Inspiration February 17, 2017
When you watch reruns of Oprah’s show or witness the flood of love for anything Beyoncé, you can’t help but feel like these fearless women are too accomplished to be real. But enough admiring them from afar – it’s time to act.
Yes, the successful people you read about are doing amazing things, but you also have the ability, the brains and the passion to make your own mark on the world. You just need the inspiration. That’s where these five women come into play.
From turning cancer lemons into comedic lemonade to flying an airplane, these five women will help you channel your inner badass.
Despite being a black woman in early 20th century Alabama, Zora Neale Hurston was a defiant academic. She went to school to become an anthropologist and studied African folklore. But academia wasn’t the only field she dabbled in. Hurston also wrote several fiction novels, the most famous of which is “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”
All of these accomplishments fit in with her artsy lifestyle during the Harlem Renaissance, during which she joined forces with other African-American writers such as Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman. What was absolutely impressive, however, was Hurston’s dedication to her beliefs, even if her opinions were unpopular. Because she was a black woman, it was assumed Hurston automatically supported the Brown v. Board of Education ruling during the 1950’s. But sometimes complicated humans don’t behave the way we want them to. Hurston got severe backlash for her criticism of desegregation, which she argued was “insulting.”
Tig Notaro is a prime example of how to turn that frown upside-down. Ok, maybe not upside-down completely, but this astute comedian – who revels in all the awkward pauses – is famous for her unique reinterpretation of the frown.
This kickass woman has experienced multiple heartbreaks in her life. While fighting a severe infection, she suddenly lost her mother. Soon after, she went through a breakup. On top of all that, Notaro was diagnosed with stage two cancer in both breasts.
At this point, it would’ve been very easy to give up. Nobody would fault you for despairing after life hits you that hard. But instead of giving up, Tig Notaro wrote the best stand-up routine of her career. Her set, first performed at the Largo, was an honest look at her feelings, fears and, at the time, her impending death. Everyone listening to her monotone and halted delivery loved every uncomfortable minute.
In November 2015, Notaro wrote and released a semi-autobiographical show on Amazon called “One Mississippi,” which chronicled her life following her mother’s death. The show received positive reviews, with Rolling Stone calling it a “brilliant series” and celebs like Sarah Silverman recommending the show to their fans. “One Mississippi” was renewed for its second season, which will premier sometime this year.
This British-born aviator, racehorse trainer and artist (how’s that for a resume?) represented a class of women little known in the early twentieth century. Markham took the opportunities she was given to live the way she wanted. Having grown up in Kenya, Markham has many adventures in the Great Rift Valley as a child.
Aside from being a famous Kenyan pilot and one of the first bush pilots, Markham loved horses and was quite successful at racing and training them. In 1936, she became the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean from east to west and was a certified racehorse trainer at age 18. In 1942, Markham penned a memoir – called “West with the Night” – which detailed her many adventures as a child living in Africa and as an aviator.
READ MORE: #WomenThatDid: Amelia Earhart
Despite all odds and predication, in 2015 Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver became the first women to pass the Army Ranger Program. Not only is this the hardest military program in the country, but it’s also dominated by men. Later that year, Captain Griest once again made history by becoming the Army’s first female infantry officer.
Their graduation from the program showed that women could power through just as many physical demands as men. These two women, surrounded by their ninety-four male classmates, are the ultimate example of girl power.
Charlene Carruthers has worked her whole life to promote black queer feminism. Carruthers is the national director for BYP 100, a black youth empowerment organization that seeks justice and freedom for all black people. She helps lead black millennial activists in the fight for economic justice and racial equality.
Carruther’s work also focuses on creating systematic societal changes to improve the lives of black Americans, all the while focusing her activism through an inclusive point of view, which involves trans and queer issues. If your passion is creating a country devoid of inequality and racism, Carruthers is your kind of black queer feminist.
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