There seems to be something of a skewed perspective that only white men have had the power of privilege in this country, given their ranks in elected office, corporate positions, wealth and so on. But in reality, women have been fiercely determined to break the glass ceiling and accomplish not just what their male counterparts have, but to surpass them or make their own mark on history. As we celebrate local women entrepreneurs in this week’s cover story (“Breaking barriers”), reflecting on women who paved their own paths — despite lack of access to privilege and priority — is of the essence.
Dating back to the 1800s, Louisa May Alcott wrote and published Little Women while helping her family during financial difficulties; Susan B. Anthony presented the suffrage bill to Congress (though it took 30 years to have it enacted); Clara Barton established the America Red Cross and served as its first president; journalist Nellie Bly broke records by traveling the world by ship in 72 days; and Harriet Jacobs escaped slavery and published a novel, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. In the 1900s, Amelia Earhart flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean (though she disappeared trying to fly across the globe); Marguerite Higgins, a war correspondent and advocate of women journalists, was the first woman awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1951; Grace Hopper helped create programs for the world’s first computers; and Barbara Jordan, a lawyer and educator, was the first black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. There are, in fact, many women who blazed the trail for individual pursuits despite obvious discrimination and other limiting factors that even today people use as excuses to let the world fly by.
In reality, struggle is part of the passion of the pursuit. While some would say privilege is unfair, lacking privilege builds character and stands as a testament to what can be accomplished through determination. The women who were not deterred by obvious limits set the bar for what any woman, or person for that matter, can achieve. The most important element of life, at least in this society, is to have a goal and a desire to achieve it. Some are fortunate in that their love of certain industries, interests, etc., compelled them to move forward despite the naysayers. Others settle for less and that’s all they should expect.
Along with the celebration of women in business, Kelly Mayo, of Skating Polly, a musician who has pursued her passion since age 9 and is featured in this week’s music story, “All grown up,” speaks words of wisdom that she learned over the years:
“You can’t let other people’s expectations prohibit you from making your most honest art.”
We want to hear from you. What is your most honest art and what have you done to achieve it? Email stories of passion pursuits to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is open to men and women.