Island. After her mother’s death and father’s inability to cope, she was left with her grandparents. Life was very stern and unloving in her grandparents' home, so Maud spent most of her time by herself inventing imaginary friends. This is where the seeds were sown for her ability to develop such depth in her storytelling later on. Despite a very difficult family life, she published 100 stories in 10 years. Her most famous novel, Anne of Green Gables, came out in 1908, with seven more "Anne" books to follow. 

Back in my high school days, circa 1935, I found out about Lucy Maud Montgomery. Once I read Anne of Green Gables, I couldn't wait to read the others. Her stories were so down-to-earth, something I could identify with, and as I got older I appreciated the stories even more. I read Anne of Green Gables to my 4th grade classes for 29 years, beginning in the 1950s. I was never bored by these re-readings as the writing is so good, and the students were encouraged to read more of the books to "find out what happens."  At book fairs, I made sure there were "Anne" paperbacks available, which the children were thrilled to buy and then follow along in class when I read to them.  

Verna Tobin

Sunday, March 25, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Ellie Linton

Ellie Linton - Farm Girl and Brave Leader

In my girlhood, I was inspired by Ellie Linton from Tomorrow, When the War Began, the first book in the "Tomorrow" series by John Marsden. When I was young I read this series and fell in love with the character of Ellie. She is a 17-year-old normal teenager living in rural Australia. She is brave, courageous and let nothing or nobody get in the way of her fighting for what she believed in. Her country was invaded and taken over whilst her and seven friends camped out in the bush on a holiday weekend. She led her friends into battle against all odds and came out victorious. She is a born leader, strong and could still show humanity, compassion, and love in the harshest of environments. The strength and drive to move forward encouraged me to always believe in myself and stand up for what I think is right. Keeping true to your ethics and values in the hardest of times is very inspiring. The character Ellie made this so real and helped me understand what it meant to be true to yourself.

Hannah Corbett

Saturday, March 24, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Scarlett O'Hara

Scarlett O’Hara - Southern Belle with Backbone

I didn’t really have a heroine growing up, but I loved Scarlett O’Hara. Being a southern woman during the time of the Civil War she had to make huge sacrifices and be very strong to keep herself and some of her family alive. Before the war, Scarlett was beautiful and had a glorious life ahead of her, but then the world changed and it was out of her control. When I was a teenager I was in a severe car accident and was given a very bleak prognosis to regain anything of the life I had before. However, like Scarlett, I didn’t accept the awful ‘truths’ that people were telling me. So I focused very hard for years on my rehabilitation, so that now I have achieved goals well beyond what doctors or anyone else ever thought possible. I love Scarlett’s ‘bitchiness’ and selfish focus, which when times are tough are really important to get you through. I like to think I adopted a little bit of that attitude because I won't take ‘NO’ for an answer.

Hallie Parrett

Friday, March 23, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Mrs. Harrison

Mrs. Harrison – Tough and Intelligent Mathematics Teacher

My childhood heroine was/is my secondary school mathematics teacher—Mrs. Harrison. She inspired me in many ways, mainly for the kind of person she was. When she was in school it was quite unusual for a woman to study mathematics and she got a 1st class honours. She made me feel like I could choose to do anything I wanted – it didn’t matter if it was a ‘boy’s subject.’ She was clearly very intelligent. Even the most difficult and unengaged students in my class were in awe by some of the things she knew and could talk about.

Mrs. Harrison was an exceptional teacher. She didn’t teach at the easiest of schools, but did not put up with any nonsense in her classes. She made us all feel like she genuinely wanted us to do well and was excellent at helping us get there, along with not hating mathematics too much along the way! She is one of the reasons I am a teacher today and I still look to her as an inspiration and hope to be as good as her one day. My friends and I still talk about her sometimes – she is one of those women you just never forget and makes you feel good inside when you think of her.

Ellen Chisman

**If you are or have a photo of Mrs. Harrison- please get in touch with us!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Tina Fey

Tina Fey Comedienne and Role Model

Fearless. Probably not the word most commonly associated with comedians; however, it is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Tina Fey.  She is my heroine. For as long as I can remember the female ideal for comedy has been a chesty, long-haired ditz. Women seemed to most frequently be the butt of the joke, not in on it, and certainly not telling it. Then came Tina, with her nerdy glasses and swarthy (her word, not mine) features to turn comedy on its ear.

Sure, Carol, Gilda, and Jane are the shoulders upon which Tina can exist. Yet Tina succeeded where no women had before her - the writing room of Saturday Night Live. She is the first women in the history of that bastion of ‘male-dom’ to serve as Head Writer. She made humor that didn’t require nudity, but did require you to think. And her impact goes further than simply being funny.

When I first saw her on SNL’s ‘Weekend Update,’ I felt like I was finally seeing someone that truly represented me, quirks and all.  My favorite Tina trait? A smart, funny woman (finally) became sexy, but she doesn’t seem to care. Instead, she shows us that we don’t have to fit into anyone’s idea of what or who we should be, to be amazing. She says it best in her book Bossypants, “If you retain nothing else, always remember the most important rule of beauty, which is: who cares?”

Mercedes Pino

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson Poet, Prolific and Reclusive

My childhood heroine was 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson. For a school project when I was around 10, I had to dress up as a literary figure (or maybe we just had to dress up as a famous person and I CHOSE a literary figure), and I opted for Dickinson. I can’t remember whether it was my mother or grandmother who first made the suggestion, but my grandmother gave me an old anthology of her collected works. My mother and I researched her famous white dress, which as a child I regarded as iconic of her “spinster” status and loved.

I loved (and still love) that Dickinson was a recluse in her later years (“the woman in white”) and found the details of her domestic existence during that period delightfully creepy. I wore the white dress for school, and my mother put baby powder in my hair to make me look old, and I memorized my favourite Dickinson poem (“Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul...”) to recite in class. I don’t remember the presentation at all. (The time spent with my mother and grandmother in preparation is much more memorable.) What I do remember is wearing the dressagain, and again, and again.

The first Halloween after the project I think I actually told people I was dressed as Emily Dickinson, but after that, on at least one or two subsequent Halloweens, I was just a happy, poetry-loving ghost in increasingly ill-fitting garb...

Stephanie Miller

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Holly Hobbie

Holly Hobbie – Care-free Friend and Childhood Companion

My childhood hero, the picture of happiness and health, was none other than Holly Hobbie. 

I loved her so much. Back in the 70s, you had to wait for birthdays and Christmas to get gifts. Our childhood demands and fads were not adhered to by over indulgent parents on a whim. So on the Christmas and birthday wish list went the Holly Hobbie requests. And over the course of a few years I managed to acquire the linen set, a t-shirt and a yellow bag that I tried to sneak to school instead of my regulation school bag. I also got soap, bubble bath and writing paper – none of which I would use. I just wanted to savour it and admire it all from afar. I was a real collector.

Holly Hobbie (never Holly) made me feel safe and secure, child-like and young forever, carefree. It was a form of escapism when I thought of wholesome Holly Hobbie...I never had to grow up when I was with her. Her patchwork dress and big floppy hat holding the dried floral arrangement was happiness personified. It wasn’t that Holly Hobbie had done anything famous, or was tangible, she was total fictional fantasy and so the admiration and obsession was limitless. 
Jo Hiles

Monday, March 19, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Robyn Kahukiwa

Robyn Kahukiwa – Māori Artist and Icon

I have always found Robyn’s work inspiring. I was first introduced to it while I was studying at Victoria University. I was a young Māori woman discovering my Māori heritage and exposed to issues I had never thought about before. Her ‘Wahine Toa’ (Women Warriors) exhibition highlighted for me the strength and traits of women that are often not acknowledged. Inspired by Robyn’s work and the messages behind her art – including issues related to whānau (family), politics and Māori sovereignty – I found a way to express my thoughts and feelings through art.

Rachel Jones

Sunday, March 18, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Elizabeth Patterson Nall

Elizabeth Patterson Nall — Wise Woman and Enlightened Grandmother

My grandmother was my heroine. Born in a patriarchal era with very narrow confines of what women could do and be, she defied them all. She beat the odds and became an emancipated, enlightened, wise woman. She blazed a trail. Her struggle, filled with rejection by her family and the raised eyebrows of society, paved the way for women everywhere. 

She had energy and sass to take on the world and triumphed in her personal freedom. She faced much adversity, the death of her first husband, rocky marriages, the death of her youngest son, and battled breast cancer twice. But she always took every challenge in life and turned it into something beautiful, some amazing pearl of wisdom.

She gave me wings with that wisdom, and absolute acceptance of who I was. She was about becoming, growing, and expanding your mind, soul, and spirit. She had a Masters degree and two doctorates, and never stopped studying until the day she died.  She was a teacher, an interfaith minister, a mental health professional, a brilliant storyteller, and modern day medicine woman. She constantly bridged the sacred and the mundane. 

I was always so inspired by her.  She was steadfast on the divine, healing and social justice. She helped every willing person find the unique, divine things within them, to touch their soul, and spurred them to action about the things they learned there. I would never be who I am today without the freedom she granted my spirit.

Laura Dyer

Saturday, March 17, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Kristi Yamaguchi

Kristi Yamaguchi — Olympian and Champion

As a young female roller skater from Upper Hutt, Kristi Yamaguchi was my ultimate idol. Her grace and elegance on the rink was flawless, her costumes and routines were stunning, and her attitude was inspiring. However, it was her dedication to training that I was in awe of. I remember watching not only her competition performances, but her tireless training sessions. Watching the way she continued through the pain of falling taught me that everyone has to work hard to attain their goals. It takes time and you have to make sacrifices if you want to be the best.

Crystal Jones

Friday, March 16, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Grandma Velia

Grandma Velia — The Quintessential Abuela

Grandma Velia.  She was my relative, my friend, and my inspiration.  Born 23 April 1923, she was raised in Los Angeles, California by her Mexican immigrant parents.  Second in the brood of five, all others boys, Velia early on exhibited a natural nurturing quality.  She was caring, resilient, positive, and through it all happy.  It was these traits that had her loved by all—friends, coworkers, family, even strangers.  We were all blessed with her presence in our lives.

During World War II, Velia found herself under the ‘Rosie the Riveter’ moniker working on planes for Lockheed Corporation.  She spent most of her professional life within the Los Angeles School District as a Clerk in the Counseling and Nurse’s office as well as Office Manager at Gates Street Elementary School.  Velia had a gift for handling troubled children.  During this time she was also wife and mother.  The birth of her one and only daughter, my mother Rosalinda, was her true joy.  Rosalinda became her sole focus in life and was her foundation.

Love for her expanding family grew and highlighted her true calling in life, being a grandmother.  Velia loved my siblings and me in a way that words cannot describe.  She was our babysitter, my confidant, my shoulder to cry on, my advisor, and my joy.  There were always movies, Fruit Loops cereal, root beer floats, or trips to Chuck E. Cheese when grandma was around.  In times of need she always knew just what to say and put a smile on my face.  Above all she always made me feel so special and loved.  Grandma Velia’s been gone since 23 April 2009 and will always be missed.

Marisa Lindholm

Thursday, March 15, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Artemesia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi – Inspirational Survivor and Painter

When I read The Passion of Artemisia, Susan Vreeland’s fictionalised account of Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, I found a true-life heroine.

Artemisia worked in a man’s world, where women were considered unable to tackle complex subject matter. Her father, Orazio Gentileschi, taught her to mix pigments and to paint. At just 17, she completed her first master work, Susannah and the Elders (1610). Contrary to other depictions of Susannah as a seductive figure, Artemisia’s is visibly distraught at the elders leering at her.

Two years later, Artemisia herself became a victim of rape by her father’s colleague, Agostino Tassi. During the trial, Artemisia endured a public examination and was tortured to ascertain the truth of her accusation. She came through the trial with admirable strength and her Judith Slaying Holofernes (1614-20) shows a defiant woman beheading the man who has violated her country and her body.

Artemisia’s depictions of strong female protagonists earned her patronage all over Italy and England and the first female painter to become a member of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence. Sadly, most of her works have been misattributed or overlooked entirely by a male-dominated art history. In recent years, however, she has come to be recognised as one of the finest artists who followed after Caravaggio. Her story inspired me to pursue studies in art history and taught me that a woman can overcome anything if she has the will to succeed.

Vhari Finch

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Suzyn Waldman

Suzyn Waldman – Thick-Skinned Baseball Commentator

I grew up as the daughter of two die-hard Yankees fans, so it was almost inevitable that I too would come to cheer for the ‘Bronx Bombers.’ And since I was an only child, my dad had no choice but to pass his love of baseball down to me. When I was nine he gave me a book of inspiring stories in the history of baseball, and it was then that I first learned of Suzyn Waldman.

Suzyn Waldman has worked as a sports reporter covering the Yankees since 1987, making her only the third woman to be a full-time baseball commentator.  However with this achievement Suzyn has faced sexist criticism throughout her career.  During her first season with the Yankees, she attempted to interview Toronto Blue Jays outfielder George Bell, only to have him scream and curse at her in front of a group of reporters because he felt she shouldn't have been allowed in the locker room.  Newspapers and blogs in the New York area have also written that she is too emotional, with some still referring to her as a girl.

But Suzyn Waldman has endured and moved up with the Yankees, becoming a TV sports commentator, a broadcaster on the Yankee-owned channel YES, and now the co-commentator on every Yankees radio broadcast.  She’s proven that you can be a woman knowledgeable about sports and that you can keep on doing what you love even in the male-dominated world of baseball.

Miriam Musco

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Dorothy Mavis Carter

Dorothy Mavis Carter – Positive Spirit and Beloved Grandmother

Dorothy Mavis Carter, aged 93, is my beloved grandmother. It amazes me how much she has seen change in her lifetime and yet it hasn’t fazed how she sees the world. She has moved with the times and is not in the least bit judgmental about how life is lived today. 

One of the reasons I admire her is how positive she always is, reflecting on the good and never the bad. It has only been in the last few years, during which time her body has started letting her down, that I have heard her grumble a little. This is mostly due to an arthritic shoulder making it very difficult to cuddle her great grandchildren. I truly believe the fact that she has never dwelled on her body’s failings has meant that she has lived so long….along with a bit of luck!

Her humour is also something I have always looked up to. She has a quick, clever wit, superior to her six children, 20 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. She brings to life the old saying “Laughter is the best medicine.” Well respected, not only amongst her family and extended family, but one of life’s gems that everyone loves.  For that, I am very proud to have Dorothy Carter as my grandmother.

Rachel Voyce

Monday, March 12, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Isabell Fraser

Isabell Fraser – Resilient and Determined Mother

My mum Isabell Fraser is 87 years old and partially blind with macular degeneration. She lives in a self-contained cottage in a Cambridge rest home. My dad died 16 months ago—only a few months shy of their 65th wedding anniversary.

Dad had made all the decisions, so suddenly Mum found herself not only a widow, but had to face day-to-day life without her lifetime companion. She faced shock, loneliness and for the first time dealt with things like finances and household bills. She can’t see her bank statements very well, but she knows exactly what’s on them.

Mum now has become a self-appointed unofficial social coordinator and neighbourhood carer of the rest home. She greets new residents and tells them about social engagements during the week, offering to personally take them and introduce them to other residents. She guides lost residents home safely, feeds cats while their ‘owners’ are away, helps a neighbour from her car to her house when the wind is too strong, even helps her similarly blind neighbour understand how to work the special print enlargement device to read magazines and books. Last Christmas Mum organised and paid for a catered Christmas lunch for her extended family—23 people. It was a lovely occasion. We called it the ‘Matriarch’s Lunch’ in her honour.

It’s not been easy for Mum, it still isn’t, but it’s been so good to see in her that strength, humour, and compassion.

Kathy Ombler

Sunday, March 11, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: The Spice Girls

The Spice Girls – Girl Power x 5

I had not one heroine when I was growing up, but five strong women: Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm, Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton, and Victoria Beckham (née Adams), also known as ‘The Spice Girls.’ When they appeared out of nowhere every girl I know found a new kind of empowerment. For the next two years I modelled myself on Sporty Spice and along with the other girls in my class, we made ourselves into ‘mini’ Spice Girls – only we didn’t perform. Their songs were simple and the lyrics represented women standing together. The notion of ‘Girl Power’ took over the world and was hard to get away from, so much so that boys were even shunning football to swap Spice Girl merchandise! They certainly changed my perspective and brought out a new kind of feminism.

Despite not seeing them live at the outset, I finally got to see them in concert during their reunion tour. It took me right back to being that 10 year old girl hearing the song ‘Wannabe’ for the first time.  I look forward to being right back there again come the opening of their west end show.

Emma Hatherall

Saturday, March 10, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Lightning (Gladiator)

Lightning – Powerful Gladiator and Successful Competitor

A phenomenon swept across Britain, dominating television screens on Saturday nights from 1992 until 2000—the show was Gladiators. For those unfamiliar with the format, each week 4 contenders (2 female and 2 male) competed against a team of Gladiators in epic demonstrations of skill, strength and stamina.

My favourite of all the female Gladiators is Lightning – real name Kim Betts (née Williams). Prior to becoming a Gladiator, Betts competed for Great Britain as a gymnast, amassing 32 medals, 23 of which were gold. As Lightning, she was the only female Gladiator to have competed in all 8 series and even made a comeback during the revived Gladiators in 2008 where she represented the original team in ‘The Legends Return’ (the female Legends were victorious). Lightning was also known as the Queen of ‘Hang Tough’ and was undefeated in the UK arena.

Lightning is one of the toughest and most determined of all the Gladiators and along with the other original female Gladiators, showed the world that women weren’t limited by their beauty. These were women who were strong and powerful, smart, successful, and above all, positive role models. Although people have their favourites, no one Gladiator was bigger than the show, and as well as their own individual talents, the Gladiators were great advocates of teamwork. The Gladiators epitomised camaraderie and good sportsmanship – they were humble in their victories and gracious in defeat, a motto that anyone would do well to remember.

Sinny Cheung

Friday, March 9, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn – Ambitious Queen, Hopeless Romantic

My heroine is Anne Boleyn. She is often seen as a villain who betrayed both her husband, King Henry VIII of England, and her sister, Mary Boleyn. Yet she was forced to abandon her one true love and was constantly at the mercy of the ambitions of her family. They forced her to attract the attention of King Henry when his interest in her sister began to wane – causing a rift between the siblings who had been close until that point. She eventually succeeded in marrying the King as he divorced Queen Catherine of Aragon. Unfortunately, she went through the agony of being unable to please him as she did not produce a son and heir for the Tudor court – their only offspring being the future Queen Elizabeth I. With no heir forthcoming, Henry turned his back on his young wife and plotted against her, eventually sentencing her to death.

In a very short life, Anne Boleyn went through more difficulties than anyone can imagine. I believe that she was an ambitious, unhappy person who yes, could be calculating at times. She also changed the course of history and was the most influential and important queen consort England has ever had. However, she was ultimately a girl who had love to give and just wanted to be loved in return but was instead used and let down by all those around her.

Jessica Galley

Thursday, March 8, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: She-Ra

She-Ra – Animated Princess of Power

It’s very easy, and not altogether untrue, to dismiss She-Ra and her twin brother He-Man as mere products specifically designed to target their demographic audiences. One only has to look at She-Ra’s animal sidekick, a talking unicorn with rainbow coloured wings, to realise that this was a toy and cartoon deliberately marketed at little girls. But as a girl, She-Ra was more than a toy to me; she was a role model. Like He-Man, She-Ra was physically strong but she was also compassionate and clever, usually tricking or outmanoeuvring her enemies rather than just resorting to violence. I remember one scene in the comics where instead of smashing her way out of a locked cage, she quietly takes a hair pin out of her hair and picks the lock.

The cartoon series She-Ra starred in pitted her and her rebellion (led by her alter-ego, Adora, who despite lacking She-Ra’s super powers was still an excellent and respected leader) against The Horde, the evil ruling force on the planet of Etheria. The struggle of the suppressed rebels fighting for their freedom caught my imagination as a girl, and I could spend hours making up stories of She-Ra fighting the Horde and any other bad guys I could think of.  She inspired me, not just as a role model, but as a story and a springboard from which I made up my own adventures, with or without her.

Sarah Jackson

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Sue Weidmann

Sue Weidmann – Super Mom

My mother was the primary earner for my family until I was about six years old. Every morning she made me breakfast, took me to school, and went to work. I know it can be emotionally draining as a social worker, but she rarely let that show. Instead, she came home and made supper, made my lunch for the next day, helped with my homework, and did all those little things that mothers do for their children. On weekends, she went grocery shopping, ran errands, did laundry and took care of all the things that pile up over the course of a week. None of this sounds heroic, but as an adult now myself, I marvel at how she was able to do it all, largely with grace and patience, and still find time for herself.

As I got older and more busy, it only got harder because instead of attending the occasional concert or awards ceremony, my parents were attending a couple of events a month. But Mom never missed one even if it meant taking time off work (Dad wasn't so lucky). She made a point of always being there.

My mother is my best friend, occasionally my worst enemy, and always my biggest supporter.  Even with 6000 miles and 8 time zones between us, we're still close, and I'm still amazed by all she did—and does—for me while maintaining her own unique personality and identity.

Katie Weidmann

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking  Original Bohemian Girl

When I think back of my girlhood I cannot disregard the marked impact that Pippi Longstocking had on me. The nine-year-old girl came to life through television and movies from the children's books of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren.

At first I was enchanted by the extraordinary persona of Pippi who was like nothing familiar to me. The red hair and freckles accompanied a genuinely relaxed and happy-go-lucky attitude, not to mention the fashion-statement high stockings. I admired Pippi for her individualistic attributes and qualities. My television buddy was confident, bright and brave. She had a distinguished wit along with a great sense of fairness. It felt natural to want to hang out with Pippi, along with her best friends Tommy and Annika, because she always knew how to have fun. Pippi’s bohemian way of living explained her unconventional approach on various issues and is what made her so original.
On top of everything, Pippi was a kid that loved playing. She was fond of swimming, befriending animals, and inspiring amusement. It was all about simplicity with Pippi, whether a bologna sandwich was involved or drinking lemonade out of a jug at a garden party. Even if she seemed too edgy at times, her innocent impulsivity allowed her to pull it off. Pippi taught me how to enjoy the plain moments in life and to believe in myself.

Magda Repouskou

Monday, March 5, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Hermione Granger

Hermione Granger – Witch Extraordinaire

Is there any better role model for girls than Hermione Granger? As a child, I always had my nose in a book. I loved tales of adventure and when I read the first Harry Potter book at age 8, Hermione was a revelation. Here, finally, was a contemporary character that seemed just like me! She was bright, worked hard at school, and wasn’t ashamed to show it. Hermione wasn’t the prettiest and certainly not the most popular, but she was brave, resourceful, and loyal to her friends. I also loved that she was smarter than the boys! Her deep bond with Harry and Ron was a great example to children of both sexes, highlighting that gender should not come in the way of friendship. She could be tactless, and sometimes a ‘know-it-all,’ but these flaws made her human. Most importantly, she was always right in the thick of the action, rather than playing the ubiquitous ‘damsel in distress’ role. Without Hermione, Harry could never have completed his quest; and what’s more, he knew it!

J.K. Rowling (herself deserving of a place on this quilt) has said that she wants her daughters to grow up like Hermione Granger, rather than the shallow, scheming Pansy Parkinson. I couldn’t agree with her more.

Chloe Grant

Sunday, March 4, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: The Baby Sitters Club

The Baby Sitters Club – Friends and Young Entrepreneurs 

In 1996 at 10 years old I discovered Kristy, Mary-Anne, Claudia, Stacey, Dawn, Jesse and Mallory – collectively known as the Baby Sitters Club (or BSC). The BSC were a group of early teenage girls who, despite coming from a range of backgrounds with diverse interests, were friends. They started their own neighbourhood babysitting agency while juggling friendships, families, artistic pursuits, extra-curricular activities, and the occasional love life. The books might be scoffed at as fluff, but the positive messages I took from them – responsibility, teamwork, problem-solving, economic independence and balancing a ‘career’ with personal life  negated the lack of challenging vocabulary. 

Perhaps inspired by the girls’ I saved my pocket money and scoured secondhand bookstores, garage sales, and library clearances for unread copies. The BSC was my first real exposure to many Americanisms. Without it I could have easily embarrassed myself not knowing what PBJ stands for. It is also connected with my first ideas about fashion and style—even now my clothing choices reflect a combination of kooky Claudia and sophisticated Stacey.

As I headed for high school, author Ann M. Martin finished the series. It was nice to feel like the BSC were growing up with me. Nowadays if I come across an old BSC book I can’t resist flicking through it – it’s like visiting a trusted friend who reminds me of what it was like to be ten again.

Briar Barry

Saturday, March 3, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Eve

Eve – First Woman, Wife, and Mother

This may sound strange coming from an archaeologist, but when I was younger, one of my heroines was Eve, as in ‘The First Eve.’ I grew up in a Christian family and although my parents were not really strict, I have never been baptised, the religious influence was there. For example, I didn’t have fairytales for bedtime stories, but instead Biblical tales with questions at the end to make sure I was paying attention.

I remember hearing the story of Eve and thinking, “What a poor woman! She put up with a lot.” She was and still is the one blamed for the ‘Original Sin.’  She was cruelly tricked, kicked out of Paradise to labour for food and shelter on previously un-worked soil, while also the first wife and mother—how daunting! Eve endured child birth many times and stomach cramps whilst Adam, presumably, was of no help. She even dealt with the murder of her son Abel by the hand of her other son Cain and yet somehow got on with it all. Eve accomplished so much and yet in most of the Bible she has been quite overlooked.

I always thought of Eve as a great role model. She was patient and loving, loyal and hardworking, and she never looked for gratitude.

Natalie Moyanah

Friday, March 2, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Vera Brittain

Vera Brittain – Strong Woman, Nurse, and Author

I had never felt the impact of the First World War so keenly as when I first read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth. Learning of the devastating impact of the war from the perspective of this young woman brought it home to me in a way more relevant and real than the intensely horrific descriptions of the soldier poets. I discovered Vera Brittain as a young woman myself, at a time when I was trying to find my own way in the world. Reading her experience enabled me to place myself in her shoes and to fully comprehend how grateful my generation should be that we do not have to endure suffering on the same scale.

Aged 18 when the war was declared, Vera became a VAD nurse and in the subsequent four years not only worked under terrifying conditions, but lost her brother, her best friend and the man she loved. She came back to a world changed forever and found the strength to continue her life. Whilst suffering from shell shock, she fought for women’s rights and her right to an education, agitated against war, found love again, and wrote her testimony so that people like me could try to understand. I remember Vera at times when I don’t feel strong, and it is her perseverance to live and love that inspires me.

Lizzie Fuller

Thursday, March 1, 2012

31 Heroines of March 2012: Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews – Harmonious Actress: Nun, Nanny, and Queen

A badly kept life secret is that I always wanted to be a Broadway baby--a big, belting, bawdy diva. How does a mild-mannered moppet go from idolizing Anne Frank to wanting to become Ethel Merman? Well, my gateway drug to Broadway was Julie Andrews.

My mum saw her in Camelot in the early 1960s, yes technically I was not born, but did attend on a genetic level. Julie could do no wrong. I could watch her supercalifragilistically clean a room over and over again. Her favorite things and flight from the Nazis kept me enthralled even after exponential viewings of the ‘Sound of Music’. I danced around my room, pretending that I had similar powers, to tidy my mess with just the sound of my voice. I ran out into the wind of oncoming Florida summer storms with an umbrella desperate to get swept up into the sky to visit her.

I was not even disappointed once I realized the difference between real people and ‘acting.’ She is still my heroine. I even became a nanny for a few years in my late teens to have a similar resume, but stopped short of becoming a nun. I regret never having seen her live, but Julie Andrews continues to be an inspiration to my girlhood self, who wants to run around in circles, singing at the top of my lungs until I fall down into an animated alternative reality with Dick van Dyke.

Ashley E. Remer