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 (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/21/books/21change.html?_r=1)

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...