According to ancient Irish lore, the oak tree is a symbol of strength, grace, and wisdom. It has roots that run deep and limbs that reach high. If cut down, an oak tree can regenerate.
This Week’s Blog
Strong Women Past and Present Reaches 6000 Followers
Our sister page, Strong Women Past and Present https://www.facebook.com/pages/Strong-Women-Past-and-Present/1599708640256438 just reached over 6000 followers. The page has been running for four months. More than 100 profiles of strong women have been posted on the page. Here are some interesting facts about the site:
96 % of the followers are women, 4% are men (up from 3% last month). 87% are 24 or younger. The majority of followers are from India. A fair number also come from Afghanistan, Mexico, the U.S., and a few from other Middle Eastern and Northern European countries.
It is encouraging to learn that so many young people are interested in issues related to gender equality. I am also encouraged that a growing number of young men are visiting the site.
To determine what characteristics of strong women were particularly important to followers, the top 20% of the posts were identified and then a content analysis was completed. The top 20% of posts reached more than the median distribution in any seven day posting period and also had at least 5% of those reached “liking” and / or commenting on the post.
These posts featured women from eleven different countries and spanning 17 centuries. Some posts featured fairly young women. Other profiles featured elder women.
The content analysis suggested the following common characteristics were evident in the majority of profiles:
1. Lives / lived with a singular focus / purpose
2. Advocated for women’s and /or human rights
3. Demonstrated a high value for education
4. Took personal risks, were imprisoned for taking a stand, or were threatened because of their work
5. Most of these women demonstrated what some call “servant” leadership in that they worked collaboratively to serve and empower others rather than to gain power for themselves.
The following women’s names were included in the top 20% of profiles and shared most of the above characteristics:
Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949), Wangari Muta Maathai (1940-2011), Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880), Betty Friedan (1921-2006), Margaret Cousins (1878-1954), Suraya Pakzad (1970-), Harriet Tubman (1822-1913), Malala Yousafzai, Angelina Grimke (1805-1879), Shaban Basij-Rasikh, Oprah Winfrey, Jasvinder Sanghera (1965-), Sima Samar (1957-), Gloria Steinem (1934-), Elizabeth Blackwell (1920-1910), and Pooja Taparia.
The following women’s names were also among the top 20% but are better known as women who became “firsts” or who defied strict gendered roles when they followed their dreams or took a stand against gendered oppression:
Juana Ines de la Cruz (1652-1695), Marie “Madame” Curie (1867-1934), Mariam Al Mansouri, Valentina Tereshkova, Eileen Collins, Hypatia (370-415 A.D.), Anita Hill, and Reyhana Jebbari*.
*Reyhana Jebbari was an Iranian woman who was hanged for allegedly killing the man she accused of raping her. Comments expressed sorrow and outrage. Interestingly, the profile post simply disappeared about a month after it was posted.
Each of these inspirational women have been recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. They have shown us that women have the power to change the world.
Only seventeen-years-old, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to ever be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. She is also only the sixteenth female out of ninety-five winners to be honored with this prestigious award. She has courageously championed education for all girls and has truly become the voice of the voiceless.
Wangari Muta Maathai (1940-2011) was an environmentalist, a political activist, and a woman’s rights advocate. She was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Reportedly she was also the first woman from the East and Central regions of Africa to ever receive a doctorate degree.
Shirin Ebadi, J.D. (1947-) is an educator, attorney, writer, and activist who received the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her persistent efforts advocating for democracy, human rights, and the rights of women and children. She is the first Muslim woman and the first Iranian to receive this prize.
Leymah Gbowee (1972- )is a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient for leading an interfaith women’s peace movement that helped bring an end to a Liberian civil war in 2003. Reaching both Muslim and Christian women, Gbowee rallied women to come together and peacefully pray and peacefully protest for peace. Gbowee and those who supported this peace movement distributed flyers among women that read: “We are tired! We are tired of our children being killed! We are tired of being raped! Women, wake up –you have a voice in the peace process!”
What do all of these and many other strong women have in common (below)? They all recognize how important education is for women and girls.
Shabana Basij-Rasikh grew up in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Girls were not allowed to get an education. With the encouragement of her parents, she risked her life by secretly attending school in private homes. Today she is helping provide an education for other Afghanistan women.
Wu Qing is a retired Chinese professor who runs a rural school for women.
Marian Al Mansouri, the first female fighter pilot in the United Arab Emirates has a degree in English literature.
Elizabeth Blackwell (1820-1910) was the first woman in the United States to earn a medical degree. She applied to 29 different medical schools and was denied because of her sex. Finally she was accepted into a program at Geneva Medical School.
Malala Yousafzai, a 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner has risked her life championing education for all girls. She has become the voice for the voiceless.
Valentina Tereshkova was a Russian Cosmonaut and the first woman to ever travel in space. Though she came from humble beginnings, she earned a doctorate in engineering.
Eileen Collins, the first U.S. woman to command a space shuttle earned a mathematics and economics degree from Syracuse University.
Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful women in the world. She has a degree in Speech and Performing Arts. She is a strong advocate for education. She is quoted as saying, “Education is the way to move mountains, to build bridges, to change the world.”
Strong women value education. They know it gives them power and they know how important it is to help other women find that power. If you want to be a strong woman, seek an education. Then help other women find that same power.
If you have access to the Internet, you have access to an education. Many excellent courses are now available for free through MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses). In the United States, an often overlooked educational resource is the community college – a much less expensive option for lower division courses than going directly to a university.
Many women who have come before us have found a way to get the knowledge they need to become strong women–women who make a difference in this world for others.
Help create a global scrapbook of strong, courageous women. Please follow the link below to the Strong Women, Past and Present Facebook Page.
- Free Disciplines of Strong Women Poster Download
- Disciplines of Strong Women Blog
- Resources for Strong Women
We are the daughters, the sisters, the mothers, the grandmothers, the aunts, the mentors, the teachers, or the elder women in our communities. We have a world of opportunities to make a lasting impact on the lives of others within our spheres of influence. Yet many of us have had our voices silenced at some point in our lives. It is time for us to take back our power and show the world we are indeed strong women.
Strong women take care of themselves. They speak up when they have concerns. They do not allow others to tell them what they think or what they believe. They also advocate for others and help empower others.
It takes discipline to become a strong woman. I invite you to join me as we explore and practice the disciplines of strong women together.
No Longer Silenced but Strong
I suspect most women know what it means to be silenced. Some women are silenced simply because they are female; in some settings, ideas coming from women are often not given as much weight as those coming from men. Being female may mean our voices are discounted.
More often than not, women who have experienced some kind of abuse or violence have been threatened into silence or shamed into silence.
Women who have been silenced often lose confidence in their own voices. Sometimes they can no longer even find their own words.
As a communication educator, I have had a lot of women students over the years who experienced so much silencing in their lives that they simply didn’t think they had any words of their own.
As a woman who grew up in a time when gendered roles were very strongly defined, I understand how silencing works. I know how threats can silence and how shame can silence. I know what it is like to almost completely lose my own words and thoughts – to be at a point where others would speak for me because I could no longer speak for myself.
Today I am a strong woman. I refuse to be silenced. I know that my voice needs to be heard if I am going to make a difference within my sphere of influence.
I believe your voice needs to be heard as well. Let us show the world that we are strong women!