March is Women’s History Month and I am especially proud to celebrate this month as a woman entrepreneur. Women have made incredible strides over the course of history, despite the continuous influence of global misogyny and patriarchy. Fighting our way to every career path, showing our strength, intellect, and fortitude, we have not allowed stereotypes to make us culpable. As William Shakespeare (one of my favorite feminists) writes in Much Ado About Nothing, women continue to “have patience and endure.” Yes, we endure because we
Yes, we endure because we have always needed to. We are resilient. I am constantly in awe of the women around me, but that is for a different post in this series of celebrating women. Today’s post is going to focus on women in history who have influenced my growth and perception of women. A list, in no particular order:
Medusa – While Medusa is a Greek mythological character, I cannot think of a greater example of historical misogyny and misrepresentation. Medusa was originally one of Athena’s virginal high priestesses, blessed with incredible beauty. Poseidon was enamored with her beauty and though Medusa took her virginal vow to Athena, Poseidon raped her anyway, disregarding Medusa’s vow and Athena’s “ownership” of Medusa (Medusa was not a slave; she was a priestess by choice). Athena was incredibly jealous after the rape and punished Medusa by turning her into the monster everyone understands as the Gorgon. Forced into isolation, Medusa was unable to control her ability to turn people to stone as she traveled to isolate herself. Raped because of her beauty, punished for her rape, isolated for her punishment, Medusa is one of the most misunderstood women in (mythological) history.
Henrietta Lacks – Thanks to the incredible scientific memoir by Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, I was able to learn about the invaluable contribution of Henrietta Lacks to the modern scientific community. Now known as the HeLa Cell, Henrietta Lacks’ cancer cells were the only known human cells the actually live and duplicate outside of the human body, allowing for the creation of numerous vaccines and the unveiling of disease. Though she never lived to see her gifts to modern science, she will, as Skloot beautifully phrases it, forever be immortalized through her undying cells.
Billie Holiday – Known for her haunting voice and contribution to the blues, Billie Holiday stands out as an influential woman far more than her gifts to music. She was also a fierce advocate for Black rights, singing the ever-famous song, “Strange Fruit,” which highlights the pain and degradation of the lynchings of the Jim Crow era of a vicious country who refused to accept Civil Rights. Her advocacy came from her personal pain, as her father was hit by a car and left dying in the street because he was a Black man. While she struggled, and eventually could not overcome her own demons, the power of her music and the lyrics still transcend time.
J.K. Rowling – The phenomenal author of the Harry Potter series is one of the greatest stories of following your dreams. Always wanting to be an author, and struggling financially, Rowling sold the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, for a meager advance of $3,000 after numerous rejections. Well, as we all know now, there is faith in following your heart, dreams, and literature, as Harry Potter is not only a common household name, but taught in universities worldwide.
This list is truly meager compared to the number of women in history who have influenced me, and I almost feel selfish for needing to publish this post without mentioning at least a few more: Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Walters, Bessie Smith, and Marie Curie. It’s not about politics, but about fervor, dedication, and refusal to allow the stereotype to hold them down. Cheers to women!