(Posting this on “national smart and sexy day” too seems appropriate)
Top Row (from left): Sojourner Truth, Sacajawea, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eleanor Roosevelt. Middle (from left): Amelia Earhart, Michelle Obama. Bottom (from left): Jeri Ryan, Kate Mulgrew, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla.
I’ve walked Commonwealth Avenue and read the wise words of Sojourner Truth: “Dear Mr. Adams, I hope you will not forget the women as you seek freedom for men.” I’ve admired Sacajawea who, though undoubtedly pressed into service, led an expedition that expanded our understanding of the North American continent. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Seneca Falls conference leader, spoke eloquently for the rights of women alongside the rights of men.
Eleanor Roosevelt worked tirelessly for equitable access to American life for all, including the disabled. Then there’s Amelia Earhart who demanded to be seen not as a “woman pilot” but as an accomplished aviator – showing that every profession a man could do, a woman could do it, too. Michelle Obama, before, during, and after being First Lady, works for equity for every person to have every opportunity to achieve in school, in life, and in work.
Actresses Jeri Ryan, Kate Mulgrew, Jennifer Morrison, and Lana Parrilla (Morrison is also a director) have brought to life strong independent women characters and leaders on stage and screen.
These are just a few of my most admired women from history. I have a couple personal heroines too. My grandmother, Johnnie O’Neal Prescott, was the first woman to receive a physics PhD (1941) from Louisiana State University, and worked through World War II as my grandfather’s boss – because she was better at the theory than he was (the man with 14 patents said this proudly). Her daughter, Rochelle Prescott Gerofsky, my mother – a perfect SAT score earned her an invitation from West Point Academy two decades before the service academies would actually open to women. She was not interested (being an officer in SNCC in the 60s kiboshed that) and went on to teach social studies for 32 years. My father’s mother, Gladys Lefkowitz Gerofsky, raised him alone while my grandfather was in Europe during WWII; that makes her a hero to me too.
I do consider myself smart and occasionally sexy. Someone to be noted historically though? Probably not. But it doesn’t keep me from trying to leave a mark with my writing that people will remember. I love writing strong, independent women characters who step into life with every determination that anywhere can be “their place” to leave their mark.