Two Inspiring Young Women

November 1, 2009

Just this week, I’ve heard two stories about two young women – both age 12 – who are truly inspiring.

The first is Dorothy Dark, who creates original headbands and sells them at a boutique in Nashville, Tenn. They’re going for $8-$12, folks. She’s 12. What a talent, and what an entrepreneur.

The second is a young woman who may be about 14 by now, but the story I learned about her concerns her life when she was 12 and 13. She was making a movie, and not just any move, but a feature-length film – about zombies. Emily Hagins’ story is told in the documentary Zombie Girl – and it follows her through two years of filmaking. She was 12 when she did this, folks. Twelve. As in – in middle school. And this is no ordinary feature-length pre-teen zombie movie. It’s the Real Deal. Makup. Slates (“action”), film-editing, sound boom. The works.  (With lots of help from Mom and Dad and her schoolmates. And the local IGA, until the zombies left a trail of blood behind after the filming – but we won’t talk about that.) What’s more, she won a $1000 Texas Filmmaker’s Production Grant that helped her family recoup some of the funds they had put into the film. It took her two years to create the film before Pathogen premiered to a sold-out crowd in her hometown of Austin, Tex.

I really loved the documentary about the making of her film, because it showed her passion for filmmaking, her professionalism at such a young age, and her desire to do good work, and see her project through to completion. I mean, really – how many 12 year olds can keep their enthusiasm and momentum going on one subject for more than a few weeks – let alone two entire years? It was impressive and inspiring.

It was neat to see, too, how she and her mother got along during the entire zombie-journey. It was amazing to see how supportive both of her parents were of her endeavor, but especially her mother who provided transportation, and served as caterer, sound crew, makeup artist, props department, and special effects technician. Sometimes Mom tried to have too much influence in production, which led to some artistic differences and tension between mother and daughter, but her story, too, as mother of a child-film-producer was also interesting to watch.

I’m interested to see where these young ladies are in another 2 to 10 years. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if one is a major fashion designer and the other is getting her first Academy Award or Sundance Film Festival honor at age 18.

Young women like these inspire me. If we as adults, particularly us women, believed in our dreams and followed our passions with the heart and drive as these young girls – what might our world look like? Well, it might be full of zombies wearing hip, cool headbands – but I’d venture a guess that we’d all be happier, and those around us would be happier, too, because by following our passions, we would bring joy and laugher and pleasure to others. What’s more – we could inspire others – just like these young women are inspiring me – and I hope, you too!


© writingreading, 2009

Cinderella’s real reason for leaving home

May 8, 2008

I think the real reason little girls dream of being a fairytale princess is to avoid housework. They know at a very young age that part of their lot in life is (still, even in the early 21st century) doing the bulk of the cleaning necessary for day to day living. Cinderella might have had a cruel stepmother, but I think it was being on her knees scrubbing the floor that made her long to escape her everyday life.

The handsome prince of course is nice to look at, but I think the emphasis must be more on his social and economic status (hey, honey, we have maids to do this! so you don’t have to!) rather than his rugged good looks. But even though Cindy lives “happily ever after” and leaves her old life behind – does she treat her maids with any sympathy? Probably not. She’s just so glad to get a manicure and relieve her aching red dry hands from the daily dose of cleansing powder and scrubbing, she probably doesn’t think about those who toil for her. After all, she’s made the leap to the upper class in the twinkling of a glass shoe!

Of course, the fact that her prince rides a beautiful stallion doesn’t hurt, either. C’mon, did they really take a pumpkin-carriage to the ball? The Cinderella I believe in would have jumped at the opportunity to ride one of the carriage horses with her date through the forest to the castle. Imagine, Cinderella thinks, riding that handsome steed through the forest and across the countryside, racing to her freedom. Maybe she flashes a mischievous smile to her prince, and races away without him. She has her freedom now – why stick around?

Ask any 8 year old girl – she wants a horse of her very own. She, too, longs for her freedom, and the horse brings it – like a bike, only faster, and more adventurous. Maybe a prince, too, for the same reasons. It’s all about “escape.” But what her older (much much older) sisters don’t tell her – is that the housework never ends. And the escape is only a fairytale.

©2008 writingreading

Famous Women You’ve Never Heard Of – #1 – Ada Byron

May 5, 2008

I suspect there will be more of these, so I might as well start numbering them now.

Since blogging and technology were on my mind, I picked up a book today called: Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology by Howard Rheingold. I don’t usually read much in this vein, but it seemed interesting, and the one chapter that really caught my eye and made me want to read it was: “The First Programmer Was a Lady.” I fully expected it to be about “mothers” – the original programmers!

Well, he was actually serious. She really was a Lady – in the grand old British tradition. Today I learned about Lady Lovelace, also known as Augusta Ada Byron, a British belle of the early 1800s, famous in her own right as the daughter of the dissipated but suave poet, Lord Byron.

As a teenager, she saw Charles Babbage, and his “Difference Engine,” an early calculator of sorts. Ada helped Babbage develop his “Analytical Engine” – the first real computer, using French punchcards from the textile industry to drive its calculations. Babbage himself said she understood its workings better than he did, and her ability to explain it to others was far superior to his expository skills. (Babbage was known for his irascible temper, eccentric nature, and his hatred of organ grinders). It never was completed, however, although her work on the project – especially using punch cards to perform repetitive functions and calculations, makes her the first computer programmer. The irony of a female mathematician and scientist adapting and using items from the textile industry – “women’s work” traditionally being sewing and clothing – as well as mill work – is also a delightful turn.

I’m no scientist, and can’t add two two-digit numbers without a calculator, so I may have gotten some of my facts a little confused in my summary – but what impressed me most was – Where was Lady Lovelace (Ada Byron) during all of my school years? If I had had her as a role model – who knows where I might be? (bet I wouldn’t need my calculator nearly as much!) The only women I ever remember reading about all through my public schooling were: Madame Curie, Harriet Tubman, and maybe Clara Barton. I think Dolly Madison might have been in there, too, though I always assumed she was just a cook who made tasty treats for Charles Shultz’s Peanuts gang. There simply were no women in history, until, apparently, the 1980s or so.

My generation missed out, but today’s generation doesn’t have to. Young girls need more role models like Ada Byron, today as much as ever. Remember her, the next time Charles Babbage is held up for inventing the computer. As we all know from the deceased computers that clutter our offices and landfills now – a computer without the programs/software to run it – is just a box.

©2008 writingreading