Monday, April 8, 2013

Women I Admire

Today, the world lost one of the most ground-breaking women in recent history: Margaret Thatcher. She was one of the first female leaders of a major country. She held her own in a political world dominated by men, where a tough woman was often ridiculed or, worse, dismissed. She opened the political door for other women like US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and countless other female world leaders. In her honor, here are a few other famous women that I admire (in no particular order).

Audrey Hepburn

 Not only was she an amazingly talented and versatile actress, winning an Oscar (for "Roman Holiday"), a Tony (for "Ondine"), an Emmy (posthumously, for "Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn"), and a Grammy (for "Audrey Hepburn's Enchanted Tales," a recording of children's stories), but she was also well-known for her humanitarian work as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, for which she won a Presidential Medal of Honor.

JK Rowling

Rowling was divorced from an abusive husband, unemployed, a single mother, and struggling from severe depression when she began writing the Harry Potter books. The first book was rejected by twelve - TWELVE!!! - publishing houses. Rowling persevered, and we all know what happened. She was wise enough to retain a significant amount of creative control and financial stake in the many off-shoots of the franchise, and as a result has earned literally hundreds of millions of dollars. She has donated much of her earnings to charitable organizations dedicated to causes ranging from poverty to multiple sclerosis to illiteracy to children's welfare, including penning three books specifically for charities, which have earned nearly $30 million.

Laura Ingraham

Her politics may rub many the wrong way, but she is well informed, well-spoken, and unafraid to take on serious issues even in the face of heavy opposition. She is outspoken about her Catholic faith and her decision to adopt three children as a single mother. She is a breast cancer survivor, a former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, and a best-selling author. She is unafraid to admit that she is wrong and apologize for her mistakes, as notably illustrated by her essay published in the Washington Post in 1997 where she publicly announced her changed views of homosexuality and her support of legal rights for gays.

Maggie Smith

Dame Maggie's acting career has included stage, television, and movie roles as diverse as Desdemona in "Othello" (opposite Laurence Olivier), the title role in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," a grown up Wendy Darling in "Hook," Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film series, and the Dowager Countess in "Downton Abbey." Her charity work is equally diverse, supporting fundraising efforts for a New Zealand church that was devastated by the 2011 earthquake, becoming a patron of the International Glaucoma Association, and contributing original artwork to a celebrity auction raising funds for cat protection. She is also a breast cancer survivor.

Rosa Parks

Her single act of civil disobedience may have been no different than similar acts performed by others, but it set off a chain of events that eventually led to desegregation. But even aside from that one famous incident, Ms. Parks' life is admirable. As a child, she walked to school with the other black children while watching the white children go by in school buses. She eventually had to drop out of school to care for her grandmother and her ailing mother. After she married, her husband encouraged her to finish high school, which she did in 1933, at a time when only 7% of African Americans earned high school diplomas. She became a registered voter, despite being refused twice. She published an autobiography in 1992, in which she stated, "People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."

Whom do you admire?

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