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‘Women Will Save the World’ – Book Review in Honor of International Women’s Day

March 8, 2013

WomenWillSaveTheWorld          “The world will be saved by the Western Woman.”

This was uttered by the Dalai Lama at the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit, and it’s inspired much discussion since. This statement was also the inspiration for the book I wanted to share in honor of International Women’s Day, entitled Women Will Save the World. The author, Caroline Shearer, was struck by this statement, and it led her to research women from the past and present who worked or are working to save their own corner of the world in some way. The result is an inspiring collection of historical biographies and contemporary essays grouped by theme into chapters on collaboration, creativity, intuition, nurturing, strength, trailblazing, and wisdom.

I think the best way to share this book, and to honor the spirit of International Women’s Day (and Women’s history month) is to share stories and excerpts from the biographies and essays I personally found the most fascinating or inspirational. Part of the value of reading about the lives of women past and present is to see ourselves as part of a continuum and momentum – to see our own actions as part of a larger wave of change. We can draw strength from this, and from the challenges others have fought to overcome.

I always find historical bios interesting, and many in here, though brief, were intriguing. Although most were of women I was familiar with – such as Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, mystics Hildegard Bingen and Teresa of Avila, or pilot Amelia Earhart – many offered new information. Here’s some that captured my attention:

– Edna St. Vincent Millay was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1923, and also wrote plays and opera scores. “Soar, eat, ether, see what has never been seen; depart, be lost, but climb” are her beautiful words.

– I had heard of Florence Nightingale, but didn’t really realize the extent of her accomplishments. Through daring to publicize the horrendous conditions she found as a nurse in warfront hospitals during the Crimean War, she led an overhaul of the medical system there that saved thousands of lives. She then went on to do the same as a consultant during both the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian war.

– Harriet Tubman was another historical figure I was familiar with from school but enjoyed revisiting. After escaping slavery herself in 1849, she became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, saving many others from slavery. Her inspiring words: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

– Nelly Bly was the first female investigative reporter and went undercover in many dangerous and deplorable situations to expose the awful conditions of the poor and incarcerated in the late 1800s. She went undercover as a sweatshop worker and exposed the unsafe children’s working conditions of the time. She committed herself to Bellevue mental hospital and then exposed the asylum’s horrendous practices. She also circled the world, and became the first female war correspondent.

Most of the essays by contemporary women shared very personal stories, and many brought me to tears. The first to do so was by Terry Grahl, founder of the non-profit Enchanted Makeovers, which transforms women’s shelters through renovation, design, and art. Terry had started her own interior design business when she was approached through a friend to create a mural for a local women’s shelter. However, when she toured the shelter, and saw the cracked walls, chipped paint, and dim colors, she decided to do much more. She set about transforming the shelter into a place where women and their children could truly heal, with vibrant colors, nature-inspired visuals, and inspirational phrases. Anyone who has been to such a place knows the dim environment that limited budgets usually results in – and anyone who pays attention to energy (as you probably do if you read this blog!) knows the importance of the colors and vibrations of our surroundings when we are attempting to heal or change our lives. This is the focus of Terry’s work.

I was also moved by the essay by Donna Visocky, founder of BellaSpark Productions and Media, an organization dedicated to providing access to consciousness-raising ideas, people, and information. As a mother, I found Donna’s story of losing her daughter Kristi in an automobile accident heart-wrenching, but the spiritual journey it led her on was beautiful and sincere. As she slowly climbed up from the depths of her grief, the idea for BellaSpark was born, and her life, and the lives of others touched by it, transformed.

As in Donna’s case, many of the organizations founded by the women in this book grew out of their own dark nights of the soul. Another that unexpectedly touched me was the essay by Shannon Miller, the most decorated American gymnast in history. As a gymnastics fan, I was aware of Shannon’s gymnastics legacy, but hadn’t known she battled ovarian cancer. The resulting shift in priorities and life-clarifying insights led her to become an advocate for women’s health and wellness.

These stories are typical of the stories shared here. Not all of the work described is non-profit – many of the women featured have founded their own successful businesses. But in each case, they are striving to conduct their business in a way true to their own values and goals, and to integrate inn0vative business structures and management. Many are involved in women’s empowerment or causes. All are unique and true expressions of each woman’s individual gifts. And that is perhaps the most empowering takeaway from this book – the sheer variety of ways we can work in the world, and the importance of valuing what we as individuals have to offer, on whatever scale.

This book awakened in me a new appreciation for the amazing changes that have occurred, particularly for and by western women, in the last 150 years or so. Perhaps never in history has so much social change occurred in so short a time. And that change has emanated outward into every area of life, transforming family structures, economic models, government, religious leadership, spirituality, and more. It is the way that the energetic shifts that I am personally more interested in manifest in the physical. It isn’t always easy, and it isn’t just about (or accomplished by) women, but in many ways that’s where it’s centered for the forseeable future, and we’re all a part of it, consciously or not.

Happy International Women’s Day. May you know love, peace, and your own feminine power this day and always.


P.S. Friend Joy over at Facets of Joy is offering a 30-day love dare (I am joining as both a contributor and participant) March 15-April 13th. A beautiful way to challenge yourself to open your heart even more during this Equinox season.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2013 3:25 pm

    I saw on Facebook it is your birthday today too, so happy birthday!! Thanks for all you do to heal and inspire women.

  2. March 8, 2013 3:26 pm

    The quote from the Dalai Lama gave me chills. Although I have much love and respect for men and the masculine energy that exists in all of us, I believe the divine feminine energy that exists within both men and women will be what saves all of us. The earth and all of the life it supports needs this nurturing, healing energy more than ever. Namaste and thanks for the great post! – Alethea

  3. March 8, 2013 3:28 pm

    What a great day for a birthday! Best wishes!

  4. March 8, 2013 3:37 pm

    JM and Alethea – thank you! Yes I am 46 today. I usually make a point of saying that, to combat any pressure women feel to not reveal their ages!!! It’s also a reminder that to be on this earth another year is a precious thing – vericose veins and all:-)

    Alethea – yes, you are so right, the feminine/yin energy is rising in everyone, and that is what will change the world. And in many ways the men that are a part of it are challenged in the same ways as women, in terms of the cultural stereotypes that inhibit and judge them. It is amazing to contemplate how focused this is right now, at this stage in the process of change, in and through western women though. This is especially true in the spiritual arena – 80% of spiritual and self-help books are bought by women, and the Dalai Lama also commented on how many women attended the conventions he speaks at in the West. Historically, it is an interesting time – a rebalancing.

  5. March 8, 2013 3:47 pm

    I love that you announced your age in the full glory of honoring years lived. This is an amazing time, isn’t it? When we allow ourselves to let go of that struggle, the energy that takes its place is amazing.

  6. March 8, 2013 5:18 pm

    This sounds like a very interesting book. I love reading biographies! We are all here to realize love and abundance, but the way each soul does it is so unique and intriguing.

    Very often, life’s challenges (including tragic events like losing a child) is a jump board to realize one’s purpose. I know this may sound outrageous — do we have to lose loved ones to realize our purpose? No. But if we honestly look back our lives, we’d notice that some kind of challenge had to happen to really feel our inner power and to put it to work.

    Great article, as always. And happy birthday,

  7. March 8, 2013 6:13 pm

    Happy birthday! I loved this post 🙂

  8. March 8, 2013 6:40 pm

    Hi Akemi, it’s interesting – the woman who lost her child had a vision in the months after of her daughter telling her that they had agreed to this before this incarnation – agree to be mother-daughter and then the daughter’s death as a catalyst for the mother’s growth. I sometimes feel that this approach to viewing events is overused – I think sometimes people use the excuse of ‘destiny’ to NOT face certain things or to justify them – but I do recognize these ‘contracts’ happen sometimes, and in this case it was a powerful and beautiful one.

  9. March 9, 2013 5:49 am

    Lisa, Thanks for the chance to celebrate women today. Always appreciating the insight and wisdom you pass along. And happy 46th birthday. Peace, Nicki

  10. March 10, 2013 4:43 pm

    Lisa, I absolutely loved this post! You celebrated many of the women I admire and you revealed some new ones to me too. I appreciate the thoughtfulness you put into these writings. xo

  11. March 12, 2013 11:15 pm

    I had to like this post, because it managed to get me (more) confused. Is it not clear from the state of the world that it will be women who have to clean up the mess? Save the adult boys from the mess they have created, and send them to their rooms to think about it. That part is clear to me. What is not clear, is why the focus on the Western woman? A concept that in itself is not clear either. What is wrong with the efforts of the women of the rest of the world? Why is it not all women banding together to send the boys to their rooms for a very long time-out? Namaste.

  12. March 13, 2013 3:12 am

    TheSevenMinds – changes definitely are happening all around the world, and women are leading the way in many places. Within the context of the Dalai Lama’s quote, I think it was really about the resources, time and energy that western woman have at their disposal to highlight women’s issues worldwide, and to influence political and social change in a way that is unprecedented within the known history of the world. ON a spiritual level, I think he was also commenting on the number of women who are leading the way in interest in alternative spirituality throughout the West, which is changing many things (the ‘new age’ book market for example, is usually estimated to be 75-80% female.)
    So I don’t think it’s meant to downplay the role of women everywhere, or of men for that matter, it’s just drawing attention to the fact that so much change is centering in the role of Western women.
    Personally, I am much more interested in energetic change, and view all change on the physical/social/cultural levels as a reflection of shifts in consciousness and energetic balance. So the rise of the feminine is a shift in consciousness within all of us, BUT right now at this phase of history (the last 100 years or so) it has been concentrated in particular in the changing consciousness of western women, and that has emanated outward…
    Thanks for your comment.

  13. March 13, 2013 10:56 am

    Thanks for your reply. It has brought clarity. I had bumped into some limiting thinking, and gave it a voice. To realize that I have been looking at ‘Western’ women from the sideline. Unwilling to aid in the race for empty material equality and the insane behavior that accompanies it. But, I need to stop just standing there and watching in confusion. It may be different if I join minds in meditation, while remaining detached to the race. Your post reminded me that I was ‘missing’ something. Something amiss with my own behavior. Thanks. 🙂

  14. March 13, 2013 2:15 pm

    Thesevenminds – thanks for your question and insight as it helped clarify something in MY mind too!

  15. March 13, 2013 4:43 pm

    Beautiful! 🙂

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