Kickass Women

History is filled with women doing all kinds of kickass stuff.

Smart Girls

Watch these girls... they're going places!


Need a dose of inspiration? Here you go.

SRPS Entertainment

Some of my entertainment recommendations with awesome female characters and stars.

She's Crafty!

Some of the awesome items made by kickass women!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lorraine Hansberry - Eternally Young, Gifted and Black

"A woman who is willing to be herself and pursue her own potential runs not so much the risk of loneliness, as the challenge of exposure to more interesting men - and people in general."
Lorraine Hansberry (May 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965) knew what she was talking about. In her short life, she never shied away from pursuing her own goals. And because of her dedication she was the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway, and she won the New York's Drama Critic's Circle Award -- the first black dramatist, the fifth woman and, at the age of 29, the youngest playwright to do so.

She is most well known for her play A Raisin in the Sun, which debuted on Broadway in 1959 and tells the stories of Black Americans living in Chicago who, after the death of the father, is trying to decide how to use his life insurance money to improve their situation. The crux of the play is the decision to move into an all-white neighborhood, and the problems that come from that.

This is a story Lorraine knew quite well. When she was a child her own family had struggled against segregation in Chicago. In 1938 they bought a house in the same neighborhood used in the play, and immediately faced unrelenting harassment  The white neighbors sued to get them to leave, and the case eventually made it to the Supreme Court (Hansberry v. Lee).

Her family valued education and routinely entertained notable black intellectuals like W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson, and were very active in the civil rights movement as well as local politics.

Having been raised in such a progressive household, it's no surprise that she herself was a fire brand for equality as she grew older. When she was in college, she was active in politics as well as fighting for civil rights issues. In fact, she was the first black student to integrated a dormitory at the University of Wisconsin–Madison while she was there.

After two years, though, she decided college wasn't a good fit for her. She dropped out and moved to Harlem, where pursued a career as a writer. She worked as a journalist for the Pan-African newspaper Freedom -- published by Paul Robeson -- covering a wide variety of events and subjects of interest to black people around the globe. True to her belief in gender equality she brought a refreshing point of view to her writing, making sure her articles included the perspective of the women involved.

After a few years working for Freedom and being very active in political and civil rights circles in New York, she married another passionate political activist and writer, Robert Nemiroff, whose work enabled her to leave the newspaper and become a full-time writer. The marriage didn't last, but the two ended it on amicable terms and continued to work together.

In fact, there is substantial evidence that Lorraine Hansberry was a lesbian. She was a vocal activist for gay rights, wrote extensively about feminism and homophobia, and around the same time as their separation, she joined the Daughters of Bilitis - one of the first lesbian rights organizations, started in San Francisco in 1955.

Who knows what she could have done, had she not died so young. Her death from Pancreatic cancer cut short a life that had been filled with activity and talent. Her dear friend Nina Simone wrote her song "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" in her memory.

Watch a short interview with Nina Simone and an early performance of "To Be Young, Gifted and Black:

If you want to read more about her life and writing check out her informal autobiography To Be Young, Gifted and Black.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Jessica Watson: Brave Girl

Today's the 24th birthday of kickass adventurer Jessica Watson.

Seven years (and three days) ago, on May 15, 2010, 16-year-old Jessica Watson became the youngest person to complete a solo trip around the world. It was the completion a dream she had when she was 12, inspired by a a book her mother had read to her and her siblings.

What kind of bravery is needed to head out onto the ocean alone at the age of 16, knowing if you're successful you'll be spending eight months completely alone? Whatever it is, it's clear Jessica Watson had plenty of it.

During her adventurous voyage, she was responsible for repairing damage to her boat, navigating around or through storms, and keeping herself motivated to continue. While sea, she blogged about her experiences.

These days, she still sails quite a bit, when she can find time in her busy schedule. More often, though, she travels around the world by airplane, serving as a Youth Ambassador for The United Nations World Food Programme.

She's written about her experience in her book True Spirit

You can read more about her historic voyage as well as what she's working on now on her blog

You can read about her work with the UN's World Food Programme

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Read this: Damsel to the Rescue

Damsel to the Rescue
by Kaia Sønderby

I've been dealing with some extra stress lately, and have been pulling out all the stops in my self-care activities. There's been lots of dance-it-out music, silly movies, and garden therapy.

And reading. Lots of reading tried-and-true favorites: Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice, and A Wrinkle in Time. In addition to these classics, I also revisited Damsel to the Rescue by Kaia Sønderby, a book she sent me to review. I read it and was working on a review when I first got sick and it kinda fell off my to-do list. But it never fell off my favorites list.

I mean, it's got a smart, witty and brave damsel who would rather be tending her garden and perfecting her plant magic than off tromping around in the wild rescuing some silly prince.

Yes, you read that correctly. Our heroine Terrilyn Darkhorse lives in a somewhat gender-flipped magical world where girls are expected to learn how to use a sword or bow (or in Terrilyn's case, some kind of magic) in order to rescue whatever prince has gotten himself kidnapped by some evil, scheming, shape-shifting Dark Lord.

There is so much about this book I absolutely love. First, of course, is that it's chock full of brilliant, brave young women off on adventure in a magical world, competing to see who can win the favor of the queen by rescuing the prince from some far-off tower.

As expected, over the course of the adventure, Terrilyn Darkhorse has to face her many external and internal challenges, recognize her strengths and weaknesses, and come to terms with her own desires in a world that holds high expectations for her.
Terrilyn Darkhorse descends from a long line of successful, prince-rescuing damsels. Now that she's sixteen, she's expected to uphold the family tradition. But Terri would rather remain at home, tending her garden, perfecting her plant magic, and staying far away from the highly competitive world of damsels.

Then the local prince is kidnapped and Terri's mother makes her an offer: If she rescues the prince, Terri can have the family's second estate, Trellis, to turn into her own gardens. Terri has wanted Trellis since she was a little girl, so she sets out with her best friend Rune as her official sidekick, hoping to avoid the other damsels altogether.
Try as she might, she just can't seem to get away from the other damsels. As frustrating as it is for Terrilyn the introvert, it's actually quite enjoyable for the rest of us to watch her as she's called into action time and again to rescue some poor hapless damsel. As she goes along, we meet more and more of her so-called competitors and get to know a wonderfully diverse group of young women, each of whom has her own fascinating story. 
Which would be easier if they didn't have to keep rescuing rival damsels from basilisks and man-eating trees. But Terri can't justify abandoning them, because the monsters are being controlled and directed at her and the other damsels—a feat only a Dark Lord could accomplish. Terri's magic improves with every challenge she faces, but she knows it's not enough. If she wants to succeed, she'll need to break the rules and recruit her rivals to help her defeat the most powerful Dark Lord the world has seen in five-hundred years. 
The story could very easily be simply a series of battles between different girls until the ultimate winner takes home the prize (er... prince), but it is so much more than that. Damsel to the Rescue is a charming story about unlikely friendships, and the importance of not just accepting differences but embracing the power of diversity. And because of that, it has unequivocally earned the Self-Rescuing Princess Society seal of approval. I highly recommend Damsel to the Rescue for teens and adults looking for an empowering and inspirational book about smart, brave, and kind young women.

Not only was I lucky enough to get a review copy, but I was also able to chat with author Kaia Sønderby about her story, her process, and her call for teenaged girls to buck expectations and do what they want.

SRPS: First of all, tell me a little about yourself. What's your background? What inspires you? What are some of your goals?

KS: I was born and raised in America, mostly in Rhode Island. I admit, I didn't have the easiest childhood: My father passed when I was nine, I was diagnosed with autism shortly after, I was bullied pretty severely in school. I'm still not sure how I made it through high school, and I couldn't afford much community college. But here I am, living in Sweden, happily married. Life is far from perfect, but all things considered, I feel like I landed on my feet.

I'm inspired by so many things, but I especially love speculative fiction. Ever since my father died, I've found solace in strange and magical worlds. Those worlds were where I hid when I was lonely or upset from being bullied. I want to pay that forward, to provide readers with the shelter and escape fiction provided for me. I want to diversify spec fic, to write a wide variety of works that people from all manner of backgrounds can see themselves in. And I want to be a voice advocating for disability in speculative fiction -- from more disabled characters to more disabled authors.

SRPS: I absolutely love Terrilyn Darkhorse. She's such a great mix of an introvert, reluctant leader, kickass fighter, and tender-hearted gardener. Where did she come from? What was the inspiration for her character?

KS: I'm not sure how well I can explain my process. My characters sort of... unfold as I write them, as I get to know them. Some of Terri's grouchiness is for humorous effect, obviously, and that's where I started from. She's got a chip on her shoulder, and she's not a very patient individual when it comes to people. But as I started to see her through Rune's eyes, her softer side came together. Her tenderness and patience for plants started to grow into understanding for her companions' troubles, her temper and frustration channeled into a will to fight, and her organization and control of her gardens became a talent for organizing and leading her friends. All the ingredients were already there.

I guess you could say Terri formed much like her beloved plants. At first there was only a seed, but it time in grew into something much bigger and more complex. I was a little afraid people might find her too grumpy, so I made sure to show her more vulnerable moments, as well. It's such a relief to know that people like her.

SRPS: Actually, if I'm being honest, I think all the characters in Damsel to the Rescue are great -- such a wide variety of personalities and backgrounds. What was the decision behind including so many types of characters in the story?

KS: Believe it or not, Damsel to the Rescue contains one of my smaller casts! I love writing a huge variety of characters, and so I have to be a little careful or my casts get completely out of control. There's so many types of people in the world and as a writer, it makes my job more interesting and fun for my cast to be diverse. I think it adds verisimilitude for the reader, as well.

Even though I sometimes have to wrestle myself over cast-building, it proved to be very useful for Damsel to the Rescue. One of the main themes is that people are not necessarily who they first seem to be. Insecurity, disappointment, loneliness, disillusionment, etc., these things can shape our impressions of people a lot. I wanted readers to be surprised by these characters, to see that beneath some of their cliche surface traits, they were much deeper and more complex people. Thus I was really able to make something out of my natural inclination towards variety.

I want to be a voice advocating for disability
in speculative fiction -- from more disabled characters
to more disabled authors.

SRPS: Terri and her mother and grandmother do not see eye to eye on much. I can't help but think that their relationship is, in a way, a kind of analogy for modern feminism -- with the third wave feminists continually butting heads with the old guard, so to speak, and bucking the outdated ideas in favor of more modern and inclusive path. Is there any of that in the story behind the story?

KS: I wish I could say there was. I thought of a lot of feminist elements, and the story deals a lot in things like girl-on-girl hate, how we're trained to see each other as competition, etc. I guess that one slipped by me.

It is, though, a story of generational divide, even if it's not specifically the feminist one. The world has changed so much, as have the paths the current generation can take through life. But some of the older generations have a real problem with that. They get so mad over current technology, current trends, the fact that younger people aren't following the same route through life that they did--even though that's just not possible anymore! We're called the "entitlement generation" simply because we'd like to be able to college without racking up massive debt, like they did.

Terri and her friends, the things they do, their desires and their actions, stem in part from the frustrations of a society that expects them to follow in the exact paths of their forebears, whether it makes sense to do so or not. They're reacting to a world that is trying to restrain them based on gender, age, social caste, etc. Fantasy as a genre is often too busy romanticizing the past to consider the present, but I wanted Damsel to really speak to what the current generation is feeling.

SRPS: What is the take-away message you hope your readers will get from Damsel to the Rescue?

KS: There are quite a lot of minor take-away messages in Damsel, but to me the most important one is the one I put in for teenage girls. That they don't have to bend to society's expectations. They don't have to hate each other or view each other as competition. That's it's all right to stray from the path that society dictates, to want different things from what society expects you to want. That as girls and women, we all win when we work together and make an effort to understand where each other is coming from.

Like I said before, I was bullied badly, and most of that was by girls. Now that I'm older, I realize that while yes, some of those people were just toxic, so much of what I went through from these awful things we teach girls. We need to stop seeing each other as the enemy, so I wanted to show a really positive friendship between girls that strengthens them so much more than infighting and hatred.

There are quite a lot of minor take-away messages, but
to me the most important one is the one I put in for teenage girls.
That they don't have to bend to society's expectations.

SRPS: I think I speak for all your readers when I ask about the timing for the second book. I need to know what happens with Terri and her group of friends! Can we expect it anytime soon?

KS: Oh boy... I hope this doesn't disappoint people too much. The second book, Damsel in Shining Armor, is actually about Terri's eldest daughter, Alyssum. Characters from the first novel will get appearances, and young Rune and Terri will return for a companion novel starring the character Zelle.

Damsel in Shining Armor is actually written, but it needs editing. Hopefully I can get that sorted out in time to release it later this year.

SRPS: Where can people purchase their own copy of Damsel to the Rescue?

KS: Right now, Damsel to the Rescue is available for Kindle on Amazon. I may put it up elsewhere in time, but as this was my first independently published book, I wanted to start with one website.

SRPS: What other projects are you working on? Anything fun or exciting?

KS: Part of the reason why I put my work on Damsel in Shining Armor on hold, as to work on my Xandri Corele scifi series. The first book -- Failure to Communicate -- is out and doing quite well. It features an autistic protagonist and her quest to help her crewmates negotiate with an alien species that may hold the power to change space combat for the worse, amidst sabotage, assassination attempts, and rampant cronyism.

This, too, is a story I believe strongly in. I believe it's so important to have a voice for those of us who are disabled, to show us as something other than issues or victims. And there's a strong feminist theme to it as well, with a wide gamut of female characters front and center.

SRPS: That sounds so great! I've already added it to my TBR pile. When you're not writing, where else can people find you online?

KS: I'm not as good about being social as I should be. It's not exactly my strong point. I am on Twitter, and I can also be found as

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Maria Reiche - The Lady of the Lines

Maria Reiche (15 May 1903–8 June 1998) was a German mathematician, archaeologist, and translator who studied the Nazca Lines in Peru. Known as the "Lady of the Lines," she helped educate people about these remarkable geoglyphs, and worked hard to gain government recognition and preservation for them.

She was born in Dresden, Germany, where she attended Dresden Technical University studying mathematics, astronomy, geography and foreign languages. After graduation, she moved to Peru to work as a nanny and teacher for the children of the German consul in Cuzco. Once her position there ended, she stayed in Cuzco, working as a teacher as well as a technical translator. (She spoke five languages!)

In 1940, she became an assistant to an American historian, Paul Kosok, who was studying the mysterious lines in the Nazca desert. Together, they worked to map the lines and discover their meaning. In 1946, she began to map the lines and determined there were 18 different animals and birds represented. After Paul Kosok left Peru, she remained to continue her research. She used her mathematical knowledge to analyze how the Nazca people could have created these images on such an enormous scale. To get a better look at the lines, she enlisted the help of the Peruvian Air Force to take photographic surveys from above.

As increased development began to damage the lines (a highway was built right through one of the images), she turned her attention to education and preservation efforts. She even went so far as to hire private security to protect the lines, until the Peruvian government finally agreed to limit public access to these important heritage sites.

The image at the top is from the fantastic Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (Amazon/Library) by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo, with the illustration by Gaia Stella. I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Elena and Francesca while they were running their Kickstarter for this excellent book.

Read more about her life and work in the excellent obituary in the Independent

Check out this biography, Maria Reiche by Wilfredo Gameros

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Inspiration in One Photo: Septima Clark and Rosa Parks

Over the course of my blogging career I've come across more than a few really amazing photographs that seem to perfectly capture a moment in time. This is one of those photos. The events that led to having both of these remarkable women together at this point in time are varied and tell an important part of the story of the civil rights movement in America. But what each woman accomplishes AFTER this photo is even more important.

This image was taken in the summer of 1955, when both women attended classes at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. On the left is Septima Poinsette Clark, the "grandmother of the civil rights movement," and on the right is Rosa Parks, the "mother of the civil rights movement." Two incredibly influential women, both credited with birthing a new generation of the movement, in one casual photo taken during the summer of their first meeting. You can see why I love it.

Usually when I look at this photo, I see a pre-bus boycott Rosa Park getting the encouragement she needed to take the next step in her activism. Rosa Parks had long been a member of the NAACP, even when it had been extremely dangerous to attend meetings in Montgomery, Alabama. Before 1955, she'd worked with black women and children, helping the adults get legal advice and teaching after-school classes to help raise the consciousness of the young people.

She wanted to attend the Highlander Folk School to learn more useful techniques for improving the conditions for the black community in Montgomery, as well as to meet other activist from around the South and possibly take home some new strategies for addressing inequality. She learned all this and more during her time in Tennessee, but it is likely that the most important thing she gained was simply the encouragement to continue fighting for justice and equality. Just a few months after this photo was taken, she refused to give up her seat on the bus, and sparked a year-long boycott that then, in turn, sparked similar civil rights actions around the South.

When she talked about her time at Highlander, she didn't talk about what she'd learned in her classes. Instead, she talked about what she had learned from Septima:
"At that time I was very nervous, very troubled in my mind about the events that were occurring in Montgomery. But then I had the chance to work with Septima. She was such a calm and dedicated person in the midst of all that danger. I thought, 'If I could only catch some of her spirit.' I wanted to have the courage to accomplish the kinds of things that she had been doing for years."
But Rosa Parks almost didn't go to Tennessee that summer. She almost didn't meet Septima or any of the other civil rights activists at Highlander. This photo almost didn't happen. Rosa Parks certainly couldn't afford the trip on her meager seamstress salary. She didn't even own a suitcase. Thankfully her friends (and employers) Bill and Virginia Durr knew it was critically important for her to go attended classes, build relationships with others, and to bring home what she learned. They sponsored her trip, and even lent her a suitcase.

Today, while looking at this photo, I'm thinking less about where Rosa Parks went after it was taken, and more about how this meeting may have influenced Septima Clark. While she certainly helped set Rosa on her path to change the future, Septima didn't step back from her own work. When the summer classes were done she returned to Charleston, South Carolina, and resumed both her teaching position as well as her civil rights work at home, like she did every year. But the very next year, 1956, she was elected president of her NAACP branch, which precipitated a cascade of changes that forced her onto a different path.

South Carolina, true to its long racist history, had recently passed a law banning city and state workers from belonging to civil rights organizations. While she may have been able to keep her NAACP membership secret before, there was no way Septima could hide the fact that she was the president of her chapter. When she refused to step down, she was fired from her teaching job. This actually put her in a difficult position financially. As a widow, she was raising her son alone, and needed steady employment. She knew she wouldn't be able to take another public school job, and wondered if she could make a living as an activist teacher.

That summer she returned to the Highlander Folk School, this time not as a student, but as a teacher. The mission of the Highlander Folk School was to help poor rural people throughout the south by teaching them basic skills (literacy, math, etc.) as well as empowering them to organize and implement changes in their community to promote equality. In the 1950s, this meant addressing civil rights issues such as voting and equal access to schools and public services. It was a natural step, even if it was a scary one, combining her love of teaching and her passion for civil rights. It was here that she honed her skills as a educator/ community organizer. She continued to teach her literacy and social activism workshop each summer, and eventually took a position as a director with the responsibility for recruiting students and teachers.

But Septima knew that, while Highlander was an important gathering place for activists, the best way to have the greatest impact would be to reach as many people as possible. That meant branching out. So she, along with her cousin Bernice Robinson, worked to take these literacy/civil rights workshops out into world, setting up small, back-room "citizen schools" in tiny black communities throughout the South, teaching adults to read and helping them pass voting tests while simultaneously empowering them to take this knowledge into other local communities, creating a network of activism. This was her greatest contribution to the civil rights movement. Her citizen schools spread throughout the South, and the project was eventually taken over by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), where Septima worked closely with other giants in the movement.

It's hard to say whether Rosa Parks would have refused to give up her seat that day in 1955 if she hadn't attended Highlander earlier that year and met Septima Clark. I'm sure she would have eventually come to the point of action on her own, but it certainly seems as though Septima had a profound effect on her resolve.

While I can't say their meeting in the summer of 1955 had as profound an effect on Septima Clark, it is clear that she was quickly approaching her own crossroads. I like to think that when she was fired the next year, she looked at what Rosa Parks was doing in Montgomery and found some inspiration to make the leap into the full time job of activism.

I think of this photo and the stories it tells quite often. I keep it in a folder on my desktop so I can look at it frequently. I am continually encouraged by the lives and work of these two amazing women, and knowing that they found support and friendship in each other never fails to inspire me to keep working for justice, and to keep supporting other women (and men) in the fight.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

SRPS Role Model: Malala Yousafzai

“I know where I stand. If you stand with me, I ask you to seize every opportunity for girls’ education in the next year... We should not ask children to flee their homes to also give up their dreams, and we must recognize that young refugees are future leaders on whom we all depend for peace.”
Last month Malala Yousafzai become only the sixth person, and the youngest, to receive honorary Canadian citizenship, a title conferred on "foreigners of exceptional merit." Malala certainly qualifies as a young woman of exceptional merit! Through her bravery and dogged determination, she is actively creating a better world by advocating for girls' right to education worldwide, and is currently serving as a UN Messenger of Peace.

Most people have already heard Malala's story of being an 11 year old blogger for the BBC sharing stories about her life as a girl under Taliban occupation. In particular, she was outspoken about the need for education for girls, which had been banned. Although her identity was kept secret, the Taliban eventually discovered who she was and targeted her in an attempt to silence her. And they almost succeeded. Her shooting injuries were quite severe, but she was airlifted to the UK where she was able to receive extensive medical care.

The attempt on her life emboldened this brilliant and brave young woman. With her best-selling book, I am Malala [Amazon/Library], and the non-profit Malala Fund, she has made it a point to use her public platform to continue the call for at least 12 years of schooling for all girls around the world.

Prime minister Trudeau echoed the thoughts of many of her supporters in his speech at the ceremony. "Malala, your story is an inspiration to us all. For bravely lending your voice to so many, we thank you."

It is her remarkable bravery and her dedication to such an important cause that makes her a Self-Rescuing Princess Society role model. Young people around the world can see her and find inspiration to speak up and take action. Like Canadian student Sabina Haque said at an event prior to the ceremony, "It’s really nice to have someone like Malala — a young women, a woman of colour from a community where she was undermined for her gender — be able to rise above and stand up for girls and education."

The ceremony was held on April 12, 2017, in the Canadian House of Commons, where prime minister Trudeau presented her with a certificate of honorary citizenship and a Canadian flag. It had originally been slated for 2014, the same year she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but had to be postponed because of a tragic shooting of a soldier in Ottawa.

You can read more about the official ceremony in the Al Jazeera story: Malala Yousafzai made an honorary Canadian citizen

You can read about the reception she received in Ottawa in the National Observer story: Greeted by screaming fans, Malala Yousafzai becomes a Canadian

You can learn more about her by watching He Named Me Malala [Amazon]

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Watch This: To Walk Invisible

To Walk Invisible: The Lives of the Brontë Sisters

Look, I'm not going to mince words here. To Walk Invisible is a surprisingly beautiful, yet painfully authentic look at the real life experiences of these three remarkable women. And it's that "real life" aspect that was so important to capture, since that was precisely what they wrote about, and what caused their novels to be so controversial at the time.

The brilliant Sally Wainwright wrote and directed this television film, bringing the same passion for the story and compassion for her characters that she has given two of my favorite female-centric British dramas, Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax. In fact, Wainwright has made a career out of telling the stories of women, both from history and from modern times. And it looks like she's going to continue this trend with her next project Shibden Hall, a series about the life of Anne Lister, who was an adventurer, mountaineer, traveler, and who has been called "the first modern lesbian."

I am certainly no expert on the lives or works of the Brontë Sisters, having only read Charlotte's Jane Eyre. In fact, I remember being somewhat overwhelmed with the bleakness of the story when I first read it as a teen, and subsequently refused to even consider reading Emily's Wuthering Heights. Reading Jane Eyre again a few years ago when I was quite a bit more mature, I was better able to appreciate the story's brutal honesty about the lives of its characters and place the story into its historical context.

I am a bit ashamed to admit that Wuthering Heights is still on my to-read list. After watching To Walk Invisible I am inspired to move it closer to the top, along with The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne.

If you know even a little about the lives of these three sisters, you may be a bit worried this film will be filled with tragedy. And rightly so. The level of misfortune this poor family experienced in one generation is heartbreaking to read about with nearly 200 years distance. Fortunately, while the deaths of their mother and older sisters are briefly mentioned, this film picks up the story when they are all adults and those deaths are well behind them.

It takes place over the short period where the three sisters and their brother Branwell were all living at home again with their father. After a short introduction to the imaginary childhood adventures the four of them dreamed up, we quickly learn that Branwell is struggling to adjust to the demands of adult life and unable to stay sober long enough to pursue his passion for writing or painting. The three sisters, feeling trapped in the constricting gender roles of the 1840s, devise a plan to become published authors themselves, keeping it a secret from everyone else, including their father, and especially their brother. Together, they conspire to write a collection of poems to be published under pseudonyms, and then use that as a means to launch their careers as novelists. And, remarkably, it works.

The story has plenty of drama and sadness. And while the film ends on a sad note, what lingers in my mind is the earlier triumph when the three sisters finally share their secret with their father, who is absolutely thrilled to learn his three living daughters are all successful authors. The scene where Charlotte reveals to him that she is the author of Jane Eyre in one of my favorites. He is initially surprised and maybe even a bit skeptical, but then he is overcome with pride. And I was overcome with emotion as well.

More than anything, though, what I love the most about this film is its depiction of the relationships between these women. The tender and loving bond between Anne and Emily is so refreshing and actually quite moving. We so rarely see that level of physical contact between two people on screen that isn't sexual. And the genuine respect and support each sister gives the others makes this film one I will watch again and again. To Walk Invisible earns the Self-Rescuing Princess Society seal of approval for many reasons, but especially for its representation of female friendships.

If you have not watched it yet, I highly recommend To Walk Invisible. I was able to stream it through PBS Masterpiece because I am a member of my local PBS station. Otherwise, if it is no longer being broadcast by your local station, you may have to purchase it through iTunes or Amazon. It is worth the cost, trust me.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Role Model: Danica Patrick and her advice for living an adventurous life

"Give yourself permission to shoot for something that seems totally beyond your grasp. You may be surprised at your capabilities."
Danica Patrick has certainly lived her life by that advice, continually aiming for racing goals that might seem too far out of her reach. It's this kind of drive and determination that makes her a great Self-Rescuing Princess Society Role Model. Throughout her career, she has been a fierce competitor. She's won a couple of races and finished high in more than few others. And along the way made a place for herself in the history books.

She started her racing career at the tender age of 10, speeding around the go-kart track at the Sugar River Raceway. A few years later, while still a teenager, she was introduced to Lyn St. James, the first woman to win the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award in 1992. St. James invited Danica to be her guest at the 1997 Indy 500, where she was introduced to John Mecom, Jr., a former Indy 500 team owner. That meeting changed the course of her life.

Mecom sent her to the UK where she raced Formula Fords. She was only 16, but she was already working on her racing career; and already shooting for the stars. She stayed there for several years, honing her racing skills. In 2002 she moved back the US, and started driving for a team co-owned by David Letterman. In 2004, they put her on the roster for their IndyCar Series team for 2005.

In 2005 Danica Patrick joined a short, but impressive, list of women IndyCar drivers, including the remarkable Janet Guthrie who, in 1977, became the first woman to drive in the Indy 500. Danica performed exceptionally well in her debut Indy 500, even leading race for more than 20 laps. When other racers stopped to refuel, Danica stayed on the track, taking over the lead. It was a gutsy gamble that unfortunately didn't pay off for her this time. The leaders eventually caught up to her, and because Danica had to slow her pace a bit to conserve gas, they were able to race past her. Despite losing the lead, she still made history when she finished in fourth place, the highest finish for a female driver in the Indy 500.

In 2006 and 2007, she continued driving in IndyCar events and finishing in respectable positions. All the while she continued to push herself to get better. On April 20, 2008, at the Indy Japan 300, she found herself in a similar situation where the leaders stopped to refuel, and again she grabbed the lead. Only now she had more experience and knew how to hold the lead. Her gamble paid off and she drove herself into the history books again, this time as the first woman to win an IndyCar race.

Danica Patrick signs an autograph for a young fan at RIR Toyota Owners 400
Danica Patrick signs an autograph for a young fan

Since then she has continued to race, even placing third in the 2009 Indy 500. But in the last few years she has transitioned from a full-time IndyCar racer to a NASCAR driver. And it's been a great change, for her and for the racing world in general. NASCAR offered her more opportunities to race, and more sponsors. And few would dispute the fact that she has had a positive effect on NASCAR popularity. Her presence on the circuit sparked a huge following of new fans, mostly women and girls excited to finally see someone like them on the track.

Over the last two decades, she's had an impressive career as a race car driver. And while her racing successes may have waned a bit in the last year or so, that probably just means she's looking for the next thing to set her sights on. Since the first time she took the wheel of car (or cart) she has continually surprised everyone around her with her capability to keep on pushing. She might not have met all her goals but she doesn't seem to mind too much. Maybe she's just enjoying the ride.

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