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...