Thursday, February 18, 2010

49; The Self Empowered Woman: Lindsey Vonn

Dear Followers,

Today's amazing woman is 26 year old Lindsey Vonn, who yesterday became the first American woman to ever win Oylmpic Gold in downhill skiing. Like so many high achievers, Vonn has a variety of the 17 traits of Self-Empowered Women.

The story began when she was two years old and began skiing (2: An Early Sense of Direction). Her father, Alan Kildow, had been a national junior sky champion before a knee injury put an end to his career.

As a youngster, Vonn became part of renowned Austrian coach Erich Sailer's program and at age ten she met Omympic Gold Medal skier Picabo Street; both served as mentors and role models (4: Supportive Someone).

By the time Vonn was nine, she and Sailer travelled to Europe to train, and soon afterwards she won the North American Junior Champioship and the World Junior Championship (she was the first female to do so). Her father felt that she needed more challenging mountains than those in Minnesota, so at age 11 she and her mother moved to Vail, Colorado. Before she knew it, the family home had been sold and everyone was uprooted to join her in Vail.

By the time Vonn was 17, her brothers, sisters, and parents returned to Minnesota, which essentially meant that (as her mother told the New York Times, "...she had left home already" (14: Selective Disassociation). That was the same time that her parents divorced (1: No Paternal Safety Net).

In addition to all the family drama the teenage skiier was experiencing, her life was complicated when she began dating Thomas Vonn, a former Olympic skier who was almost a decade older. Her coaches were unhappy with her father's input, and her father was upset that she had fallen in live (as a teenager) with a man nine years her senior.

Ultimately, Vonn and her father became estranged and when Lindsey married Thomas, it was her grandfather who walked her down the aisle. She has not spoken to her father since 2006 (14: Selective Disassociation).

Vonn has had more than her share of physical challenges. At the 2010 Olympics her coaches worried about her shin injury, which healed only because warm weather delayed her events and gave her time to mend. But two days before the 2006 women's downhill in Turin, she fell during a practice run while skiing at 60 miles per hour. As she lay in her hospital bed her skin was darkly bruised from her shoulders to her hips and experts predicted that her back and pelvis had been broken and she would need several operations (11: Hard Times). Miraculously, no bones were broken, and Vonn insisted on "...starting a new chapter in my sky career."

From that time onward she began a vigorous training schedule, which included seven hour a day, six day a week workouts (8: Turning No's into Yes'). The 5' 10", 160 pound skier has proven to the world and to herself that determination can make dreams come true.

She told Bill Pennington "...I know that I've worked harder and prepared myself better than anyone (10: The Critic Within)...The Olympics are what I've wanted for myself all my life (7: Magnificent Obsession). Vonn really is America's Golden Girl for the 2010 Olympics.

Looking forward to your comments...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

48: The Self-Empowered Woman: Sade

Dear Followers,

Today's amazing woman is the recording artist Sade, born Helen Folasade Adu in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. Her father (Bisi Adu, a Nigerian lecturer in Economics) and her mother (Anne Hayes, an English nurse) met in London, moved to Nigeria, and separated when Sade was four years old (1: No Paternal Safety Net).

Sade and her older brother moved to England, and lived with their maternal grandparents and their mother. While in college (London's Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design), Sade sang backup vocals with a soul band named Pride. She signed her first record deal with Epic Records in 1983, and her 1984 debut album "Diamond Life" sold over 50 million albums.

This month, after a decade-long hiatus (5: Life Is Not a Popularity Contest), her tenth album "Soldier of Love" has just been released. Even though she has been out of the public eye for almost ten years, pre-order sales placed her new release at #2 on Amazon's sales chart.
Sade was married to Spanish film director Carlos Pliego until 1995, and her affair the following year (15: Forget About Prince Charming) with a Jamaican musician produced a daughter, Ila Adu. Since 2005, she and Ian Watts have lived together in the rural west country (Gloucestershire) of England.

During her 2002 tour, Sade's daughter travelled with the band, and she would put her daughter to bed each night before the concert began (16: Intensive Motherhood). These days, Sade's daughter (Ila, 13) can be heard as a backup singer on the song "Babyfather."

Sade's quarter of a century career (7: Magnificent Obsession) has allowed her to become the most successful solo female artist in British history!

Looking forward to your comments...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

47: The Self-Empowered Woman: Florence Nightingale

Dear Followers,

Today I'd like to share the story of a most unlikely Self-Empowered Woman. Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820 (in Florence, Italy), and died in her sleep on August 13, 1910 in London. During her lifetime she initiated the role of women as nurses, and profoundly improved conditions for soldiers in the UK and abroad.

Unlike most Self-Empowered Women, Florence Nightingale's father played both a supportive and a dependable role in her life. As an adult Nightingale was lucky enough to be the recipient of an annual income from her father of £500 a year, which would be about $50,000 in today's currency. And when she was younger, she was lucky enough to have a father who--unlike most parents of that era--believed that women should be educated. He personally taught her Italian, Greek, Philosophy, History, Writing and Mathematics. The latter would be particularly helpful to her when, as a health advocate, she became one of the first people to present her arguments using visual presentations, statistical graphics and pie charts.

In other ways, however, Nightingale possessed her fair share of SEW traits. Her decision, in 1845, to enter nursing incurred the intense anger and disapproval of her family, particularly her mother (17: Dreaming Your Own Dream).

And her love life appears to have been both complicated and chaste. She was courted by Richard Monckton Milnes, the first Baron Houghton, Sidney Herbert (who was married, but became a lifelong friend and mentor), and Benjamin Jowett (15: Forget About Prince Charming).

Both in England in 1837, and while in Egypt in 1850, she confessed to feeling "called to God," and watching the deaconesses and Pastor Theodor Fliedner, who worked for the sick and deprived for Kaiserswerth-am-Rhein she felt that the experience was "a turning point in her life" (3: Befief in the Unbelievable).

Thanks to Nightingale (known as "The Lady With the Lamp" because she visited and cared for the injured soldiers at night) the death rates for the wounded during the Crimean War dropped from 40% to 2%, primarily because of her impact on improved sanitation and better living conditions.

Nightingale endured a nervous breakdown and was often bedridden and suffered from severe depression (12: Hard Times). And even though she paved the way for women everywhere to have more opportunities, she had little patience for those who adhered to the traditional, restrictive female roles (5: Life is Not a Popularity Contest).

In addition to her work in the field of health, Nightingale was a prolific author, and her honors, statues, and namesake hospitals serve as reminders of the profound contributions she made during her lifetime. The annual International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on May 12, her birthday.

Looking forward to your comments...