Strong, Spirited Women who Inspire (Part 1)

After watching the recent action film, “Black Panther,” in which women play very strong roles—as Amazon-like warriors, spies and all-sacrificing mothers—I started to think about what type female role models inspired the men and women of today.  What are the characteristics which set these women apart? 

When you think back in time, names like Joan of Arc, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Indira Gandhi are just some of the fearless women who influenced history.  Their exceptional bravery made them heroines affecting change in a positive way in a then man’s world. However, according to NYTimes columnist David Brooks in his series on the youth of America, college students, in particular, do not revere historical figures.  Instead they are more inspired by local activists such as teachers or community organizers who are “just fighting for the basics of education, healthcare and food.” 

To research this post, I queried a number of my friends, all strong individuals.  Lila Gault, former publicist and wine writer, chose Serena Williams.  “Over and above the obvious—greatest woman tennis player of all time, role model for young women, especially those of color — is her most recent chapter as a wife and mother. Serena is a unique trifecta of championship athlete, socially-conscious mentor and loving parent.”

Lila also admires the political women, “especially those now in Washington, who are standing up for choice, the #MeToo movement, and gender equity in the days of Trump’s misogyny and racism.”

Not surprising, a number of my friends sited their mothers.  Gloria Maroti Frazee, wine educator and videographer, said that hands down she would choose her mother, Aniko Izay Cossette. “She escaped from Hungary in 1956 during the uprising against the Soviet Union, arrived in the US without a high school degree and didn't speak English. She ended up starting a high-tech manufacturing company that employed 15-16 people at a time, mostly women. She was simultaneously flawed and beautiful.” 

Not everyone, however, looked to others as strong role models. One of my spinning buddies, Beatrix Peditto, unabashedly replied, “Me.  I am my own inspiration.”  She went on to explain. “My first husband who was bi-polar, squandered the family fortune, then left me completely broke with two small children to raise. My son was born prematurely weighing less than two pounds which left him with all sorts of medical issues to manage.  Then, I lost my daughter as a teenager and if that weren’t enough to deal with, I came down with MS.”  This is a woman who goes religiously to the gym, plays golf, and works part time.  Despite her physical challenges, she always has a smile on her face and something sincerely kind to say to others.”  Yes, indeed, she is a remarkable example of a strong woman who inspires.

One of my dearest friends, wine writer Eunice Fried eagerly replied “MICHELLE OBAMA.” And here’s why. “She is brilliant. She is an excellent mother, and from all outward signs, an excellent wife. Further, Michelle was an outstanding First Lady, a difficult role to play in any case, and a particularly difficult one in her case because so many small-minded, ignorant Americans could not imagine a Black First Lady. Yet, she outshone so many of them, in fact, most of them. I was always so pleased that she represented my country. I also liked the causes she took on.”

Like many Americans, Eunice also appreciated Michelle Obama’s great sense of style. “I liked the way she dressed. Occasionally, there was the beautiful, expensive gown. And occasionally, there was the $19.95 T-shirt. She looked great in all of them. And she proved one does not have to spend zillions to look - always look - fantastic.” Then,  Eunice nicely summed up how many of us feel about this great lady. “I miss her. I miss her intelligence, her common sense, good taste and great spirit.” Ditto here.

Cheers to all of these strong ladies of distinction.  As my Gen-X friends would call them, the “kiss-ass women” in our lives who inspire and challenge all of the people within their sphere of influence.  Stay tuned for the second part to this article.  Aren’t we lucky to have so many inspiring women in our lives?