Thursday, September 1, 2011

Strong Women in Culture

What did these women have in common? A strong sense of self and enough confidence to pursue their dreams. They lived in different times, and sought their own way, oblivious to those who said they couldn’t.

French Flag in the Arc de Triomphe, by Green Eye

Simone de Beauvoir - (1908 - 1986) France
Philosophy and Literature  
Compatriot of Jean-Paul Sartre, professor at the Sorbonne in Paris, and a member of the early existentialist movement, she examined women’s rights and through that, influenced a generation of women. In her book, The Second Sex, feminism was defined.
 Many of the feminist ideals of the 1960s and afterwards found their roots in the writings and musings of de Beauvoir. All through her life, her attitudes, her writings and her relationships were under scrutiny. She said she lived her life to please herself, not to please others.

After Jean-Paul Sartre passed on, Simone had to recover.  His sickness had depleted her reserves.  Simone still showed that pragmatic frame of mind in an interview in the mid-1980s. She was more interested in ensuring that Sartre’s unpublished writings made the light of day than in continuing her own writing.
Her reply to why she wasn’t interested in writing more about her own work: “In a creative profession, one does what one feels like doing. ... It takes inspiration to create...”
For more information:
Ref:  Article, Who's News, New Woman Magazine, July 1984.


Totem Poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver - by DGH

Emily Carr -  (1871 –1945) Canada
Artist and Author

Growing up in Victorian times, Emily survived by using her own wits, and running a rooming house (with help) in Victoria BC; she had her studio in the upper quarters of that same house on the main street near the current site of the Empress Hotel.

She travelled to the Queen Charlottes (now called Haida Gwaii), north of Vancouver Island, BC, lived in the area and painted many of her famous Northwest Coast totem and forest paintings while immersing herself in the culture of the Haida natives. Her art showed the raw beauty of western Canada when viewed through the lens of a perceptive artist, she tried to capture the spirit of the huge towering evergreens and of the carved traditional totems. An art school, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, bears her name.


Pere Lachaise Cimetière - Paris - by DGH

Isadora Duncan - (1877 - 1927) USA
Dancer; forerunner of interpretive modern dance
Isadora’s style was much more appreciated in France and Europe, she was too modern for North America in 1899.  Her choreography and movements set the stage for modern dance. She had the audience on their feet when she danced to the Marseilles in France. The fluidity of her movements came from a mixture of various dances and from the sheer, flowing fabrics she wore.

One of these, a long scarf, was blamed for her untimely death in 1927 when it caught on the spokes of a Bugatti wheel in Nice, France.  She rests in the Pere Lachaise Cimetière in Paris, France, near violinist Stephane Grappelli and in the company of other residents Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Georges Bizet, and Jim Morrison. We checked in 2010 and none had changed their addresses.



Lena Horne - (1917 - 2010) USA
Singer & Actor

An American singer foremost, as well as an actor in early movies showcasing the music popular in the 20s, and 30s, the music coming from Harlem and places like the Apollo Theatre. She had more class and sass than most.

Lena was a mix of African American, Native American, and European American, and lived in an upper middle class stratum of educated sensibilities. Her political views and her involvement with the Civil Rights movement illustrated that she was no shrinking violet.

Outspoken, and fighting for the rights of those less fortunate, she battled the mores and the attitudes of the day, getting blacklisted by an industry too dependent on government approval. She survived into the 21st century, but her voice singing “Stormy Weather” will be with us always.


(Lena singing Stormy Weather)

These four diverse women influenced many other women during their lives as well as afterwards through their books, or the changes they helped bring about.   There are many more and they come from many countries.

Never underestimate the power of a woman with a goal in mind. 

Have you been affected or influenced by a particular woman's story? Or has there been a woman in your life that made a difference in how you perceive others or yourself?

We can't all lead armies, but some of us are good at it.

Joan of Arc, near the Louvre in Paris  - by DGH