Hooray for the emergence of strong women telling Arrogant Ole Boys, no more exploitation! Let’s focus on three women who’ve been in the news recently. Oprah Winfrey touched a chord when she spoke of being a child, sitting on linoleum floor, amazed to watch Sidney Poitier receive a Golden Globe award. The unspoken message: things could be different for her. She alerted viewers: other little girls are watching this broadcast. How will we change the current climate for them?
Jane Goodall opened the doors for young women in science. The movie “Jane” showed her at 26, fearlessly and curiously going to Tanzania, accompanied by a supportive mom, to study the chimpanzees. Her arrival there in 1960 began “one of the longest and most rigorously conducted inquiries into animal behavior. Her finding, published in Nature in 1964, that chimpanzees use tools — extracting insects from a termite mound with leaves of grass — drastically and forever altered humanity’s understanding of itself; man was no longer the natural world’s only user of tools.” (“Jane Goodall Is Still Wild at Heart,” NEW YORK TIMES, 3/15/2015)
She continued to work tirelessly for conservation, traveling all over the world to promote “Roots and Shoots” for children and the Jane Goodall Institute, a conservation NGO she founded in the 1970s. A fierce advocate for forest conservation and sustainable development, she also completely reformed the methodology for contemporary field biology.
Kay Graham didn’t choose to be editor of the Washington Post at a critical juncture in its history. She thought it perfectly natural for her father to turn the family business over to her husband Phil. But when he committed suicide, she inherited the job. The film “The Post” recounts her dangerous decision to publish the Pentagon papers, despite furious threats from President Nixon.
The leak, through Daniel Ellsberg, revealed years of lying to the American public about a war in Vietnam that authorities knew was unwinnable. Unwilling to admit colossal mistakes, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara perpetuated the sham, as countless boys continued to die. Graham’s own son fought and survived, but she seems clearly motivated to prevent more needless deaths. She risks imprisonment from a vindictive president, but boldly chooses for freedom of the press.
And the tradition of bold women? Stay tuned for the blog: “The Real Wonder Women.”
Thanks Kathy, simple yet so important to keep remembering how life-changing the work of these women – and many more – has been. A favorite heroine of mine is Ida B. Wells who was born in the 1860s. Her dad, a freed slave, stood on the courthouse steps and PREACHED about how freedom now was responsibility and it would take voices and actions to keep it truly “free.” Ida carried that voice into her work as a teacher. She was “removed from her seat on a train” after Jim Crow laws but she sued and won (and then lost on the company’s appeal). But she went on to challenge the practice of lynching. She had to leave the South and travel to do that, but as a writer, her words and her influence traveled and alerted the country to how prevalent lynching was. Thanks for these stories. I got my Saints Marching In volume and am loving sharing the tales. marni