Strong Women and Heroes

Who inspires you? I started thinking about this after seeing a quote earlier today:

I have met brave women who are exploring the outer edge of human possibility, with no history to guide them, and a courage to make themselves vulnerable that I find moving beyond words.

Gloria Steinem

There are so many brave women out there – some who would never think of themselves this way. Lynn Meyer, who always finds a way to be happy, no matter what issues are facing her is one. Bunnie Schrober, who never thought twice about embarking on a life of service to the elderly, despite no prior professional experience is another. Phyllis Campagnia, who is a brilliant coach and a wonderful human being is a third. In her interview, she spoke about one of her personal heroes and how this woman shaped her life:

When I was 9, I absolutely became captivated by Amelia Earhart. I read her biography and she was certainly ahead of her time in just about every way. She was determined to do what she wanted, how she wanted, and that really caught my imagination. I thought, Well, gosh, if she could do anything, I think I can too. So she truly because a major catalyst for me. She stayed with me on the journey. During that time then I also got into wanting to know the answers to things, so we know that Amelia was lost at sea. And I decided that I was going to try to find her.

Yeah, during 4th, 5th, and 6th grade I researched everything I could. My mom took me on the train down to Chicago to the Pubic Library and I looked up all the microfiche and that sort of thing. I was about 10 then. And that really served me well later in life because I am an amateur genealogist and I do a lot of that work now. That’s one of my hobbies. And I learned a great deal about how to do that back then.

Well, I didn’t find Amelia but I did have a lot of fun and I did make some friends along the way doing that. I was always good in school. Loved school and I still love school. In fact, I will be exploring going back to school sometime later this year to get my doctorate. That’s my goal and then I’ll be Dr. Phil, right? But why do I want to do it? Because it’s there. And it’s exciting. What could I learn along the way? And what difference I could make as I learn? And that’s really the way I approached my life as a little girl. I was always trying to see what was out there to do.

Along those same lines, when I was in high school, because of Amelia, I became fascinated with aeronautics and the school that I attended had an aeronautics class, so I applied. I was called down to the guidance counselor’s office and they said, So, we see you applied for this and you’re not going to be able to take this course. We’re going to recommend that you take a home economics course. I said, Why? Is it full? What is your reason I can’t attend? You’re a girl. Aeronautics is for boys. I said, Well, can you tell me what they’re going to be doing in that course that I can’t do, as a female? I mean, is there heavy lifting, or what? No, it’s just that we feel it’s better. And I negotiated my way into that class and got them to change the rule. So I was the first girl in my school to take the aeronautics course. And the one thing I knew, I knew I had to ace that course and I did. I got an A+ because I knew that I was being watched, and if any girl after me wanted to take it, I HAD to open the door for her. So, I did.

Early on, Louisa May Alcott (as personified by Jo March) was my image of a strong woman. A series of strong female characters followed. For a time, my ideal was a blend of Katherine and Audrey Hepburn – quite a combination. And a sprinkling of Dorothy Parker for good measure.

I imagine Phyllis still has moments where she asks, “What would Amelia do?” And, although she says she never found her, perhaps she did.

Who are the strong women who influenced you? How are they still with you today?


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