As every small American child knows, March is “Women’s History Month”. For most school kids, this means it’s time to repeat the list of names that we commonly associate with the idea of women changing the world– Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B Anthony, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, and others like, uh, Pocahontas.
While I don’t in any way doubt the amazing nature of the women I studied in school, my life has brought me a new understanding of personal inspiration. I’ve developed my own list of women armed with ideas that changed my world– women who paved the way for the life I want to live.
I have no idea if the 10 women in this list made it in a 4th grader’s project this year, but here’s wishing for a geeky-techie-artsy-mystical-scary-beautiful-literary-brave world where they did.
Thank you, Ada Lovelace– for seeing the potential of our world.
Yes, she was daughter to Lord Byron. Yes, she was a Countess. More importantly, back in the 1850′s, Ada looked at a calculator and saw a future of computers and software. She cemented a place for women in computer science, and gave me a term that described my particular type of scientific passion. Like Ada, I am a poetical scientist.
Thank you, Ruth Handler– for inventing toys that changed my childhood.
Her real name might not be familiar to you, but her company surely is. Mattel. That’s right. Mattel. Now, if you’re around my age, then this SoCal-basement-business has already changed your life. Barbie controversies aside, Mattel taught me how to be a geek– how to take a tiny interest and learn everything about it, see it from all angles, and buy it in all colors. Yeah. I take my toys seriously.
Thank you, Grace Hopper– for your super-mind.
Grace Hopper was a genius programmer who landed the big jobs because of her brilliance and motivation. They named a ship after her and she was one of the significant players in the building of the Mark 1 super computer. But the thing that gets me every time is that she seems to be the pivotal point of computer-jargon. “Debugging” is widely credited to her, as are other less common words. That’s a legacy!
Thank you, Bette Graham– for saving a billion trees from my husband.
My husband, Dave, is a writer and his method of choice is a fountain pen on paper. If you’ve ever seen a writer write, then you know that no sentence is ever actually correct. It gets written, and then re-written, and then written again.
If it wasn’t for white-out, my husband would be personally responsible for the death of thousands of trees.
Since I believe in karma, I give thanks to Bette Graham daily.
Thank you, Randi Altshul– for turning fiction into fact.
Randi Altshul invented disposable cellphones. I love a good grifter/spy story. Nothing gets my heart beating like knowing that my fictional favorites have better, more realistic tools to get their jobs done. She’s like a real life Q!
Thank you, Jamie Lee Curtis– for being more than just a scream.
Like most off-beat people, I have a collection of friends who can only be described as revolutionaries. They’re beautiful, smart, and probably right about many things– but they tend to discount horror/sci-fi/fantasy genres, actors, and writer. They often say we’re all talk.
. . . Sure, they say, you talk Utopia– but show us how you’re getting there.
. . . Sure, they say, you can them “super”– but how are those spandex suits helping the rest of the world get by?
. . . Sure, you make your living editing photos for magazines, but how many kids are anorexic because of it?
I know it’s old news, but when Jamie Lee Curtis posed in her undies for More Magazine in ’02, without all the lights and fanfare, I was… proud. In a few photos, she addressed a major concern for women all over the world. She looked great, but not plastic. I wish more of us were brave enough to live without the gloss.
The fact that she continues to be real, and show off her multitude of talents without fear, just makes me love her all the more.
Thank you, Signourney Weaver– for being fierce.
More old news, perhaps, but certainly not any less iconic for it. You can have your we-can-do-it-Rosie, because nothing speaks that message stronger to a geek than Weaver portraying Eleanor Ripley throughout Aliens. We can do it!
Thank you, Pamela Smith– for illustrating my future. Maybe.
Pamela C. Smith illustrated the Rider-Waite Tarot card deck. In 1910! Her work is still around, still a basis for comparison, and still great. As far as working for renowned cult leader, well… every graphic designer can attest to having difficult clients sometimes.
Thank you, Mary Shelley– for being scary beautiful.
From a purely “Go Women!” perspective, Mary Shelley shouldn’t be on this list. There are some notable writers that gave women a lively, active role– showing them in a different light than literature of their time. This didn’t happen in Shelley’s writings. In most of her work, the women didn’t speak at all. But there’s a twisted, dark storytelling line in her short stories and novels that forms the basic of what I love in modern-day fantasy– true beauty and how you can see it in even monstrous things.
Thank you, Virginia Woolf– for being frightfully honest.
I know she doesn’t make the elementary school lists because her writings and rantings would go a bit over the head of a 7-year-old, and because she committed suicide but… sometimes I wish more focus was given to people as shiny as this. So here she is on my list, for an honesty and voice that never ceases to amaze me with it’s simplicity.
“The truth is, I often like women. I like their unconventionality. I like their completeness. I like their anonymity.”
- Virginia Woolf
My personal thanks goes out to these ladies every day– but I bring notice to it today, in celebration of a month where they are given their due. Happy Women’s History Month!
What amazing women would make your list?