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About “what other people think”
Or “what people might say”

"Men have long had male role models after whom to pattern their lives. From time immemorial, scholars have been able to analyze the seeds of male leadership by studying the lives of presidents and generals. It's not uncommon for little boys to grow up saying they want to be fishermen or policemen or even president of the United States. But until now, little girls didn't have political role models to dream about or learn from." --Dorothy W. Cantor and Toni Bernay with Jean Stoess in Women in Power: The Secrets of Leadership

If we’re honest, many of us would confess we have wasted a lot of time caring about “what other people think” or “what people might say” even though we knew better. There may have been times, however, when that concern prompted us to “do the right thing” when we weren’t inclined to---which meant we did it for the wrong reason.

In the spirit of Women’s History Month we can’t help but think of all the women who proceeded us in time. The many who threw caution to the wind in order to follow their hearts and dreams in endeavors that have made our lives better. Persecution was frequently their reward and at times, loneliness was their only companion. Their courage, perseverance, and resolute commitment gave us a legacy to revere.

Have you ever wondered what you might have done faced with such daunting obstacles? It’s certainly worth pondering in a moment of self-reflection to examine our own strength of purpose. We may have opportunities, often when we least expect them, to make history. Our personal histories are important regardless of our scope of influence, and we should not squander them. With respect to the “perfect” time for achieving our best hopes and grandest ambitions, it’s anytime we choose to seize the moment!

"Many of these women faced enormous obstacles. They were confined to basement laboratories and attic offices. They crawled behind furniture to attend science lectures. They worked in universities for decades without pay as volunteers--in the United States as late as the 1950s" --Sharon Bertsch McGrayne in Nobel Prize Women in Science

Admittedly, it can be difficult to recognize the chance, particularly if we’re distracted by the possibility of negative reactions. The expression, “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger” is a reminder that problems can be viewed as challenges to confront. If we “meet life head on” we can be hurt or invigorated, the choice is ours. We’ve all dealt with those occasions when we would have preferred to say, “I can’t stand one more lousy growth opportunity!”

While not always duly recognized for their heroism and selflessness, women have contributed significantly since the dawn of civilization. We’ve been an essential part of the fabric of life through the centuries, although our names and deeds have not always received the same visibility and acclaim as men. The metaphor, which comes to mind, is that of a quilt---the grand designs, which capture the eye, are the memorable distinctions in such tapestry. Think of women as the thread, without which there would be nothing! We might have trouble recalling even the color of the strands but they are in fact what “holds it together”-a role women have played throughout antiquity.

There have been stand out exceptions of course. Joan of Arc, for instance, changed the course of France’s future quite dramatically. Had she chosen not to “answer the call” the French might be speaking English with a British accent today! Recognition of her far reaching, profound influence came long after she was burned at the stake. Which was immaterial because it was always quite clear that personal glory was not a factor in her life. That may be the most valuable trait women bring to efforts to advance “the greater good.” While not seeking self-aggrandizing recognition, we’ve achieved so much regardless of “who got the credit.” And, in the now immortal words of one such woman, Charlotte Whitton, noted Canadian author, “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”

Among those, whose names you may not recognize, who nevertheless had a noteworthy effect on history:

Encouraged by her singularly enlightened father, Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1535-1625) was educated as a painter when the well-born young women of Renaissance Italy were consigned to sit in their palazzos and pursue needle work. Her accomplishments led to a life of drama and romance on a grand scale. She became a celebrated portrait painter at the court of Philip II of Spain. A grand love story unfolds, too, as she overcame many obstacles to win her beloved husband. She lived to a hearty old age, an international celebrity who had been praised by Michelangelo and lionized by painters across Europe.

A `Dangerous' 1600s Woman, Religious dissenter Lady Deborah Moody set a precedent when she founded Gravesend. Nobody knows where Lady Deborah Moody is buried, but an appropriate epitaph would have been what one official wrote about her in 1644: ``Shee is a dangerous woeman.'' Dangerous to the religious establishment she certainly was. This widowed, middle-aged English immigrant also was a most remarkable Long Island woman of the 17th Century. Moody was the founder of Gravesend, the only permanent settlement in early colonial America planned and directed by a woman. `It was in a man's age that Lady Moody played.’

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