I've found this to be something of a women's month for me, reading articles and watching tv shows about feisty, tenacious women.
First up, from Germany, Amalie Noether who Einstein called "the most significant and creative" female mathematician of all time. What did she do? From the NY Times:
She invented a theorem that united with magisterial concision two conceptual pillars of physics: symmetry in nature and the universal laws of conservation. Some consider Noether’s theorem, as it is now called, as important as Einstein’s theory of relativity; it undergirds much of today’s vanguard research in physics, including the hunt for the almighty Higgs boson.
It wasn't just that she was a great mathematician but she did it during a time when most German universities didn't have women enrolled and she was "a Jewish pacifist in the midst of the Nazis' rise to power."
Next, women in elective office from the great state of Washington. These women were highlighted in a recent article in the NY Times entitled, "What Gender Gap? Washington State Has a History of Women Who Lead." I love the lead paragraph:
It was 2009, floods had inundated western Washington and the state’s politicians were flown up to survey the damage. When asked who would scoot down to the open end of the C-17 cargo plane, where they would have to be tethered down for safety, Gov. Christine Gregoire and Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray volunteered.
As Ms. Cantwell tells it, the men declined.
“Everybody thinks that the macho men would do that,” Ms. Cantwell said. “But it was the three of us willing to go back there.”
There's a long history of strong women in Washington state:
When Ms. Cantwell, Ms. Murray and Ms. Gregoire reflect on how their state became comfortable with female politicians, they hesitate to mention the pioneer women who traveled to the Northwest by wagon (“That would leave out the strong women of Maine,” Ms. Murray said) and note that women lead many Northwest Indian tribes.
And finally from the PBS American Masters series are profiles of women authors who each only wrote one classic American novel - Margaret Mitchell who wrote Gone with the Wind and Harper Lee who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.
Mitchell was a Southern belle but with ideas of her own. Mitchell (and Lee) had been writing since childhood. She set on the road to writing GWtW when her second husband said, "For God's sake, Peggy, can't you write a book instead of reading thousands of them?" Everyone needs a push.
It was frustrating to learn that she had refused to attend a class at Smith College with a black classmate but in later life secretly paid for scholarships for black medical students at Morehouse College.
Harper Lee, also a Southerner, wrote To Kill a Mockingbird 50 years ago. It has sold nearly a million copies a year since it was published and is widely used in American classrooms. Lee finished writing her novel when good friends gave her a year's salary so she could stop waitressing and write.
One of her closest childhood friends was writer Truman Capote. Just as she finished To Kill a Mockingbird for her publisher, she then helped her friend do research in Kansas for his book, In Cold Blood.
Both women operated in their own fashion despite the norms of their time for women. Both won the Pulitzer Prize.
These are women for girls to look up to for inspiration and courage.