Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The world today is seriously fucked up when it comes to heroes. Generations of kids have grown up idolizing people whose only quality is unlimited wealth. Football players who miraculously graduated from notable colleges but still can't speak English properly. So-called "superstars" with no taste but plenty of cash.

And when it comes to female heroes (I hate the word "heroine") who is there? Angelina Jolie? OK, Oprah's done a lot of good with her money but when it comes down to it she's just a talk show host.

I've been thinking a lot lately about women I admire. Not just my friends (although I do love and admire all of them) but women whose life made a difference for the better. Here are a few women who should be remembered but mostly aren't:

Edith Cavell: A British nurse and all-around good soul who is credited with saving nearly 200 allied soldiers in WWI by hiding them from the Germans. She was tried and executed for her actions. One of her most memorable sayings is "patriotism is not enough."

Vera Brittain: Writer, feminist and pacifist. After losing her only brother, her fiance, and her two best friends she dedicated her life to peace. Her memoir of WWI Testament of Youth chronicles her losses and her experiences as a nurse on the front lines of the Great War.

Violet Szabo and Noor Inayat Khan: Both operatives with the Special Operations Executive during WWII. Each volunteered for duty inside occupied France and each was captured, tortured, and executed by the Nazis. I cannot imagine the courage it would take to voluntarily go into enemy territory to help fight for a cause you believe in.

Alva Belmont: Alva was rich but her heart was definitely in the right place. "I have been crying in the wilderness for wealthy women to give up their leisure and do something to justify their existence." She was a major benefactor of women's rights and campaigned tirelessly for better and safer working conditions for female factoring workers.

Myrlie Evers-Williams: "You can kill a man but you can't kill an idea." After her husband Medgar Evers was murdered, Myrlie dedicated her life to civil rights. She was the first woman to serve as board chair for the NAACP.

I could list a dozen more, but I don't want to bore you. Each of these women inspires me in some way. And I hope one day to do something remarkable enough to make someone else's list.

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