There are many forms of inspiration that I relate to in some fashion or form. I have mentioned some of my favorite fictional women in an earlier blog Breaking the Trope. Yet life changing heroines are not limited to fantasy.
Growing up, I loved learning about women who were the first of their kind and led the rest of humanity into a brighter future through knowledge and awareness. With my passion for animals and the natural world, it is no wonder that known names like Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey found a commonplace on my tongue. These young women fearlessly faced the unknown. Their respective research of chimpanzees and gorillas led to world-changing knowledge and conservation efforts.
Earlier still are fierce women who rose above the predominant male influences of their times. For example, Hatshepsut wore the dress, crowns, and false beard of male pharaohs during her twenty-two-year rule of Egypt. Pharaoh Hatshepsut commissioned hundreds of temples, monuments and sculptures to memorialize her reign. She never remarried so not to lose her status as sole ruler.
Freydis, the illegitimate daughter of Eric the Red, shared her father’s fierce temperament during the Viking excursions to Vinland—the New World. When her colony was attacked by native Indians, many male Vikings fled. Freydis lunged out of her household. Swinging a sword in hand and screaming a war cry, she rallied the men to fight by her example.
Of course, I must mention the bloody war between two huge European superpowers—Mary Queen of Scotts and Elizabeth I, Queen of England. Both women claimed rights to the same lands by their royal bloodlines and represented the parallel holy war between Catholics and Protestants. Although Mary chose to strategically wed in order to secure her claims and life, she lost out to her cousin, Elizabeth. The surviving party ruled England and Ireland for forty-four years. Elizabeth refused her male suitors and is known as the Virgin Queen. The story of these two women is like a living, breathing chess match with the highest possible stakes.
Even today valiant women rise against odds that would be deemed fictitious if it wasn’t for proof of their colorful tales. Maria Toorpakai is one such women. In her book, A Different Kind of Daughter, you learn about her struggle to grow up in a small tribal area in Waziristan. A gifted athlete, she overcame traditional Muslim restrictions and gender inequality by passing as male for eight years. Cutting off her hair and dressing in pants and shirts, she was free to express herself and enter sports competitions. As a teenager, she ended the pretense and became the first Pakistani girl to compete in squash at the international level. Her story grew more serious when the Taliban targeted her and her family deeming her a threat to their radicalistic beliefs. Her continued bravery and commitment to her passion makes her a perfect example of the female role model.
In a world with so many inspirational people, it is easy for me to write about characters who embody bravery, tenacity, and the drive to be exactly who they are meant to be. So, who is your role model?