Thursday, December 31, 2009

43. The Self-Empowered Woman: Agatha Christie

Dear Followers,

Can't believe it's the last day of 2009! We've all been through so much, but everyone seems to agree that 2010 is bound to be easier for all of us. Not surprisingly, my New Year's Resolutions involve better health, book sales, and more amazing women for the blog.

Today's amazing woman is Dame Agatha Christie, who has been called - by the "Guinness Book of World Records" as the best-selling book author of all times as well as the best-selling writer of any time (along with Shakespeare). She has sold four billion copies of her novels - only the Bible has sold more. Christie is the "most translated individual author" with books in at least 56 languages. And her play " The Mousetrap," which opened in 1952, has been running in London for 38 years, is the longest-running show in the history of English plays, and has currently been performed 23,000 times.

Not surprisingly, Christie has plenty of Self-Empowered Woman traits (especially #7: Magnificent Obsession). Her first mystery novel ws published in 1920, but had been rejected by a number of publishers (8: Turning No's Into Yes's). Although her second marriage was happy, her first husband oleft her for another woman (15: Forget About Prince Charming), which led to Christie's nervous breakdown and a ten-day disapparence where she registered at a Yorkshire hotel under the name of her husband's mistress.

A number of critics - from Robert Graves to Raymond Chandler - were dismissive of her work (13: More Than Meets The Eye). In spite of her detractors, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot are as popular today as always. In fact, Poirot is the only fictional character to ever receive an obituary in the New York Times.

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller Christie died January 12, 1976 when she was 85 years old.

Looking forward to your comments...

Monday, December 28, 2009

42. Nancy Meyers: Self-Empowered Woman

Dear Followers,

I'm willing to bet that many of your favorite movies - like mine - over the last 20 years have been made due to the genius of writer/director/producer Nancy Meyers. From "Private Benjamin" to both versions of "Father of The Bride" to "The Holiday" and "It's Complicated," Meyers has changed the way that Hollywood power brokers think about movie audiences.

Not surprisingly, Meyers has her share of Self-Empowered characteristics. She definitely surprised movie studios with her ability to create highly profitable films (13: More Than Meets The Eye). And after her long domestic and creative partnership with Charles Shyer, they split in 1998 (15: Forget About Prince Charming). Since she's been on her own, however, her last four movies have earned $200 million worldwide (8: Turning No's Into Yes's).

As a director, Meyers is famous for micromanaging every tiny detail about her films (10: The Critic Within), and although her two daughters are now grown, when they were younger they went on movie sets as much as possible, had private tutors, and even had their own cribs on location with their Mom (16: Intensive Motherhood).

Meyers has given us movies that celebrate intelligent, accomplished women who have retained their appeal even if (or perhaps because) they've lost their youth. Critics predict that "It's Complicated" will be the fifth home run in a row for 60 year old Nancy Meyers, who managed to tap into her own life and values to give the rest of us a good time at the movies.

Looking forward to your comments...

Friday, December 25, 2009

41. Ageless Self-Empowerment

Dear Followers,

After a two-week holiday hiatus I'm ready to continue sharing stories about amazing women. On the book front, sales continue to grow gradually and 309 people have watch The Self-Empowered Woman YouTube video. In January I'll have three speaking engagements, and hope that word of mouth will compensate for (way too expensive) advertising. And, I'd like to thank each of you for your enthusiasm!

Today, I'd like to tell you about an amazing 94 year old artist named Carmen Herrera. Herrera was born in Cuba, where she took art lessons as a child (2: An Early Sense of Direction). She attended finishing school in Paris, and attended college in Cuba. Before she received her degree in architecture, however, she married Jesse Loewenthal and moved to New York. He was an English teacher at Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School - one of his colleagues was author Frank McCourt.

Jesse and Carmen were married for 61 years, until he died at 98 in 2000. He supported her love of painting even though she didn't sell her first canvas until five years ago when she was 89. Since then her work has been acquired by MoMa and her canvases sell for close to $50,000 (13. More Than Meets the Eye).

Herrera told the New York Times that painting was "...a compulsion that also gives me pleasure...I just worked and waited. And at the end of my life, I'm getting a lot of recognition" (7. Magnificent Obsession). Herrera in outspoken (5. Life is Not a Popularity Contest), and continued to paint minimalist geometric canvases even though people expected an immigrant Cuban artist to paint tropical landscapes and florals. Instead, Herrera continued to paint what one collector described as "Visual Haiku."

Herrera's tenacity is truly inspirational!

Looking forward to your comments...

Friday, December 11, 2009

40. The Self-Empowered Woman/Meryl Streep

Dear Followers,

In the January issue of Vanity Fair Magazine, Leslie Bennetts has written a lengthy profile of Meryl Streep's amazing career. You have probably already seen the ads for her upcoming movie "It's Complicated," which will open on Christmas day; her co-stars are Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

Streep, who has two younger brothers, grew up in Bernardsville, New Jersey and attended Vassar, Dartmouth, and Yale School of Drama. The more I read about Ms. Streep (duh) the more SEW traits I found. For those of you in the know, here's the Cliff's Notes version:

5. Life Is Not A Popularity Contest

6. Life Is Also Not A Beauty Contest

7. Magnificent Obsession

10.The Critic Within

11. Risk Addiction

13. More Than Meets the Eye

16. Intensive Motherhood

Streep's resume reads like a master class in American cinema. From "Kramer vs. Kramer" to "Sophie's Choice" to "Out of Africa" to "Silkwood" to "The Devil Wears Prada" to "Mamma Mia!" to "Julie & Julia" to"Doubt" she has earned the right to be called America's greatest actress.

In the Vanity Fair article, readers are told that she thought her career (like many actresses') would be over when she turned 38. And yet, at age 60 she's starring in hugely successful films. "Mamma Mia!" grossed over $600 million worldwide, "The Devil Wears Prada" made $324 million, and "Julie & Julia" is expected to ultimately earn big profits as well. All of this has surprised Hollywood execs, who have long felt that teenage boys (rather than middle-aged women) were their target market.

Streep has been nominated for 15 Academy Awards and won two, received 23 Golden Globe nominations and won six (more nominations than any other actor for either award). She's has also won two Emmys. two SAGs, three New York Film Critics Circle Awards, five Grammy Award nominations, a BAFTA Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award, and a Tony Award nomination.

Looking forward to your comments...

Monday, December 7, 2009

39. The Self Empowered Woman/Hadassah

Dear Followers,

On Friday I had the privilege of talking about The Self-Empowered Woman to the Hatikvah Hadassah in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. One of the members took the opportunity to tell me about the amazing (truly Self-Empowered) woman who founded the Hadassah Women's Organization in the U.S., and I thought I'd share her story with you.

Henrietta Szold was born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 21st, 1860. Her father was a rabbi, and she was the eldest of eight daughters. After she graduated from Western Female High School, she taught at Miss Adam's School, Oheb Shalom Religious School and gave bible and history classes for adult students. She established the first American night school to provide vocational training and English classes for Russian Jewish immigrants in Baltimore.

Szold attended public lectures at both the Peabody Institute and John Hopkins University to further her own education. In 1898, the Federation of American Zionists elected her as the only female member of the executive committee and from 1893 to 1913, she worked for the Jewish Publication Society. In 1909 (when she was 49 years old) she made her first trip to Palestine where she was inspired to improve the health, welfare and education of the Yishuv (pre-state Jewish community of Palestine).

With six other women she founded Hadassah in 1912, and served as its president until 1926. In 1933, she moved to Palestine and helped run Youth Aliyah, an organization that rescued 22,000 Jewish children from Nazi Europe.

A true Self-Empowered Woman, among Szold's honors are that:

  • Mother's Day in Israel is celebrated on the day she died, February 13 (the 30th of Shevat).

  • In 2007, she was inducted into the American National Women's Hall of Fame.

  • P.S. 134 in Manhattan's Lower East Side is named after her.

  • Kibbutz Kfar Szold in Upper Galilee is named after her.

  • Jerusalem's National Institute for Research in the Behavioral Sciences (The Henrietta Szold Institute) is named after her.

Looking forward to your comments...

Monday, November 30, 2009

38. Afghanistan

Dear Followers,

Tomorrow will be a big day as I begin the process to see where I fit in the CCSVI puzzle as discovered by Dr. Paolo Zamboni, who has developed an exciting new (but simple) treatment for ms. I'll keep you posted...

Tomorrow is also the day when we will learn what President Obama plans to do about Afghanistan. Along those lines, I wanted to recommend a new book by Greg Mortenson, who wrote "Three Cups of Tea."

In his new work , "Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan," he writes about the value of educating girls who live in the heart of Taliban country. In that part of the world, Just one year of schooling "will dramatically raise a girl's later economic prospects, and where girls get to fifth grade, birth rates and infant mortality plunge."

Mortenson has founded an organization called The Central Asia Institute (CAI), which - in Pakistan - now has 91 schoolhouses that serve 19,000 students (three-quarters of which are girls). In 2004, CAI opened its first school in Afghanistan; today there are 39 (as well as tent schools in the refugee camps), and the organization now educates 39,000 Afghan children most of who are girls.

Back in 2000, when the Taliban was still in power, only 800,000 children in Afghanistan (which has a population of almost 33 million) attended school. And very few of the students were girls. Today, 8.5 million Afghan children go to school, including close to 2 million girls.

Mortenson's approach to education - and the importance of literacy for girls - has so affected the area that his book "Three Cups of Tea" is now required reading for all Special Forces soldiers deploying to Afghanistan.

Looking forward to your comments...

Friday, November 27, 2009

37. An Empowered Woman

Dear Followers,

Thanks to today's New York Times, I learned about a 70 year old woman who has lived in the Bronx for decades, and played an "unheralded" role in the Civil Rights movement.

Most of us think of Rosa Parks (who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus) as a trailblazer in the battle for desegregation back in the 1950s.

But thanks to writer Phillip Hoose, who won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature for his book "Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice," we now know that 15 year old Colvin was the first black female bus passenger to be dragged off a bus, handcuffed, and arrested.

Colvin was arrested on March 2, 1955, while Rosa Parks didn't make her stand until nine months later, on December 1. According to Hoose, the NAACP felt that Ms. Colvin wasn't as likely to win support for the cause as Rosa Parks.

It took Hoose four years to persuade Ms. Colvin to meet with him and share her story. She had worked as a nurse's aide in a Manhattan nursing home for 35 years, and kept her role in the Civil Rights movement under wraps. Now, finally, countless readers will learn about the 15 year old girl who let the world honor someone else for an action she took before anyone else.

Looking forward to your comments...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

36. Louisa May Alcott

Dear Followers,

Happy Thanksgiving! Tony and I Will be enjoying the annual Fragiacomo feast with 40+ family members at Caroline and Terry Brown's house, and I hope your holiday will be every bit as festive as ours.

Today I thought I'd share with you a bit of information about Louisa May Alcott, who lived in the mid 1800s (1832 to 1888) and is best known as the author of "Little Women," which was published in 1868.

Next month on the PBS series American Masters a multi-dimensional look at Alcott's life will include an animated scrap book, introduced with historians, and dramatic portrayal of the writer who also happened to be a runner, feminist and abolitionist.

Did you know that Gloria Steinem, Gertrude Stein and Simone de Beauvoir were all influenced by her character Jo March? And even though Alcott wrote over two dozen other books, "Little Women" is the only one that has never been out of print for over 140 years.

Alcott lived in Concord, Massachusetts, was the second of four daughters, and as a "spinster," lived with her father who was close friends with David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathanial Hawthorne. Like many Self-Empowered Women, Alcott could not depend (financially) on her father, and the family struggled. The house they lived in was purchased with money with her mother's inheritance and monetary help from Emerson.

Louisa May Alcott - because of the family's money problems - had to go to work at an early age. Among her jobs were seamstress, governess, domestic helper, teacher and writer. Long after she had started writing books, she was still taking in sewing.

"Little Women" was loosely based on her childhood with her three sisters and was completed in only two and a half months. Alcott became an early advocate for women's suffrage and was the first female to register to vote for a school board election in Concord.

Looking forward to your comments...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

35. Emma and Iraq

Dear Followers,

It's been a busy post-birthday pre-Thanksgiving week. Kravis Center concert, three different parties, and a book talk all kept me away from the blog, but I'm back with the story of yet another Self-Empowered Woman.

I was intrigued by a story on the front page of today's Palm Beach Post about rebuilding Iraq that bore the headline "$53 billion spent since 2003 - and little to show for it." So it seemed like the perfect time to introduce you to 41 year old Emma Sky, a British civilian who has become a chief advisor to the American Army commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno.

From ages seven to thirteen, Sky (an only child) attended a boys boarding school in England because her stepfather was on the faculty and her mother was a house mother. She later attended Oxford's Somerville College (one of the two previous all women's schools) where both Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher had studied.

Sky spent almost a decade in Israel and the West Bank working for peace between the Israelies and Palestinies. After she returned to England she worked for the British Council, which is an arm of the foreign office, but volunteered to work in Iraq as an advisor on Kurdish issues after the U.S. invasion. She lived in a home in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk until a mortar shell came through a bedroom wall and prompted her move to the army base.

General Odierno was the commanding general at that time, and the tiny anti-war English woman and the bear-like American learned to bounce ideas and strategies off each other. Sky moved back to the U.K. in 2004, but when Odierno was promoted in 2006, he asked her to return.

Sky - who speaks Arabic and Hebrew - has grown to admire the U.S. military even though she once described them "like a great crashing beast." And Odierno has come to rely upon her knowledge of the area and the factors that affect the war. Her job has been to second-guess him.

It's hard to imagine a British female Infantry Division Advisor in any other American war, but Sky's influence has had a profoundly positive impact on both the military and Iraqi civilians.

Looking forward to your comments...

Friday, November 13, 2009

No.34 Bizjournals and SEW

Dear Followers,

Just thought I'd share the review of The Self-Empowered Woman that will run on the syndicated Bizjournals next week:

Book review: The Self-Empowered Woman

Connie Glaser

The New York Times ran an article recently about the love affair that Hollywood was having with "Famous Dead Women." Only one movie last year about a living woman made it into the Top 10 films, and that was the vampire teenage romance Twilight. What Hollywood has discovered does work are films about women who once led unusual lives, but are now deceased.

Recently, filmgoers watched Meryl Streep portray Julia Child and Marion Cotillard play Edith Piaf. Cate Blanchett won kudos for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I, and Nicole Kidman was applauded for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf. Now talk is circulating that Hilary Swank will win her third Oscar for her portrayal of Amelia Earhart. As film critic Manohla Dargis noted, "For actresses, it is no longer enough to be young and beautiful onscreen, they have to be dead and famous, too."

Like many moviegoers, I have a fascination with successful women, though having passed over to the "other side" is not a prerequisite. So when I was asked to contribute a blurb for a book about high-achieving women on the scene today, I was interested in the subject matter. And I'm pleased to say that the "how to succeed" message within the pages of The Self-Empowered Woman: 17 Characteristics of High Achievers by Marilyn Murray Willison is instructive and gender neutral.

At first glance, the book appears to be an investigative analysis of which factors contribute to the formation of high-achievers. Seventeen characteristics, each of which helps create a successful way of life, are analyzed and dissected. In each of the 17 chapters, four women who have reached the top of their fields are profiled, and then the reader is given exercises designed to help him or her learn how to focus and think the way high achievers automatically approach life.

Although the individuals described in the book are female, there are plenty of valuable life lessons for all readers, regardless of career goals, age or sex. Some of the characteristics are apparent; others are less obvious. For example, Chapter 9 discusses the important role of music in the lives of high-achievers. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, was in first grade when she began to play the violin. In her autobiography she recounts, "Practicing was a joy, not a chore. I could close my bedroom door, shut out the rest of the family and transport myself into a self-created world of beautiful sound."

Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, aspired to become a concert pianist. At age 15, she won a young artist competition and performed a Mozart concerto with the Denver Symphony. She has also performed on stage with cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Another characteristic of high achievers is risk-addiction. Insightful profiles of Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling and TV's Barbara Walters are included in this chapter. An unemployed single mother, Rowling turned down a secure teaching job for the uncertainty of writing. Her first editor told her that she needed to get a day job because she could never survive as a children's book author.

One of the most poignant chapters discusses the challenges of dreaming your own dream when loved ones or family members go out of their way to discourage your efforts. Anyone familiar with the history of entrepreneurial life in America knows that countless successful men and women chose to pay attention to their inner voices rather than the naysayers who told them what they were doing was crazy.

Other successful women profiled include heavy hitters such as Wall Street's Muriel Siebert, astronaut Shannon Lucid, cosmetics maven Mary Kay Ash, TV's Diane Sawyer and Ruth Simmons, the first female president of Brown University.

Through these pages, Willison leads the reader on a fascinating investigative journey along the path to success. The book provides an opportunity to pay tribute to those high-achieving women with us today who are making a difference.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

33. Iraq's Female Police Officer Corps

Dear Followers,

I'm happy to report that The Self-Empowered Woman is beginning to pick up steam. Did my first radio show last week and have another scheduled for the first week of December. Between now and then I have a "tea" for a dozen readers and then a Hadassah breakfast for about 40. And thanks to the women at Author Exposure, I'll be a "guest blogger" for a New Years Resolution post. Any ideas or suggestions you have for marketing or promotion are welcome because I've learned that writing a book is a lot easier than turning it into a bestseller...

Did you know that this week 50 women in Baghdad became the first female graduates of Iraq's Police Officer Training Academy? In the past, women could direct traffic or search female suspects, but until this year they were ineligible to become officers.

The nine-month course had the same standards as their male counterparts, but females trained and studied separately. During training the male students were able to sleep at the academy, but the women had to commute each day because there were no housing facilities for females.

Many of the new officers joined the academy after they finished law school and Col. Randy Twitchell, a member of the U.S. Army who has served as a consultant for the program, estimates that next year's female class will double in size to 100. This year's graduates call themselves "The Lioness Group."

As practically everyone knows already, the world of journalism (and print media, in general) simply isn't what it used to be. And this week my friend and Palm Beach Post Editor, Anne Rodgers, began the transition from journalist to author. Like most of her fans, I'm in mourning - partly because I'll miss opening the paper and finding columns that speak to readers like me, and partly because I've had close friends and colleagues who were staff members on various newspapers since I was 24 years old. For the first time in decades, there's no one left with printer's ink in their veins who I want to speed dial. Guess that officially makes me an old fogey.

Looking forward to your comments...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

32. The Prix Goncourt

Dear Followers,

It's been a hectic and unusual week, brightened by good book sales and growing numbers of YouTube viewers. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Today I'd like to introduce you to Marie NDiaye, the 42 year old woman who just won the award for the best new work in French literature In true Self-Empowered Woman style, NDiaye didn't meet her father until she was 15 years old (Chapter One: No Paternal Safety Net). Currently the author of a dozen books, she began writing at age twelve (Chapter Two: An Early Sense of Direction).

She has also written a number of plays, one of which was only the second play by a female writer to ever be taken into the repertoire of the Comedie francaise. In 2001, she won France's Femina literary prize for her novel "Rosie Carpe." When she was only 21, she wrote a 200 page novel ("Comedie Classique") that was made up of a single sentence.

Her novel, "Trois femmes puissants" (Three Powerful Women) is the story of a French lawyer with roots in West Africa, a young Senegalese women who tries to immigrate to Europe illegally, and a Senegalese woman who lives in France. NDiaye grew up in Pithiviers, a town south of Paris, and has told reporters "I grew up in a world that was 100% French. My African roots don't mean much, except for that people knew of them because of the color of my skin and my name."

NDiaye's mother was French, her father, Senegalese, and today the writer lives in Berlin. She is the first black woman to ever win the Prix Goncourt; previous winners of the 105 year old award include Marguerite Duras, Marcelle Proust and Simone de Beauvoir.

Looking forward to your comments...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

31. New Surgeon General

Dear Followers,

Today's blog is about 53 year old Dr. Regina Benjamin, who was unanimously approved by the Senate and is the third African American as well as the third woman to hold the position of Surgeon General of the United States. For over two decades, Dr. Benjamin has been one of the few doctors working in the shrimping village of Bayou La Batre, Alabama. Her rural health clinic there serves 4,400 patients.

When her clinic was destroyed - first by hurricanes and then by a fire one day before it was scheduled to reopen - she used the "Genius Award" money from her John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellows Program Grant to rebuild.

The woman who has promised "to act as America's doctor" still makes house calls in a muddy Toyota pickup, and has been known to accept shrimp "payments" from patients unable to pay in cash.

Benjamin's father died of hypertension, her older brother died at 44 of HIV related illness, and her mother died of lung cancer. In her words, "...I can't change my family's past [but] I can be a voice in the movement to improve our nation's health care and our nation's health for the future."

Benjamin's honors and awards would take an additional page to list, but click here for more information about our latest Self-Empowered Woman.

Hope you've had a chance to check out the YouTube link. Looking forward to your comments...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

30. Articles of Interest

Dear Followers,

Sorry I've been out of touch, but a convergence of physical, dental and emotional challenges have kept me under the gun lately. I'm back, however, and anxious to share items that I found particularly interesting during the last week. If you click on underlined links in the text below, you'll be able to read the complete articles that caught my interest.

On Saturday, Joanne Lipman (the founding editor in chief of Conde Nast Portfolio Magazine) wrote a beautiful article for the op-ed page of The New York Times called "The Mismeasure of Woman." Lipman wrote about her days at The Wall Street Journal when it "was written by men for men (and) didn't even cover industries that were relatively female friendly, like publishing, advertising and retailing." Where the few female writers worked was called the "Valley of the Dolls." Those were the days when I contributed book reviews to Ben Stein, who was my WSJ editor, so naturally Lipman's article affected me.

Then on Sunday, Manohla Dargis (who used to be a film critic at The L.A. Times) wrote an article for The New York Times about Hollywood's trend of making movies about famous dead women like Amelia Earhart, Coco Chanel and Georgia O'Keeffe.

And then Peggy Orenstein wrote an article for The Sunday Times Magazine called "Stop Your Search Engines" in which she argues that the promise of infinite knowledge is different than the delivery of infinite information. All three of these articles are well reading.

Regarding The Self-Empowered Woman, the big news is that the video is now complete. Yeah!

Looking forward to your comments...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

29. Amelia Earhart

Dear Followers,
On Sunday I wrote about Gail Collins' new book "When Everything Changed" and if you would like to see what The NY Times had to say about it today, please click on (

Today I'd like to discuss an amazing Self-Empowered Woman, Amelia Earhart, who will be the subject of a soon to be released movie, "Amelia." Hilary Swank (Chapter Ten: The Critic Within) will star in this "biopic" about a woman whose flying exploits became legendary.
Earhart loved her father, but he was an alcoholic (Chapter One: Non-Existent Paternal Safety Net) and she refused to accept other people's belief that women shouldn't fly airplanes (Chapter Eight: Turning No Into Yes). Obviously, as the first woman to cross the Atlantic on her own, Earhart was familiar with taking chances (Chapter Eleven: Risk Addiction), and as soon as you see the movie you'll understand which of the other "17 Characteristics" that apply to her life.

Earhart has been the subject of over 100 books and everything from museums to Navy ship have been named after her. She was a contributing editor to Cosmopolitan Magazine and even designed "Active Living" clothes. It's amazing to think that a quarter century after her death United Airlines banned female passengers from their New York to Chicago "Executive Flights," and yet she had received her flying license in 1921, broke the women's altitude record in 1922, flew solo across the Atlantic in 1932, and became the first pilot to fly solo from Hawaii to California in 1934.

I'm sure the more you learn about "Lady Lindy" the more impressed and inspired you will be.

Looking forward to your comments...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

28. When Everything Changed

Dear Followers,

Back on September 6th, I blogged about one of my favorite writers (Gail Collins) and one of my favorite books ("America's Women"), which discussed the contributions that women had made during our country's 400 year evolution.

I'm happy to share with you the good news that Ms. Collins now has a new book that traces " The Amazing Journey of American Women From 1960 to the Present.

In addition to her books, Collins was the first female head of The NY Times editorial board and (Chapter Two: An Early Sense of Direction) she always knew she wanted to be a writer. She ran the newspaper at her Catholic all girls school, earned a degree in journalism (from Marquette University) in 1967 and a master's in government from the University of Massachusetts in 1971. Before joining The NY Times, she worked for UPI, The NY Daily News and New York Newsday.

In Collins' new book she reminds readers of what life was like for women after World War II, and it's not a pretty picture. In her words "...women were not meant to compete with men, to act independently of men, to earn their own bread, or to have adventures on their own....They could not go into business without their husbands' permission or get credit without male cosigners."

Women under the age of thirty will probably find the information in Collins' book hard to believe, but they need to read her words and respect her research. It was an era when Black women were marginalized by organizers at Martin Luther King's 1963 "I have a dream" speech, and even Rosa Parks was overlooked at a gathering in Montgomery, Alabama. Those of us who have reaped the benefits of the Equal Opportunities Employment Commission can't help but be surprised to learn that women were added, according to Representative Howard Smith of Virginia, as " a joke" to help block the Civil Rights Act.

Looking forward to your comments...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

27. Nobel Prize-Winning Women

Dear Followers,

If you've been following the news you probably know that a record FIVE women won Nobel Prizes this year (the previous record was three, in 2004).

Registered trademark of the Nobel Foundation

The winners include:

Elizabeth Blackburn, 60, (dual U.S.-Austrailian citizenship) and Carol Grieder, 48, (American) who shared the Physiology/Medicine Nobel Prize with Jack Szostak. Greider worked in a research lab in UC Santa Barbara and (Chapter Thirteen: More Than Meets the Eye) was put into remedial classes as a schoolgirl because she had dyslexia.

Ada Yonath, 70, (Israel) who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Steitz and Ramakrishnan (Americans).

Herta Mueller, 56, (Romanian-born German) won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Elinor Ostrom, 76, (American) the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences (shared with American Oliver Williamson). Ostrom is a professor at Indiana University and (Chapter Seventeen: Dreaming Your Own Dream) was discouraged from seeking a doctorate when she applied for graduate school.

The first woman to win a Nobel Prize was Marie Curie who (with her husband Pierre and Antoine Henri Becquerel) won the Physics Prize in 1903. She is the only woman woman to win two Nobel Prizes, because she also won in 1911, for Chemistry.

Forty Women have won Nobel Prizes, including Toni Morrison and Doris Lessing (Literature) and (Chapter Thirteen) Iranian Shirin Ebadi.

If you (like me) are obsessed with stories about female high-achievers, a book that might interest you is Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries.

Looking forward to your comments...

Monday, October 12, 2009

26. Saks Fifth Avenue and Saturn

Dear Followers,

Friday's book signing at Saks Fifth Avenue was a blast! We had almost 50 people, and it was a great opportunity to spread the word and get to meet new readers first hand. Unfortunately, we weren't able to video the event, but over the weekend Laura and Robert Lynch filmed a short talk about The Self-Empowered Woman, which will soon be available. I'll make sure that everyone knows when the video goes online.

Today I'd like to introduce you to another amazing woman. Dr. Carolyn Porco is head of the camera team for the $3.4 billion Cassini Spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn for five years. Thanks to her team, astronomers are seeing Saturn's rings in three dimensions for the first time in 400 years.

Dr. Porco, 56, is a senior researcher at Boulder, Colorado's Space Science Institute, was born and raised in a Bronx family with four brothers. Her father was an Italian immigrant who drove a bread truck, her mother was a housewife, and Dr. Porco attended Cardinal Spellman High School (where Justice Sonia Sotomayor was also a student).

By age thirteen (Chapter Two: An Early Sense of Direction) Porco saw Saturn through a neighbor's rooftop telescope, and while she was a graduate student at The California Institute of Technology she got a job helping to analyze data from the two Voyager spacecrafts.

Porco played a guitar and sang in the Titan Equatorial Band (Chapter Nine: Music) and enjoyed having Carl Sagan as a mentor (Chapter Four: Supportive Someone). When I spoke on Friday, I was asked if the women in my book regretted following their dream. I forgot to tell the audience that most high-achievers felt the way Dr. Porco does. When she was chosen in 1990 (over more senior astronomers) the job "swallowed" her life.

She recently told Dennis Overbye of The NY Times "Our experiment has been spectacularly successful...when comes the time, I will die a happy and gratified woman."

Looking forward to your comments...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

25. The Palm Beach Post

Dear Followers,

For today's posting I'd love to share with you an article about The Self-Empowered Woman (and me) that appeared in today's Palm Beach Post:

BOOK GIVES WOMEN POINTERS FOR SUCCESS-->By Mathilde Piard Books October 08, 2009 -->

Marilyn Murray Willison spent a lifetime obsessing over the lives of successful women and living vicariously through their victories. Tomorrow at her local book-signing event, she will share her passion so that others may enjoy the same excitement and perhaps learn how to grow into such women.

The Self-Empowered Woman: 17 Characteristics of High Achievers, Willison’s fifth book, is the culmination of the author’s lifelong curiosity about what enables certain women to succeed more than others.

Her findings? There is a pattern. In fact, she identifies 17 recurring traits that occur in varying combinations in successful women — and explores those traits chapter by chapter.Willison’s writing is a balancing act: part storytelling, part essay, part self-help. The self-help comes in the form of exercises at the end of each chapter, which help readers identify and develop the qualities described, “because it’s never too late,” she insists.

Each chapter draws on the experiences of four famous women and tells their stories to demonstrate how the given characteristic contributed to empowering them. The women you’ll meet in these stories are the heroines of the book.

But the true heroine is Willison herself, who went from, in her words, “being stuck in an upscale corporate version of housewife,” to a journalist who worked on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Wheelchair dependent for the past 20 years, she no longer travels for interviews, although 17 of the interviews for the book were conducted by the author.

The enormous quantity of secondary-source research she did as a result, means that at times the writing reads like an academic essay, complete with bibliographic references to other works, should you want to read further.

Both the book’s strength and challenge is how firmly it forces readers to question their own lives and choices, as well as their perceived flaws. I constantly wondered as I read whether Willison would consider me cut out to be a high-achieving woman, or whether I would just turn out to be one of those “less driven peers,” drifting through life from day to day.

At times, her advice seems harsh. To develop our own strengths and resources, the author tells us to accept that women must learn to rely on ourselves, that Daddy can’t be counted on to bail us out forever. She warns younger women of “the trappings of femininity that have delayed or detoured so many promising careers — detours like romance.”

However, it’s all tough love, and Willison knows when to be soft.The Self-Empowered Woman ends with an uplifting recap of how far women have come in the past 50 years, and in Willison’s words, “celebrates the diversity of options available to today’s women, if they choose to pursue them.”

Looking forward to your comments...

Monday, October 5, 2009

24. Tererai Trent

Dear Followers,

Today's blog has a lot to do with Chapter Three of The Self-Empowered Woman, which discusses the trait called "Belief In The Unbelievable." Most of us are familiar with the bestselling book "The Secret," which introduced millions to the concept of The Law of Attraction. In other words, if you believe in something strongly enough the universe will conspire to make that dream come true. The majority of women I researched believe in themselves (and their dreams) long before anyone or anything reinforced that belief.

Last week, on Oprah Winfrey's show, the audience was introduced to a remarkable woman from rural Zimbabwe. Tererai Trent live in a small village where there was no electricity or running water. Girl's were not allow to attend school because it was a given that they would just get married. Boys, on the other hand, were considered "the breadwinners of tomorrow."

Tererai wanted to go to school, and learned to read and write from her brother's books. Soon she was doing all his homework for him, and when the teacher found out he urged her father to let her get an education. But she was only able to attend two terms before she was forced to marry at age 11. By 18, she had three children and whenever she spoke of getting an education her husband would beat her.

When a representative from Heifer International visited her village and asked Tererai about her dream, she answered that she wanted a) to go to America, b) get a bachelor's degree, c) a master's, and d) a PhD. Tererai's mother told her 20 year old daughter to write down her dreams, place the paper inside a piece of tin, and bury it in the field where she would herd cattle.

In 1998, Tererai, her husband, and their five children moved to Oklahoma where - three years later - she would earn a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Education. In 2003, she received her master's degree and her husband (who had continued to beat her) was deported for spousal abuse.

This December, she will receive her PhD and return to Zimbabwe (as she has after each of her degrees) to dig up her list and check off the latest accomplishment. Tererai is a moving example of a woman who believed in possibility against all odds.
Click on the link if you'd like to see and hear more about Tererai...

Looking forward to your comments...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No. 23 New Top Drill Sergeant

Dear Followers,

Thanks for the feedback. I am happy you enjoy the "women's stories" as much as I do. Something very special happened yesterday, and I would like to share this latest "first ever" achievement with all of you.

Yesterday, at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Command Sergeant Major Teresa L. King, was named Commandant of its drill sergeant school. She is the first female to ever run one of the Army's schools to train drill sergeants. The 48-year old groundbreaker is the eighth of twelve children; her father was a sharecropper who grew tobacco and cucumbers in North Carolina, near Fort Bragg.

King has served in the Army for 29 years, and has a staff of 78 instructors who are in charge of drill sergeant training for the US Army. Her appointment is a major step toward "gender integration" because although more than thirteen percent of today's Army is female, only eight percent of high ranking soldiers (including Command Sergeant Major and Sergeants Major) are female.

King enlisted in the Army while still in high school, worked as a drill sergeant in her twenties, and then served as aide to then-Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney. She served at NATO headquarters in Europe, the DMZ in Korea, and with the Airborne Corps at Ft Bragg. Interestingly, King believes that most women simply cannot accomplish what she has done. For example, at her recent semi-annual physical training test she scored a perfect 300 (during which she completed 34 push-ups and 66 sit-ups in under two minutes and then ran two miles in 16 minutes and ten seconds).

King told writer James Dao of the New York Times that she could think of very few occasions when a man had challenged her authority because she was a woman. And then she added, "...when they did, I could handle it"

King admits that since her divorce (she has no children) she has poured her heart into the soldiers at Fort Jackson. As she told Dao, "when I look in the mirror, I don't see a female; I see a soldier."

Looking forward to your comments...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

22. Women For Women International

Dear Followers,

S.B. Bingo posted a welcome comment that asked what it meant that Coco Chanel had so many of the 17 traits, while other Self-Empowered Women often had fewer. In fact, part of the reason was simply that I know (indeed we all do) more about Chanel's life because so very much about her is now public knowledge.

If you look at high achievers, it often turns out that the more you know about them, the more traits pop up. From Kathy Griffin (whose new book OFFICIAL BOOK CLUB SELECTION is on this week's NYT's non-fiction bestseller list) to Barbra Streisand (whose 64th album in being released this week), there are many women whose traits number in the teens. But I still maintain that Chanel - legend that she is - remaians prototypical.

Today I'd like to write about an amazing woman, Zainab Salbi, who is an Iraqi-American writer and activist. Salbi grew up in Baghdid and when she was eleven years old her father was named Saddam Hussein's personal pilot. Iraq was becoming more dangerous, her family was constantly being "monitored," and their phones were tapped. Politically motivated assinations were becoming commonplace.

In 1990, Salbi's mother arranged for her 19 year old daughter to marry a Palestinian-American because it was the only way Zainab could safely leave Iraq and travel to the United States. The newlyweds were worried about the plight of women in the "rape and concentration camps" in he former Yugoslavia, and they established an organization that helped women survivors of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since 1993, Women For Women International has helped 120,000 women war survivors around the world and distributed more than $33 million in aid and microcredit loans. According to Salbi, the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman today is the Congo, and her organization is working to protect women from the sexual violence that is so prevalent both there and in the Sudan.

Salbi's two books ("Between Two Worlds: Escaping Tyranny, Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam" and " The Other Side of War: Women's Stories of Survival and Hope") are truly inspiring, as is she.

Looking forward to your comments...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

21. What Self-Empowered Women Wear

Dear Followers,

By now you probably realize that Coco Chanel (who died in 1971 at age 87) could be the prototypical Self-Empowered Woman. She easily had at least 14 of the 17 traits that I write about in the book. Now, in addition to Lifetime TV's Coco Chanel movie that starred Shirley MacLaine, a new French film should be opening near you this month. "Coco Before Chanel" stars Audrey Tatou, was directed by Anne Fontaine, and sold over a million tickets when it played in France last year.

Chanel (like Fontaine) was a self-taught authoritarian woman who was determined to follow her own path. If you are as intrigued by her as I am, get your hands on "The Gospel According to Coco Chanel (Life Lessons From the World's Most Elegant Woman)" by Karen Karbo and Chesley McLaren.

I was ready to write about the effect she had on women's wardrobes (she eliminated corsets, introduced the use of flannel and other "inappropriate" fabrics, turned her back on ruffles, feathers and sequins, and introduced the shoulder bag so women's hands would be free). But then I ran across an article in (my beloved) New York Times that reminded me that how we dress really does affect how we think and how we act.

According to Sabrina Tavernise, women in Mingora, Pakistan are celebrating the fact that the Taliban has left the Swat Valley. Their departure means that women can return to public life again, and no longer have to wear Burqas. Women in this part of Pakistan, which is less tribal than West Pakistan, are rejoicing that they can walk to the market, and buy shoes, cosmetics and other items that were outlawed when the Taliban was in control. According to Tavernise, "The Burqa was not the worst of women's troubles, but it was one of the most public displays of what the Taliban wanted of women - that they horses with blinders on, women lost their peripheral vision."

Sharisa Rehman
who teaches at Sangota Girls School now that the Taliban have been defeated, summed up her time under their rule when she had to wear a burqa by saying "I was bound like a prisoner."

No matter how bad your day has been, celebrate the fact that you don't have to look, feel, or be invisible. Looking forward to your comments...

Monday, September 21, 2009

20. Artistic Women

Dear Followers,

The weekend is over and it is time for me to get back to work and get focused! The first order of business is to answer last week's question, what do actress Jessica Alba, author Isabelle Allende, dancer Judith Jamison and Margaret Thatcher have in common? Like many Self-Empowered Women they learned (from an early age) how to believe. Learning to trust something that cannot be seen or touched (religion, astrology, numerology, Kabbalah, etc.) provides the inner ability to believe in one's own talent and destiny. Interestingly, few of the women I researched were members of a particular church or faith themselves, but most had grown up watching someone older actively believe in an invisible power.

During the past year Lifetime TV (called by detractors "the estrogen network") has given us the filmed life stories of two remarkable women - Coco Chanel and Georgia O'Keefe. If you watched these programs, I hope you kept a scorecard of which 17 traits they each exhibited. And if you read, in this month's Vogue magazine, the article about Ceiline designer Phoebe Philo, you'll have noticed traits 10, 14, and 16 among others. The point I'm trying to make is that regardless of which century, profession or nationality that these women claim as their own, the hurdles they face are shared ones.

Thanks for spreading the word and sharing your enthusiasm. Looking forward to your comments...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

19. "Eve Teasing"

Dear Followers,

I'm happy to report that over 100 copies of The Self-Empowered Woman have been sold since it went on sale two weeks ago. Even though I'm delighted by that number, it seems insignificant when compared with the fact that Dan Brown's new novel (The Lost Symbol) sold 1 million copies in only two days. Bravo to him and big dreams for me...

Today I wanted to share with you an article by Jim Yardley, who writes for The New York Times. While in Palwal, India (about 100 miles from New Delhi), he wrote about a gender problem in India that has caught everyone off guard.

India has (possibly since the days of Indira Gandhi) been considered a country where women had successfully shattered the glass ceiling. After all, consider this list of positions held by women: President of the powerful Congress Party, President of India, Foreign Secretary, Chief Minister of India's most populous state, and new minister of railways. Additionally, equal pay is mandatory and sexual harassment is illegal.

In spite of this "progress," women who travel on commuter trains to get to their jobs are often pinched, groped, or the object of insults and catcalls. This form of daily commuter taunting has been labeled Eve Teasing, and has prompted the government to enact "Ladies Specials" trains so that women can travel without the presence of males. In this patriarchal country the number of working women - most of whom travel to work by train - has almost doubled in the past 15 years. Unfortunately, so has crimes against women. According to Yardley, rape rose by more than 30% between 2003 and 2007, kidnapping increased by more than 50%, and molestation and torture rose sharply...

Today's quiz asks what do actress Jessica Alba, author Isabelle Allende, dancer Judith Jamison and Margaret Thatcher have in common?

Looking forward to your comments...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

18. More Than Meets The Eye

Dear Followers,

Were you able to guess which trait the following women share: Harper's Bazaar editor Glenda Bailey, Cher, actress America Ferrera, and TV chef Rachel Ray ? Each of these high achievers had been - at some point in their lives and/or their careers - been underestimated. Has that ever happened to you? I'm willing to bet that very few (if any) women find themselves " overestimated," so most of us learn from an early age to acknowledge and then accelerate through the condescension that often comes from people who assume that we can't do what we say we can.

Not surprisingly, it seems that stories of women of accomplishment come to my attention on a daily basis. Over the weekend, I learned about Karen Petrou, managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics. A graduate of Wellesley, she learned at the age of 18 that she had a form of retinitis pigmentosa. By the time she was in her early thirties her vision had deteriorated enough for her to be "significantly disabled." In spite of her challenges she (with the help of her husband) runs her own company in Washington D.C. that examines the impact of legislation on companies. She and her guide dog show up for meetings together and in her spare time she works for Foundation Fighting Blindness and she power walks on weekends.

The closing quote of the day is from Helen Gurley Brown, who transformed Cosmopolitan Magazine into an international juggernaut: "If you have some daily anguish from some cause that's not really your fault - a rotten family, bad health, nowhere looks, serious money problems. nobody to help you, minority background...rejoice! These things are your fuel."

Looking forward to your comments...

Friday, September 11, 2009

17. NO vs. YES

Dear Followers,

The Self-Empowered Woman has been on sale for one week and it has been really exciting to get feedback and watch the "ranking" day by day.

When I haven't been obsessing about THE BOOK, I've been immersed in Julia Child's memoir "My Life in France." There is something about her enthusiasm and determination that make her instantly likeable, and when I read about the long slog between beginning her cookbook and finally getting it accepted by Knopf, it reminded me of two qualities shared by so many Self-Empowered Women.

Many (if not most) high achievers find themselves undervalued or underestimated, but they also share the ability to turn the word NO into YES. It took close to a decade for Julia Child to find a publisher ( and an editor) capable of sharing her vision, but she never gave up.

So guess which trait the following women share: Harper's Bazaar editor Glenda Bailey, Cher, actress America Ferrera, and TV chef Rachel Ray?

Looking forward to your comments...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

16. Sawyer and Kristof

Dear Followers,

This Labor Day weekend was a close second - excitement wise - from the one my boys and I shared way back in 1985. That was the Labor Day weekend when we (and 23 suitcases) flew from L.A. to London to begin our lives as expatriots in the U.K. At that time I'd already had two cardboard boxes full of research material about the project that eventually became The Self-Empowered Woman. The boxes travelled with us to London, and thanks to the opportunity I had to interview so many accomplished women (and men) when I was finally ready to write the book, there were interview tapes to add to the boxes that had (once again) crossed the Atlantic. No wonder Labor Day means so much to me!

Last week "bleader" SB Bingo commented about Diane Sawyer's promotion. Just thought the following excerpts from Alessandra Stanley in the NY Times might be of interest: "Women who let their ambition show too openly are usually punished for it. Ms. Sawyer, who is as relentless and driven as any of her peers, makes an art of coy deflection...Ms. Sawyer and Ms. Couric will outnumber their male counterpart two to one in an era when networks are losing their primacy and even their creative advantage over cable, and network news, in particular, is sinking in relevance and prestige....As in other fields, women seem to break through the glass ceiling just as the air-conditioning is being turned off in the penthouse office suites. Women ancors may turn out to be what women doctors once were in the Soviet Union, a majority without status or financial advantage."

"Half the Sky" continues to receive great reviews and kudos for focusing attention on the three problems that Kristof believes reflect the widespread undervaluation of female life: forced prostitution, honor killing and maternal mortality.

The next post will pose another quiz from The Self-Empowered Woman...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

15. America's Women

Dear Followers,

Exciting news! As you know, The Self-Empowered Woman is now on sale at, and my first official book signing event is scheduled to take place on Friday, October 9th at 2:30 PM at Saks Fifth Ave. on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. Champagne and strawberries (and stories about interesting women) will be served. Hope to see you there!

I wanted to share with you an amazing book by an amazing woman. Gail Collins was the first female head of The New York Times editorial board, and has also written for The New York Daily News and New York Newsday. I stumbled across her 3rd book a while ago, and felt that I had to share it with you.

In "American Women" Collins takes a look at women in America from the 1600s to the 1960s, and manages to make what in theory is a history book read, instead, like an interesting conversation with a well informed friend. Thanks to Collins I've learned about the genuine hardships that Colonial Women faced when they landed here from England. For example, did you know that 6,000 people came to Virginia between 1607 and 1624, but by 1625 only 1,200 were still alive? The colonies' sponsors were so anxious to get women to cross the Atlantic that London recruiters offered marriageable women free passage, trousseaus, and 120 pounds of "good leaf tobacco" for their future husbands. In 1620 the first shipment of 90 "tobacco brides" arrived in Jamestown.

Although women were in demand and highly prized for their ability to help with weaving (fabric was a real luxury), cooking, soap making, etc., they essentially had no legal rights if they were married. Collins' book is a real eyeopener about the day-to-day lives of the amazing women who settled America's Eastern seaboard. I only wish I'd read this "good-for-you and good-to-you" book the minute it came off the press, but better late than never.

Looking forward to your feedback...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

14. Day One

Dear Followers,

Great News! Just found out that The Self-Empowered Woman is now officially on sale at Finally!

Also wanted to share with you the news that Laydi Mendoza, the 22 year old National Guard mother who was having trouble seeing her daughter has now been allowed the right to see her little gril every day and take her home on weekends. She, her ex-boyfriend, their lawyers, and a mediator were unable to reach an agreement, but a family court judge approved a temporary agreement.

Would love to know your thoughts about Diane Sawyer's (Chapter Six) promotion to ABC News Anchor...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

13. 22 + 75 = Amazing

Gymboree founder Joan Barnes, Nobel Prize-Winning author Doris Lessing, entertainer Dolly Parton, and actress Meg Ryan all share a trait that I discuss at length in Chapter 14. I call it "Selective Disassociation," but what it really signifies is having the strength to say "Goodbye" - to a person, place or thing - when necessary.

Today I'm going to share two real-life stories of ordinary women dealing with extraordinary circunstances. The first is about a woman named Barbara Hillary who is 75 years old, and became the first black woman to make it to the North Pole. In her 60s she battled lung cancer and in her 70s she refused to listen to people who felt she was too old (or not fit enough) to successfully reach her goal. Neither lack of funds nor the fact that she had never worn skis before stopped her. What a great example of the ability to reach a goal no matter what!

The second woman is 22 year old Leydi Mendoza who is a specialist in the New Jersey National Guard and has spent ten months deployed to Baghdad, where she guarded prisoners at Camp Cropper. Before she was sent overseas, Mendoza and her boyfriend lived with his parents after she gave birth to their daughter, Elizabeth. She and her boyfriend broke up before she was sent to Irac, but they agreed that she would help him and his parents pay for their baby's needs while she was overseas. Once she was able to return home, they agreed that they would share joint custody.

Unfortunately, Specialist Mendoza is now back in New Jersey, but Elizabeth's father has restricted his daughter 's visits with her mother and now wants sole custody. Lory Manning, a retired Navy captain who advocates for female service members has said "We are asking these women to sacrifice for theor country and we need them. But there is not enough being done to help support them and their familied when they get home."

While in Baghdad Mendoza kept a photo of baby Elizabeth's first Christmas tucked inside the camouflaged patrol cap she wore, and called home several times a week to hear her daughter's voice on the phone. Now Mendoza has run up legal bills of over $6,000 in her quest to have joint custody of her little girl. In her words, "I wanted Elizabeth to grow up and be proud that her mother had served her country. And we needed the health care and the military benefits..."

Aren't you glad that you're not caught in Mendoza's Catch 22?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

12 Brazilian Self-Empowered Woman

Dear Followers,

Do you know what Gymboree founder Joan Barnes, Nobel Prize-Winning author Doris Lessing, entertainer Dolly Parton, and actress Meg Ryan, have in common?

You'll get the answer in the next post, but in the meantime I want to share with you the story of an amazing Brazilian woman named Marina Silva. Silva was her country's environmental minister after Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (no relation) was elected in 2002. But she resigned her position with da Silva's Worker's Party and joined the Green Party, where rumor has it that she may be a condidate in next year's Presidential election. If she runs and wins, she will be the country's first female president and the country's first black president.

These days the idea of a woman who is running for a poilitical position is no longer earth shattering, but Silva's story is an amazing tale of a Self-Empowered Woman at her best. Hard as it is to imagine, Marina was one of eleven children born to parents living in Seringal Bagaco, a community of rubber tree tappers. Her mother died when she was eleven and two younger sisters later died from measles and maleria. As a child, Marina walked nine miles each day to help her father collect rubber from trees. Seriously ill from hepatitis and illiterate, she left home at sixteen and took a bus to Rio Branco where she hoped to receive both an education and medical attention. She worked as a maid, enrolled in a course for illiterate adults, and finished primary school. During school vacations she returned home to help her father collect rubber, and ultimately graduated from university at age 26 with a degree in history.

The governor of her home state of Acre, when asked about the fact that she had switched political parties answered "Marina is a person that earned her own wings, and it is not surprising to discover that those who have wings can fly."

Good news- THE BOOK is scheduled to go on sale from on Sept. 15th. Looking forward to your comments...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

11. Title IX

Lisa Ling
(Photo: Amshelleys 20's)

Dear Followers,

Did you know what U.S. Army General Ann Dunwoody, jockey Julie Krone, TV journalist Lisa Ling, and writer Anna Quindlen have in common? These amazing women, like the others in Chapter 11, were comfortable (rather than frightened by) taking risks.

The major news story of the week is the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, and whether Republican or Democrat, today's women all owe him a big Thank You for his work as a key supporter of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This bill helped balance the amount of money spent on men's and women's sports.

Mary Jo Kane, director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sports at the University of Minnesota said "...he always argued for ...making sure that young girls and women had equal opportunities on the sports field...He understood that the world of sports is not just about who wins and loses, but the kinds of experiences that young girls had been denied for centuries."

Female stars like Sue Bird, Crystal Bustos, Mary Decker, Lisa Leslie, Michelle McGann, Dara Torras and Venus and Serena Williams could not have enjoyed the success they did 50 years ago.

Exciting news! Today I received the first bound copy of The Self-Empowered Woman. Finally, both Tony and I can exhale - hope you'll think it's as impressive as we do...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

10. Men and The Self-Empowered Woman

Dear Followers,

I received a very interesting comment from a male "bleader" who wondered why a man would be interested in a book that profiled high-achieving women. Not surprisingly, I have a few answers to that question.

First of all, it's important to remember that every male has been influenced by females--grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, teachers, etc. The more accomplished these females are the more likely it is that boys can grow up to be sensitive, productive members of society. In the NY Times magazine article I referred to (number 9), Kristof reported that one of the reasons rape and other crimes against women were so prevalent in Africa was because so many boys had escaped the socializing influence of family bonds.

Secondly, most men coexist as adults with females in the workplace, and whether the interaction is with a secretary, an account executive, an attorney or a concierge it can only help matters to have an understanding of (and, preferably, an appreciation for) the different aspects of women's lives.

Thirdly, when it comes to emotional attachments a father, husband, brother or son will interact better with female family members once he learns to respect differences and applaud accomplishments. The impact of a father (grandfather, uncle, brother, etc.) on a girl's life in absolutely profound, yet all too many males simply don't know how to be a positive influence. Why? Usually because they're not aware of what a girl really needs in order to become a fulfilled adult female. Any man who genuinely cares about helping a little girl grow up to be all that she can be needs to read this book.

The days when fathers urged their daughters to "hide their light under a bushel" are (blessedly) over, and The Self-Empowered Woman can serve as an eye-opening introduction to the amazing things that little girls can grow up to do.

Finally, the five exercises at the end of each chapter are relatively gender free. Before the manuscript was sent to the printer I had three men read it carefully, and they each confessed that the questions touched areas of their own lives that needed to be reexamined. As to the question of how to persuade men to actually BUY the book, I only wish I were wise enough to know the answer. Perhaps untold numbers of wise women will give the book as a gift to the men in their lives...

Today's quiz is what do U.S. Army General Ann Dunwoody, jockey Julie Krone, TV journalist Lisa Ling, and writer Anna Quindlen have in common?

Still looking forward to your comments...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

9. Self-Empowered Rant

Dear Followers,

The book jacket is finally in a frame and Tony will place it near my other book jackets this afternoon. Seeing it on the wall makes it all the more real...

Started this morning (like every Sunday) with the NY Times and was very disturbed by the magazine cover story, which was titled "Why Women's Rights Are The Cause of Our Time." NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn have been at the forefront of calling attention to women's issues, particularly in other cultures. The magazine was full of statistics and articles about the problems that women (particularly in Africa and the Middle East) endure. For example, did you know that the United Nations has estimated that there are 5,000 "honor killings" a year, and the majority take place in the Muslim world?

There was also a moving article about a hero of mine, Shamsia (an eleven year old girl in Afganistan) who was walking to the Mirwais Mena School for Girls on the outskirts of Kandahar when she was attacked with acid by Taliban men who disapprove of education for females. Today, she has raised scars on her face and her eyes are too damaged for her to be able to read, but her illiterate mother and father supported her. In Shamsia's words, "My parents told me to keep coming to school even if I am killed." No wonder I never take a woman's accomplishments for granted!

Were you able to guess what model Janice Dickenson, recording artist Fergie, writer Jacqueline Mitchard and artist Louise Nevelson have in common? They, like so many high-achieving women, endured "Hard Times." Of course, the difficult situations most women face don't hold a candle to the challenges chronicled by Kristof in his new book "Half the Sky," they are still character building and mettle-testing.
Thanks for the comments...

Friday, August 21, 2009

8. Self-Empowered Woman Progress

Dear Followers,

Julie Powell referred to her blog readers as "bleaders" and acknowedged that their interest and support helped "Julie and Julia" become a success. Believe me, it really does make a difference (especially for someone accustomed to seeing her words on paper instead of a screen) to know that you are out there reading my words.

Here's today's quiz: do you know what model Janice Dickenson, recording artist Fergie, writer Jacqueline Mitchard and artist Louise Nevelson have in common?
I've got a long "to do" list for the weekend, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the new issue of Forbes Magazine to see whom they've chosen as the world's 100 most powerful women. Next on my list is getting a cover of THE BOOK framed and placed near my other book jackets.

Looking forward to hearing from you...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

7. Nancy Drew

Dear Followers,

All the necessary changes have been made to the manuscript and within days I should have a firm publishing date to share with you. Needless to say, I'm psyched!

A few months ago The New York Times ran an article about the importance of Nancy Drew books on Sandra Day O'Connor (Chapter Five of my book), Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor. Did you know that the Nancy Drew books were actually written by several different authors, but published under the collective name of Carolyn Keene? Were you a fan of Nancy Drew? Bookworm that I am, I must admit that I've never read a single Nancy Drew mystery because I was too interested in the real-life stories of non-fiction characters.
Were you able to figure out what Beyonce, cartoonist Cathy Guisewite, ballerina Darci Kistler and golfer Michelle McGann have in common? Each of these women were lucky enough to have someone in their life who believed in them, and we all need a mentor, a role model or (as I label it Chapter Four) "A Supportive Someone."
I'd love to hear your thoughts on Nancy Drew or on whoever in your life believed in you...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

6. Numbers and The Self-Empowered Woman

Dear Followers,

Today's question is: what do Beyonce, cartoonist Cathy Guisewite, ballerina Darci Kistler and golfer Michelle McGann have in common?

Everyone who knows me is well aware of my math phobia, but in spite of that shortcoming I found myself focusing on the numbers involved with this book project. They include:
  • Four amazing women profiled in each chapter
  • Five thought provoking exercises in each chapter
  • Ten amazing women (and their achievements) listed at the end of each chapter
  • 16 months from first dictating session till finished product
  • 17 traits and 17 chapters
  • 30+ years of paying really close attention
  • 137 books cited in bibliography
  • 238 women mentioned in the book
  • 297 manuscript pages

Just wanted to share with you a lovely email message I received from Casey Gauntt (I've known Casey and his wife Hilary since the early 1970s) who sent these words to help calm me down in the middle of one of my many mini-meltdowns. He wrote: "Fear can be a terrific motivator, but don't let yourself get twisted up by are too close to the finish line with your book, so please stay focused on that. And keep the faith."

Still looking forward to your comments...

Monday, August 17, 2009

5. Team Self-Empowered Woman

Dear Followers,

Well, the weekend is over and it's time to bring you up to date on the status of The Self-Empowered Woman. After a lot of howling and moaning (me) darling Tony once again rode to the rescue and spent all day Saturday emailing the "error" changes to Amazon's Booksurge. Much to our surprise (and delight) they answered and essentially said that they would have corrected proofs back to us by this time next week. Amazing!

Jacqueline Whitmore came over today to give me another blogging tutorial - I hope you'll like the changes. In the space for my photo I chose instead to insert a picture of Tony and me taken on one of our Boston trips. As I was reading Julie Powell's "Julie and Julia" I came across a passage that described Tony's importance to this project: "He was my partner. It occurred to me...that my husband was doing more than just enduring this crazy thing I'd gotten myself into, doing more than being supportive. I realized this was his Project too...he had become part of this thing. There would be no Project without him, and he would not be the same without the Project. I felt so married, all of a sudden, and so happy." Those of you who know us well know that Tony does all the typing, all the email retrieval, and all the nerve-soothing when I have one of my many frustration-fueled meltdowns.

Now to answer last blog's question: what do comedienne Sandra Bernhard, U.S. Olympic Softball Medalist Crystl Bustos, TV and movie writer/director Diane English, and actress Sandra Oh have in common?
These women all followed their own dream even when others (i.e., family) thought their lives should take a different direction.

Looking forward to your comments...

Friday, August 14, 2009

4. Production headaches of "The Self-Empowed Woman"

Dear Followers,

In an effort to make sure that The Self-Empowered Woman can go on sale in September I've spent the past week carefully rereading every word of the galleys sent to me by Amazon/Booksurge. By noon today (Friday) I was ready to throw all 297 pages out the window in frustration. Three other people proofread the manuscript before Tony and I typed in the last changes and yet on this latest go round I still found things that need to be changed.

This weekend's project will be deciding which mistakes were mine, which were theirs, and which ones don't really have to be altered. This production part of publishing is not nearly as much fun (for either me or for Tony) as the research.
For today's question, what do comedienne Sandra Bernhard, U.S. Olympic Softball Medalist Crystl Bustos, TV and movie writer/director Diane English, and actress Sandra Oh have in common?

One follower suggested that yesterday's women (Czechoslovakian tennis player Martina Hingis, Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, Canadian singer Anne Murray, and Italian film director Lina Wertmuller) all had lengthy names. Nice try, but no cigar. These achievers were lucky enough to identify their life goal or dream at a young age, which is a trait that can be really beneficial.

I started "dictating" the book on Mother's Day 2008 and finished twelve months later. Compulsive researcher that I am, however, I've continued to collect stories about additional high-achieving women, and now have over 100 additional names (like Sonia Sotomayor) to add to the 238 that already appear in the book.

Your comments are really welcome, and I look forward to our online conversations...