by Nancy Northcott
As I started to think of blog topics, I gravitated toward English history. I've loved it since I saw a (highly fictionalized, I now realize) story called "When Knighthood Was in Flower" on The Wonderful World of Disney many years ago. There are a lot of choices, and a lot of attractive time periods. I finally settled, though, on strong women in history, not just English history. In romance, we like to think of "Happily Ever After," or the "HEA" ending. Most of these women didn't ever get that, but they more than fit the image in Helen Reddy's hit, "I Am Woman."
We could start with the Amazons. Loving Greek mythology led me to Wonder Woman comic books and thence to the warrior women of ancient Greece. They were my first clue that women could, as the saying goes, "kick butt and take names." An episode of the PBS program Secrets of the Dead used DNA sampling to trace the Amazons' descendants to the Mongolian steppes. Way cool, what they can do these days, huh? I just wish we knew more about the Amazons' culture.
We do know a little more about their later, British counterpart, Boadicea (or Boudicca), who very nearly kicked the mighty Roman Empire out of Britain. A gorgeous statue honoring her stands on the City side of Westminster Bridge in London. A television movie about her, starring the fabulous Alex Kingston, aired a while back. I've heard debates about the historical accuracy, but it made for interesting TV.
After Boadicea came that greatest of British Tough Babes, Elizabeth I, Glorianna herself. As a young woman, she was savvy enough to walk the fine line of not discouraging Thomas Wyatt's plot to supplant Queen Mary, yet managed not to supply anything that could be used as evidence to send her to the block, something Mary very much seemed to want at times. If I could, I'd ask her how she knew just where that deadly line lay.
Elizabeth managed to hold the throne, keep a council of male advisors from forgetting who actually ruled, and marshall sufficient forces to defeat (with a little help from the weather), the mighty Armada of Spain. At the time, the King of Spain was her former brother-in-law, Phillip II. She sent the first English colony into the New World (right here in North Carolina) and kept religious controversy from tearing her realm apart. I see Queens Anne and Victoria and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as all being cut from Elizabeth I's cloth. Unfortunately, Elizabeth had to choose between her throne and her heart. Which was probably a good thing. I mean--can you see Essex as King of England? Makes me shudder!
If we cross the Atlantic, there's Pocahontas, who helped build a bridge between the Powhatans and the strange people who came from across the ocean. She married an Englishman and went with him to England, only to die there, but she had the courage to step outside her world and explore something completely different. A couple of centuries later, another Native American woman, Sacagawea, left her world to lead Lewis and Clark across the continent. I'd love to ask them why they did it, and to ask the rest of the women in this post how they persevered to accomplish what they did.
One of my greatest childhood heroes was Helen Keller, who had to overcome so many disadvantages and proved that a person could be great without sight or hearing. Anne Sullivan rightly deserves to be called "The Miracle Worker" because her perseverance unlocked Helen's doors, but Helen walked through those doors and became a symbol of hope for so many people.
Without Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Romance Bandits might not be able to vote yet. Rosa Parks's courage became a beacon for people across the nation, and Bessie Coleman proved African American women could take to the sky. Coleman was the first African American, male or female, to earn a pilot's license. She died practicing for a stunt show in the 1920s.
All these women roared, each in her own way and some louder than others. Who are the women in history you most admire? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?