I grew up in a tiny Indiana town where generations of families either worked their farmland or found employment in the area factories for union wage. You knew the names of almost everyone in the community and also knew their “business.” As in cities large and small, there were classes of citizens, from the bank president to the school janitor. You held a position and it was there you stayed.
In the summer, we rode our bikes for miles to the local swimming pool, or dropped them at the side of the road to explore the woods, often ending our days watching the boys play little league. Yes, these were the years that girls watched, boys played. Even though those years hold so many good memories, I was a young girl who was filled with discontentment. I wanted more than the small town. I believed there was a big world out there and my heart burned to discover it. I desired a life of adventure and purpose, neither of which I felt was in the town where my family lived.
It was in middle school (when I was still too young to hop in a car to explore the great unknown) that I discovered my love for reading. The library in our city was a magnificent place, and for me, it was the site to gain inspiration that I could become more than my circumstances dictated. It was there that I planted myself in the biographical aisle, choosing the stories of women before me. The stories of those who in some way changed history, fought for justice, and impacted the world that was theirs.
I think these ladies were not only inspiring then but are still worth quoting today. To celebrate Women’s History Month, I have pulled a few quotes from these brilliant women whose lives epitomized grit and grace. Their sayings carried through decades are genuinely just as relevant now.
“There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it, for if I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard.”
In 1905, Madame C.J. Walker was the inventor of a line of African-American hair care products, the first to be introduced in this country. As a successful businesswoman, she eventually became one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. I didn’t realize how vital hair care products were to the black culture until I tried to manage the curly locks of my grandson. There is no wonder she became a millionaire! She showed us that hard work was the key to success, just as it is now.
To celebrate Women’s History Month, I have pulled a few quotes from magnificent women whose lives epitomized grit and grace.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.”
The story of Helen Keller has always intrigued me. She lost her sight and her hearing when she was only a year old, yet she became the first deaf and blind person (person, not just woman) to receive a Bachelor of Arts. With all she had against her success, it is surprising that she chooses to credit optimism for her many achievements. This is true in our lives even today. Want to embrace optimism? Don’t miss this episode of our podcast This Grit and Grace Life: The Benefits of Optimism in the Grit and Grace Life – 025
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity.”
You have probably heard of this lady. Amelia Earhart was an American pilot and the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean. And not only did she do it once—in 1932 she was the first person to fly across the Atlantic twice. I think the decisions I sometimes make are difficult, but deciding to fly across the Atlantic alone is a whole new level of grit! But she did, and it was tenacity that carried her across that vast ocean. Deciding is always our starting place. Struggling with a decision in your grit and grace life? This episode will prepare you to act! How to Make Decisions (Even the Hard Ones) – 076
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”
Marie Curie was a chemist, physicist, and the first woman to receive a Nobel prize. The Nobel was awarded to Curie first for her discovery of polonium, a static-eliminating chemical that is used today in our hairbrushes, and radium, which we know to be an element used in the treatment of cancer. Not only did she earn one Nobel Prize, but this lady earned two! Born in 1867 as a woman in a man’s world, self-confidence and belief in oneself was an absolute must! Just as it is today.
“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”
I am not a fan of opera, but I am a fan of Beverly Sills. An American opera singer, she made her operatic debut in 1947 at the Philadelphia Civic Opera, but it was not until 1955 that she finally achieved her dream of singing with the New York City Opera. This appearance propelled her career as one of the foremost sopranos of her time. She was the epitome of trying until she finally succeeded. A reminder that no matter what, we have to try.
“If my critics saw me walking over the Thames, they would say it was because I couldn’t swim.”
One of my all-time favorite ladies of history, Margaret Thatcher, served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. She battled in nearly everything she did, and was ridiculed for the changes she wanted to make to the policies of her country. Policies that proved successful, too: reversing the high unemployment and economic struggles that plagued the everyday worker. Another quote of hers I think worth adding is this: “You have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” A true inspiration to fight your battles even in the midst of the nay-sayers.
“Be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
My all-time favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz, starred the young Judy Garland. Star of the stage and screen, she became a movie icon. But she was also an actress who was used by an industry, which caused her great heartache. She had challenges in relationships and life but learned that it was imperative that she be the best of exactly who she was, no one else. An understanding that each of us should daily declare, “I will be the first-rate version of me.”
“What you do makes a difference. And you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
Not only did she protect the chimpanzees, but Jane Goodall also led the way in helping us understand the beauty of protecting the world God gave us. Her study began with the Kasakela chimpanzee community in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania in 1960. But this lady not only conducted scientific research, but she also gave the chimpanzees names, like Fifi and David Graybeard! What’s not to love about that! Ours may not be the path to live with chimpanzees (although it could be fun), but we can make a difference in this world. It is just upon us to decide what exactly that difference will be.
There are so many more women of history who can inspire, who can make us believe in ourselves. Listen to their words, read their stories, then start your adventure. It may be in the lives of your family, your community, your country, or your culture. Whether it’s in the small town you live or crossing the equator to adventures in lands you have never seen, find your purpose, then make your mark. Be encouraged: ladies before us have done it. We can too.