Have you ever noticed something for the first time and then realized it had been there all along? Although it’s stimulating to read the tabloids, social media and advertisements that boast that women have finally discovered their voices, the voices of brave women have been heard from the beginning of time. Throughout history women have stepped forward and courageously asserted themselves in groundbreaking areas of business, education, social justice, politics, and medicine, design and space and have been activists in all manners of building new foundations for women to stand upon.
Brave Women in History
The fallacy that women had to use their physical attractiveness to get what they wanted could have stopped with Cleopatra VII Phiopator. In actuality, her ‘beauty’ is the greatest myth that defines her legacy. It also undermines her real power. Far from the Hollywood version of Elizabeth Taylor’s portrayal of her, Cleopatra spoke as many as twelve languages and was educated in mathematics, philosophy, oratory and astronomy. According to Plutarch who wrote about Cleopatra, “For it was not because her beauty in itself was so striking that it stunned the onlooker, but the inescapable impression produced by daily contact with her: the attractiveness in the persuasiveness of her talk, and the character that surrounded her conversation was stimulating.”
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old-Africna-American seamstress refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on the Montgomery City bus and in her own humble words said, “all I was doing was trying to get home from work.” In actuality, she did infinitely more: she became an overnight figurehead for the civil rights movement in the US. This isolated act and a single reply – “no, I’m not” – ignited a boycott which continued for 381 days until the city repealed its law enforcing racial segregation on public buses. Rosa’s fearless rejection of racial segregation made her ‘the first lady of civil rights’.
Mother Theresa and Florence Nightingale committed their lives to helping others spiritually and physically and assuredly they voiced strong preferences and acted accordingly to get what they needed in order to succeed in their unselfish endeavors. Marie Curie, Clara Barton, Helen Keller and Amelia Earhart, to list a few more in the roster of brave women in history could not have arrived at their significant lives without speaking up and standing up for what they believed in. For we know that history was not created by those who sat back and said nothing.
There are millions of women who are standing up for what they know is right and important for our world to heal, unite and prosper collectively. They have been a constant presence in our lives and their voices have been there all along. Yet, we have not heard their message of living braver, effective lives. Similar to the women in history, we currently have Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington, Brene Brown, Dr. Sue Johnson, Liz Wiseman and Kristi Hedges, just to mention a few authors who are trail blazers, forward thinkers with messages for self-discovery and self-discipline.
Brave Women in Politics and Philanthropy
There are courageous women who have stepped into power in politics, technology, business, philanthropy and media whose voices are strong and affecting lives globally in positive ways. In the political arena, we will hear the voices of Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor: Theresa May, Prime Minister of the UK; Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile: Supreme Court Justices, Elena Kagen, Ruth Ginsburg and Sonia Soto Mayor. Women CEO’s include Mary Barra, GM; Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo; Rosalind Brewer, Starbucks; Phebe Novakovic, General Dynamics; and Melinda Gates business leader, philanthropist and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which strives to improve global health and education. There is no other more popular media giant than billionaire Oprah Winfrey. Her voice through her internationally recognized talk show, unmistakably powerful and effective! Again, this is a very short list of the brilliant and committed women whose voices are being heard, and changes are occurring toward the betterment of our world because of their efforts. These women have been there and one after another continue to show up and stand up more courageous and fortified with resources that never existed for their predecessors. Currently, more women own businesses than ever before and are making a defined mark in every area of commerce and social integrity. They are determined and disciplined to go the distance to succeed, not only to accomplish their personal goals but to continue to build foundations for women to stand upon.
A Measure of Bravery
None of us are absolutely sure of where life is taking us next. No matter how planned we are and how much we want, life is still a mystery. However, there is a theme that is clearly gaining momentum with women: together we will stand taller and have stronger voices. Stop looking at what fell and instead celebrate and encourage what’s still standing. Don’t destroy each other, instead lift one another on a path that respects and values women as powerful and competent leaders. Remember that words are influential and creative. Similarly, don’t allow any woman to diminish your value and gift to the world. Stand up for yourself and take your place firmly in who you have become.
How brave are you? Become brave enough to discover who you are and discipline yourself to be all that you can be…for what happens for one, happens for us all.