I promised this post via Facebook at the end of last week, but I seem to have lost track of time…again. I feel that this is a necessary post though, not just because last week was International Women’s Day, but because there’s never a bad time to call out the women you admire, past and present.
I was originally going to make this list strictly full of historical women, but that didn’t seem fair. There are a lot of women around today that I want to acknowledge, and even though some of them are not icons, they are amazing and deserve some recognition.
10. Amy Poehler/Leslie Knope
It’s hard for me to mention Amy Poehler without also including Leslie Knope. Both are such influential people in my life, even though one of them is fictional. I haven’t kept it a secret that I have read Amy Poehler’s book “Yes Please” 3 times in less than a year. I was blown away by it the first time, feeling as though her messages in the book of being who you are, doing what you want, and not feeling guilty for working outside the home were aimed specifically at me. I felt empowered as a mother and as a woman after reading it. It drove me to write several of my earlier blog posts about being a working mom, and my writing was only any good because I was just coming off the high of reading this amazing book. The second time I read it, I felt like I needed that empowerment again. There was some serious stuff going down in my personal life, and I just needed someone like Amy to tell me, “You are awesome. You matter, and the work you are doing for your family is not going unnoticed.” I also needed her humor and her passion again. The point is, as Amy Poehler and as Leslie Knope, she has been able to make me laugh, cry, and feel so proud to be a successful woman and mother, so she had to be on this list. I don’t know how else to describe her level of importance to me. She’s just a role model, and I look to her for empowerment.
9. Jane Austen
She may not have been an icon for women, but she wrote about strong women in her novels at a time when strong women were not favored. While most of her legendary characters eventually found love, most of them maintained their strong-willed, independent natures in the process. I not only admire her characters for their determination in not “settling” for a mate just to get married, but I also admire Jane Austen for writing about such women in the time that she did. Though Jane Austen never found her Mr. Darcy, she certainly never settled for anything less.
8. Mindy Kaling
When most people think of the talkative and often ditsy Kelly Kapoor from “The Office”, they probably don’t feel empowered or inspired, but the truth is that her real life counterpart, Mindy Kaling is an incredible and inspiring woman. She holds an ivy league degree from Dartmouth, and if you’ve read any of her books, you know that she doesn’t take the Hollywood B.S. from people who try to make her feel like she doesn’t fall into some starlet stereotype. She hates the idea of one night stands, the thought that some women actually walk around not wearing panties, and the judgement of some of those snooty fashion designers. She’s real, beautiful, and one of the very few TRUE role models that young girls need to be looking up to in Hollywood. After reading her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, I felt like I had found my best friend. I agreed with pretty much everything she said (including the disgust at women walking around without panties on, it just seems gross), and I LOVED that she wore what she wanted to wear even though the fashion designers she worked with tried to put her in frumpy outfits and dull colors.
7. Jacqueline Kennedy
I know that Jacqueline’s presence on my list of inspirational women might seem a little misplaced, but I do have a reason for her being on this list. For starters, I have started to develop an obsession with “Camelot” and the time the Kennedy’s were in power. It’s starting to replace my obsession with Abraham Lincoln, which, if you knew me, would sound positively insane. But alas, I can’t help it. The story is full of drama and conspiracies. This is all beside the point. Jacqueline is on this list because she was more than just a fashion role model for women of her time. She was a strong woman who lost a lot in a short period of time. In Bill O’Reilly’s book, Killing Kennedy, the End of Camelot, Jacqueline is portrayed as a force to be reckoned with, constantly conducting herself in a mysterious way that never showed others of her true feelings. I admire this about her, and I agree with this idea that not just women, but all people should maintain a certain level of “mystery.” Too many people today let their emotions guide their words, and they speak before they think about what they are about to say. The age old ideal that words hurt more than weapons is still true, and not very many people respect that.
6. Mother Teresa/Saint Teresa of Calcutta
I couldn’t put together a list of influential women without mentioning Mother Teresa. As a Catholic, she has been a constant and positive influence on me. I am embarrassed to say that I know very little about her life, but she was an advocate for our faith and for peace, which I admire so much. Many of the things she said were what influenced me the most:
If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.
What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.
5. Emma Watson
Oh how I love Emma Watson! She’s kind, real, educated, and advocating for feminism like crazy. I love her reading lists on Goodreads, and I love the example she sets for young women. One of the more recent stories I’ve heard about her was that she refused to wear a corset while filming “Beauty and the Beast” because she didn’t like the message it sent to all the young girls and women she knew would be watching her in that role. I’d like to meet the person who suggested this and possibly punch them in the face because that is an insulting thing to say to anyone let alone someone as fit and lovely as Emma Watson. From hiding books at train stations all over London to advocating for women’s rights as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, she has done amazing things, and I can’t wait to see what she does as we age at the same time.
4. Abigail Adams
I am also embarrassed to say that I do not know as much about Abigail Adams as I would like, but I’ll tell you what I do know. Her husband, President John Adams sought her advice in everything. She was his advisor and often persuaded him one way or another based on her feelings and beliefs. She was also an advocate for women’s rights! She believed that eighteenth century women should strive to educate themselves in order to be strong influences in the lives of their children and husbands. She is on this list because she was a woman way ahead of her time, and in accordance with my obsession with first ladies, she’s at the top of my list right now. My favorite quote:
“Remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation.”
3. Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor is ahead of Abigail on my list probably because she is simply closer to my time than Abigail is. She advocated not just for women’s rights, but for human rights. After her husband, Franklin Delano suffered a Polio attack, Eleanor stepped up to help his political aspirations and forever changed the role of the First Lady. She was not content to stand behind her husband and smile. She gave press conferences, wrote her own newspaper column, and continued her activism after her husband’s death. She eventually became the chair of the U.N.’s Human Rights Commission and wrote several books about her life and experiences. She is on this list because she pushed the boundaries of her position not just to push them but to help her husband and women everywhere.
2. Katelyn, my sister
She may hate me for using this picture, but I feel like it conveys her so well as a woman. Katelyn is 2 years younger than me, but she knows what she wants out of life and refuses to settle for anything less. She is strong, passionate, and could care less about what anyone thinks (ok except my Mom and Dad). She tries to hold her tongue when she has a strong opinion about something in my life, but it usually comes out, and I almost always need to hear it. She’s listened to me whine, cry, and scream, and she was in the hospital waiting room when I went into labor with Nicholas just in case my husband couldn’t handle the blood. She’s my best friend, and a great role model for strong women. I love her, and even though I don’t think she’ll read this, I hope she knows how important she is to me.
1.Deane, my mom
Oh, my Mom. She is the strongest woman I know, and she doesn’t even act like she knows that. She’s currently working as a full time middle school English teacher (which any other teacher knows means 80+ hour work weeks) while simultaneously working towards her Doctoral degree in Children’s Literacy. She also somehow finds time to watch my son at least once a week and makes me dinner a lot more frequently than I’d ever expect. I love this picture of her because it is so her in so many ways; snuggling with her only grandchild at a family party with a look of pure exhaustion and happiness on her face. She loves fiercely and is the glue that keeps our little family together. I know she will read this, and that’s why I love her!
That’s my Top 10! I hope you enjoyed my list, and I hope that you all have lists of your own! It’s so important to have influential women in your life, both past and present.
Happy (belated) International Women’s Day!