Throughout history we observe women who have used their strengths, gifts and talents for a greater purpose – all with individual strengths, all with personal weaknesses. Each with a divine purpose. Let’s take a brief carriage ride through history and meet some of the women who exemplified qualities that God used in great and lasting ways.
Creativity. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) is recognized as one of the greatest poets of the nineteenth century. Peggy Anderson writes of her in Great Quotes from Great Women, “Emily Dickinson lived intensely, finding in her books, her garden, and friends the possibilities of rich experience and fulfillment.” After Emily’s death, over a thousand poems were discovered in her desk. She is estimated to have written a total of more than eighteen hundred poems, several hundred of which are considered to be among the finest ever composed by an American poet. Oddly enough, only a small number were published during her lifetime. Yet Emily’s gift remains with us to this day, as she says in her own words: “The poet lights the light and fades away. But the light goes on and on.”
Leadership. Born in 1820 as a slave in Maryland, Harriet Tubman escaped to Pennsylvania and to freedom in 1849. She earned enough money to return to the South and led her sister and her two children to freedom. Carrying a long rifle, she continued making trips back and forth from the South to the North, leading an estimated three hundred people to freedom along the secret network of safe houses dubbed the “Underground Railroad.” She became known as “Moses” to her people as she led them out of slavery to a better place. After the Civil War, Harriet opened a home for the aged and raised funds for schools for former slaves. She later worked with her friend Susan B. Anthony in the New England Suffrage Association. The impact of her love, courage, and leadership remains an example for us all.
Resourcefulness. During her high school years, Fannie Farmer (1857-1915) suffered paralysis from a stroke, causing her to discontinue her education. After her recovery she worked as a “mother’s helper” and acquired a keen interest in cooking. Resourceful and determined, she went on to study cooking at the Boston Cooking School, where she eventually became the director. She was the first person to institute the use of exact measurements in recipes, thereby guaranteeing more reliable results. In her lifetime she wrote numerous books and opened her own cooking school. Certainly all women can thank Miss Farmer for her lasting contribution to the science of cooking!
Compassion. Clara Barton was known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” during the Civil War. She established several free schools during the war and organized her own band of volunteers to distribute supplies to the battlefields, often driving a four-mule wagon team into the fields herself. After the war she set up a records bureau to help families searching for missing soldiers. Later Clara founded a military hospital in Europe during the Franco-Prussian War and was decorated with the Iron Cross for her services. It was in Europe that she first learned about the International Red Cross, inspiring her to organize an American branch in 1881. Today more than one million American Red Cross volunteers help millions of people each year.
Perseverance. Helen Keller showed us how to persevere and overcome great odds. Born in 1880, a severe illness left her unable to see or hear. But through the patient and persistent instruction of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, Helen went on to learn to read, write, and speak. She studied French and Greek at Radcliffe College and graduated in 1904. At the age of twenty-six she published her life story and became a well-known public figure and humanitarian. In her lifetime she lectured in over twenty-five countries and received several awards of great distinction. “It gives me a deep, comforting sense that things seen are temporal and things unseen are eternal.” Certainly her incredible accomplishments epitomize human potential in the face of adversity.
Mental fortitude. Marie Curie was a Polish-born French scientist who, along with her husband, Pierre, experimented extensively with uranium radiation. In 1903 the couple shared the Nobel Prize for physics with Henri Becquerel, making Marie the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize. After Pierres death in 1906, Marie continued her research and succeeded her husband as a professor of physics at the University of Paris. In 1911 she received a second Nobel Prize in chemistry, making her the first person to receive two Nobel Prizes. Not only were her discoveries helpful to mankind, but her example laid the groundwork for women in the field of science.
Determination. Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She first took up aviation as a hobby, and after a series of record flights, she made a solo transatlantic flight from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, to Ireland. In 1937 she attempted the first round-the-world flight traveling close to the equator. She took off on July 1 from New Guinea headed toward Rowland Island in the Pacific, but her plane vanished. A naval search found nothing, and it was eventually decided that she had been lost at sea. Although her death was a mystery, her courage and determination were unquestioned.
Physical strength. Mildred “Babe” Didrickson Zaharias was named “the greatest woman athlete of the first half of the twentieth century” by the Associated Press in 1950. During her high school years she excelled in basketball, which led to playing sports in the Amateur Athletics Union (AAU). She later took up track and field and again excelled, winning gold medals in javelin and 80-meter hurdles and a silver medal in high jump in the 1932 Olympic Games. Next Babe took up golf, winning an unprecedented seventeen consecutive golf tournaments and becoming the first American to win the Women’s British Open. Her success helped to open the door for women athletes in a wide variety of professional sports.
These women and many more offer a picture of inspiration for each of us. God has equipped each of us for a unique purpose in this world. It may be using our gifts behind the scenes or it may be doing something that all the world will see – either way, let’s use our gifts and talents to bless and strengthen others.
This is an excerpt from The Power of a Positive Woman