First Lady Michelle Obama once said, “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” Her astute observation certainly applies to the female LifeBook Memoirs authors whose stories we have been privileged to write.
The month of March brings two dates that are close to our hearts at LifeBook Memoirs: World Book Day on 2nd March and International Women’s Day on 8th March. World Book Day aims to inspire a love of reading in children and young people with great books and stories, and, in so doing, to improve their life chances. Similarly, International Women’s Day hopes to improve the lives of women across the world by, among other objectives, celebrating their achievements.
At LifeBook Memoirs, good stories matter to us, and so many of the life stories we hear come from truly amazing women. We would like to celebrate their stories and their achievements today.
Here are just a few of the things that our amazing female authors have done:
Given birth to children
Raised children alone
Worked while raising children
Cleaned, washed, gardened, shopped, cooked … the list goes on
Escaped from Nazi-occupied Germany and USSR-occupied Poland
Survived Nazi-occupied France
Run Scout, Guide, Brownie, and Cub groups
Launched successful businesses
Managed drama schools
Taught children to play
Taught children to read
Campaigned for safer roads
Campaigned against apartheid
Traveled the world alone
Got married twice
Got married a third time
Tried marriage a fourth time
Survived crippling childhood illnesses
Cared for neglected children in Romanian orphanages
Started support centres for rape victims
Counseled AIDS sufferers
Worked on ChildLine
Worked as nurses
… pop stars
… social workers
… the first women in ‘male’ professions
Narrowly avoided being blown up by doodlebugs
Overcame limited education
Taught women a trade in Zambia
Taught in schools, colleges, and universities
Completed higher degrees as mature students
Joined the army
Mended army trucks
Drove army trucks
We could go on … !
As you can see, our female authors have overcome grave difficulties just to survive and succeed. They have held significant positions in society and accomplished a great many impressive feats. Equally if not more striking, though, is the number of amazing things that women do which are not what the world generally considers to be ‘spectacular’ or even particularly important. At LifeBook Memoirs, however, we value very highly women’s stories of raising and loving children, of ‘holding the fort’ at home, and of being a woman during times of social, educational, and workplace inequity.
We particularly love to hear stories about women’s experiences back in the days when they were young. Tales abound of 1940s medical treatments, 1950s petticoats, 1960s bouffants, early automatic washing machines, lavatory arrangements in colonial Africa, the fact that only men could sign instalment plan agreements on new stoves in the 1970s …
The lives of our female authors span 100 years of enormous social change, and, for some, this has been quite poignant. Colleen Witkin, in her book, Being Oneself, describes working as a model in the 1950s and observes that,
“I was ‘just’ a model and a pretty face. Not only did other people think I had nothing in my head, but I think I felt that about myself as well.” Many years later, with some difficult times behind her but some widening horizons for women ahead of her, she built a successful professional career for herself, and, in so doing, demonstrated that she is far from being ‘just’ a pretty face.
Colleen’s story is one of many we’ve encountered that reveal so much about how women have changed the world and how much expectations and ambitions have grown. Successful businesswoman, teacher, and current LifeBook Memoirs author LDM is, she says, writing her book for her granddaughter and great-granddaughters because she wants them to know that “The world is their oyster.” If, she says, they don’t wait around for “Prince Charming to rush in and save them or support them, then they will be happy, independent, free women!”
One day in the future, LDM’s great-granddaughters and the future relatives of every woman who has ever sat down to write her LifeBook Memoir might open up their forebears’ life stories and start reading them. Inside the covers, they will discover that the person they thought of as just a little old woman was, in fact, a vibrant, lively, clever, and resilient person with a life crammed full of all the struggles, countless small acts of love, and rich experiences that make an amazing woman. Everybody has an interesting story, LDM says, and everybody should write it down.
Written by Kate Parry, LifeBook Memoirs editor
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