The Book Of Gutsy Women, written by Hillary Rodham Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, was published on October 1, 2019, and it is a timely piece of literature revolving around the timeless social issue of feminism. The book is filled with more than one hundred stories of resilient and courageous women, some familiar and some virtually unheard of, that are all included in the novel to inspire readers just the same. In the introduction of the book, Rodham Clinton writes that “it’s up to each of us to seek [heroes] out, tell their stories, and celebrate the women who inspire us every day—and then, even more important, to take their example to heart by finding our own unique way to make our mark on the world,” and it is safe to say that their goals were achieved through their writing.
I received the book as a Christmas gift from my father, with the message that he wanted me to read the stories of hard-working women who came before me so that I would see that I can go on to do anything. It took me about six weeks of consistently reading to get through the almost five hundred-page novel, and once I finished, I could safely say that it was well worth the time I spent reading it. It was a captivating novel from start to finish, one that simply inspired me and made me want to go out and do something incredible to change the world.
While the whole novel was worth the read and I would encourage anyone—man or woman—to read it, I want to zero in on four of the stories that inspired me and resonated with me the most. I especially connected with the lives and accomplishments of Margaret Chase Smith, Juliette Gordon Low, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and their stories were just a few of the ones that I instantly drew inspiration from.
Margaret Chase Smith:
Margaret Chase Smith’s section in the novel begins with an anecdote about how Rodham Clinton first heard about her, sharing that she learned about her achievements in the pages of a Life magazine. Smith was the first woman to ever serve in both houses of Congress and she even had a historic run for president in 1964. Despite her seemingly groundbreaking accomplishments, I could not remember a time I had heard her name nor her story, and as someone who loves politics, it immediately became one of my favorites.
Her first endeavors in politics came when she helped her husband, Clyde Harold Smith, campaign for a seat in the House of Representatives. He was elected, but after a few years and reelection, his health began to decline and he eventually passed away. Smith then won the special election to finish serving her husband’s term and was later reelected to remain in her Congress seat. After eight years in the House, she campaigned for a Senate seat for Maine and won, and went on to serve in the U.S. Senate until 1964 when she announced that she was running for president. Though she did not win her party’s nomination, the story of her resilient and hardworking spirit continues to inspire many, including myself. I loved getting to learn about such an interesting woman, and she is someone who I feel should be talked about more since her achievements helped pave the way for so many others.
Juliette Gordon Low:
Juliette Gordon Low was born in the mid-1800s in Savannah, Georgia. Later in her life, she took a trip to England and met the founder of the Boy Scouts, Lord Robert Baden-Powell. She learned that when the Boy Scouts organization was first created, many women tried to join, and Baden-Powell was planning to create a similar opportunity for those girls. So, Low joined forces with Baden-Powell and his sister, Agnes, to create said organization. Over a span of a few weeks, a group of eighteen girls began convening at Low’s house and learning skills like cooking, first aid, and bicycling.
When World War I began, Low and the Girl Scouts volunteered as ambulance drivers, rolled bandages, planted gardens, sold war bonds, and went so far as to step in as nurses during the Spanish flu epidemic. Low always felt that girls and women deserved to be educated and empowered the same way that men were, and her idea was a radical one at the time, but it paid off. Today, there are approximately 59 million women alive that were or currently are members of the Girl Scouts organization. Her legacy is one that has long outlasted her lifespan and will go on to continue shaping generations of girls to come.
While I was never personally a Girl Scout, her story was one that stuck with me, as her ideas were such cutting-edge concepts at the time and she never once backed down. She knew that women deserved the same education and opportunities as men, and she helped to form an organization that has taught just that and so much more for over a century and will continue to inspire girls in the future.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas:
As someone who was born and raised in Florida, and especially as someone who lived in and around the Everglades area for my whole life, I felt completely blindsided when I learned that I had never known the story of the woman who fought for the Everglades for much of her life. Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a name that I had heard before—my house was about twenty minutes from a high school named after her—yet I had never learned the story of her life and accomplishments. Her story began when her father published what would become the Miami Herald and she began writing for it, covering topics such as women’s rights, civil rights, and nature.
Douglas spent much time writing for different newspapers, and even writing her own essays, plays, and books. Later in her life, she dedicated her work to celebrating and preserving the Everglades. She believed that the Everglades was a vital, unique ecosystem that deserved to be protected, and after five years of writing and researching, she published a book called The Everglades: River of Grass in an effort to prove just that. After publishing her novel, she continued to advocate for the Everglades, taking on anyone who dared challenge her and her conservation of the wetlands.
Her story resonated especially with me since, after hearing her name sporadically throughout my life, it felt good to finally know about her work and how inspiring she was. My elementary and middle schools were both less than an hour from the Everglades, and I had even taken a field trip to Everglades National Park in fourth grade. It really astounded me that I had not learned about all of her efforts to preserve the wetlands that I had lived so close to, but I am glad that I learned now, as she is someone whose story will definitely stick with me in the future.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
A few months ago, in my English class, we watched a TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. At the time, her name did not mean much to me; it was just that of someone whose TED Talk I would watch and analyze, and then move on with my life. Instead, she has become one of the most inspirational women I can think of. Adichie was born in Nigeria in 1977 and worked very hard in school from a young age. She began noticing the racism and sexism that lived in the world and longed to make a difference in these issues.
She was a reader for as long as she could remember, but she did not read stories featuring “people like [her], girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails.” She realized that literature could include characters like her, and so she began to write about things that were significant to her and things that she recognized. She went on to earn a master’s in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University and then studied African history at Yale. She has written plays, books, short stories, and essays, and has spoken out on many social issues, like feminism, in an effort to make a positive impact on the world that she has been striving for since she was a child.
All of the work Adichie has accomplished in her life provides so much inspiration to me, as writing is something I enjoy and she was able to use her passion for writing to impact so many others. Now, instead of just a TED Talker that I watched in my English class, I know Adichie is much more and has worked hard to change the world. She is living proof that everyone has the chance to speak out on what is important to them and challenge the status quo, no matter if it is through actions or words, and I know that her achievements will continue to serve as an inspiration to me.
So, while I was obviously not able to cover every motivational woman written about in the book, this sampling shows how important it is for The Book Of Gutsy Women to be read. I wish I had known more about the women in the novel for much longer, but they now inspire me and keep me motivated to impact the world in my own way. Much growth has been made in the direction of making sure women are able to do whatever work they want and change the world however they choose, but there is always progress to be made.
I consider this book a must-read for anyone with aspirations for their future, and anyone who wishes to read the stories of the inspiring women who broke barriers and influenced the world around them. It is as timely now as ever, and there is no better time to push the limits of what “can and cannot” be done than now. The Book Of Gutsy Women is a wonderful, encouraging novel and I recommend it to anyone and everyone who wants to impact the world, no matter on what scale.
This story was originally published on Etched in Stone on February 28, 2020.