The Maiden, the Crone, and the Mother—these familiar female archetypes can be somewhat limiting to the roles women actually play in the world. In honor of International Women’s Month, we expanded the female archetype to include the female qualities that don’t fit these narrow classifications—Healer and Crusader; Warrior and Rebel; Goddess; Wise Ruler and Sage; Free Spirit; Storyteller or Muse; Adventurer; Diva, Trailblazer, and Chieftain/Leader.
We put the spotlight on curly icons who have made a difference in the world. They are living (with one exception) legends that through their acts and achievements embody the spirit of an archetype. All have lived long enough to shape our times and our lives. And regardless of which archetype she fits, each is a leader and trailblazer.
Here’s to these extraordinary women and the waves, curls, coils and kinks that are an intrinsic part of them.
Healers and Crusaders
These two women transcended their respective roles as journalist and actress to become outspoken advocates for other women with cancer.
Robin Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. Currently Anchor of ABC-TV’s Emmy Award-winning "Good Morning America" and author of “From the Heart: Seven Rules to Live By,” Roberts used her peerless reporting skills to document her chemotherapy and radiation treatments and the arduous journey back to health. After her hair fell out due to her treatment, she filmed herself having her head shaved bald. Six months later she ditched her wig on-air and appeared almost completely hairless and shared her worries about her new on-camera short curls. Her courageous and public battle has been recognized with awards and honors from organizations around the country, including The Susan G. Komen Foundation. She has truly shown us that “We are all a little stronger than we think we are.”
In Fran Drescher’s book “Cancer Schmancer”, the actress writes: "My whole life has been about changing negatives into positives." Fran Drescher took the contrast between her beauty and love of haute couture and her comedic talent and trademark nasal Queens accent and bankrolled it into a sitcom tailor-made for her. The Nanny ran from 1993 through 1999 and was nominated for two Emmys and a Golden Globe award. In 2000, after two years of symptoms and misdiagnosis by eight doctors, Drescher was diagnosed with uterine cancer and underwent an immediate radical hysterectomy to treat the disease. She celebrated her ninth year of wellness on June 21, 2009. Now a U.S. diplomat and an outspoken health care advocate, her efforts helped get unanimous passage for Johanna's Law, which provides for programs to increase the awareness and knowledge of women and health care providers with respect to gynecologic cancers.
Warriors and Rebels
Professor Angela Davis is a cultural icon and a symbol of the Black Power movement for many who came of age in the 1970s. From a segregated childhood and early education in Birmingham, Alabama, marked by racial conflict, by her junior year in high school Davis won a placement in a New York City high school. Later she joined the Communist Party when Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968 and then joined the Black Panther Party. Following a 1970 courtroom killing of a judge, Davis was briefly on the FBI's most-wanted list for allegedly providing guns for the attack. She was tried, represented herself, and was acquitted of all charges by an all-white jury. She was active with the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) before joining the Black Panthers, and in 1980 ran for U.S. Vice President on the Communist Party ticket. She achieved tenure at the University of California at Santa Cruz, though former Governor Ronald Reagan swore she would never teach again in the University of California system. She has published on race, class, and gender.
Sophia Loren (really, who else did you think would be in this category?) is the second most-awarded actress in cinema history, surpassed only by Meryl Streep. This beautiful lady became one of the major sex symbol of the sixties, competing with Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot and Jane Fonda. Loren is one of The American Film Institute’s 50 Greatest Screen Legends, yet never appeared in a theatrical production because she suffered from stage fright. Her prominent films include "El Cid," "Marriage Italian-Style," "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," "Two Women," "A Special Day," "Prêt-à-Porter", and "Grumpier Old Men." Loren, who turned 75 last September, can currently be seen on the big screen in the star-studded cast of "Nine," in which she plays the deceased mother of Daniel Day-Lewis' Italian film director, a man overwhelmed by the many women in his life.
Wise Ruler and Sage
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Delegate to Congress from the District of Columbia, Eleanor Holmes Norton was active in the civil rights movement and was also an organizer for the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). By the time Norton graduated from Antioch, she had already been arrested for organizing and participating in sit-ins in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Ohio. While at Yale Law School, her encounter with Fannie Lou Hamer during a trip to Mississippi compelled Norton to bear witness to the intensity of violence and Jim Crow repression in the South. These turbulent beginnings propelled her through an impressive political career—from a clerkship for a Federal judge, executive assistant to New York City Mayor John Lindsay, campaigning for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to becoming the first female head of the Equal Opportunity Employment commission under President Jimmy Carter.
Erica Jong—novelist, poet, and essayist—has consistently used her craft to help provide women with a powerful and rational voice in forging a feminist consciousness. She has published 20 books, including eight novels, six volumes of poetry and six books of non-fiction. Her 1973 breakthrough novel was “Fear of Flying” in which she first used the term “zipless f-ck”. It created a sensation with its forthright treatment of women’s sexual desires.
Bernadette Peters is so astoundingly beautiful it’s hard to comprehend she was born in 1948. An amazingly talented actor and singer and one of Broadway’s brightest stars with a career that spans five decades in Broadway, television, films and concerts, Peters’ acting and singing chops are impressive. Her voice can crack and cry with emotion and poignancy, yet she maintains a control, range and volume that are nothing short of miraculous. Peters has been proudly and beautifully curly throughout her life. A native of Queens, New York, she made her stage debut in 1958 and is the youngest person to be inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.
Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, editor, and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, lyrical style, sharp observations, and vibrant storytelling. Her first novel, "The Bluest Eye," was published in 1970 and told the story of a young African-American girl who believes her incredibly difficult life would be better if only she had blue eyes. She continued to explore the African-American experience in its many forms and time periods in such works as "Sula" (1973), "Song of Solomon" (1977), and "Beloved" (1987), which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Morrison became a professor at Princeton University in 1989 and continued to produce great works. In recognition of her contributions to her field, she received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, making her the first African American to be selected for the award. Morrison grew up in the black community of Lorain, Ohio, where her parents had moved to escape the problems of Southern racism. In first grade, she was the only black student in her class and the only one who could read. She hoped one day to become a dancer like her favorite ballerina, Maria Tallchief. We are glad her life took a different turn.
With her trademark dreadlocks, wide impish grin, and piercing humor, Whoopi Goldberg is best known for her adept portrayals in both comedic and dramatic roles, as well as her groundbreaking work in the Hollywood film industry as an African-American woman. Goldberg unknowingly suffered from dyslexia, which affected her studies and ultimately induced her to drop out of high school at the age of 17. She gained attention in 1983 in The Spook Show. The one-woman Off-Broadway (and later Broadway) production featured her own original comedy material that addressed the issue of race in America with unique profundity, style, and wit. Among her most poignant and typically contradictory creations are "Little Girl," an African-American child obsessed with having blond hair; and "Fontaine," a junkie who also happens to hold a doctorate in literature. Goldberg made her film debut in "The Color Purple" playing Celie, a mistreated black woman in the south for which she won a Golden Globe award and received an Oscar nomination. She won an Academy Award for her role in Ghost.
Sharon Christa McAuliffe
A Framingham, Massachusetts native, Sharon Christa McAuliffe was selected from among more than 11,000 applicants from the education profession to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space project. She took a leave of absence and trained with NASA for a year to be an astronaut, planning to conduct experiments and teach two lessons from Space Shuttle Challenger. NASA’s goal in sending a teacher into space was to increase public interest in the space shuttle program and demonstrate the reliability of space flight at a time of continuous pressure and declining financial support. On January 28, 1986, her spacecraft disintegrated 73 seconds after launch. The disaster resulted in a 32-month hiatus in the shuttle program and the formation a special commission appointed by President Reagan to investigate the accident. The Rogers Commission found that NASA managers had known since 1977 that a contractor's design of a shuttle component contained a potentially catastrophic flaw, and failed to adequately report these and other technical concerns to their superiors. After Christa McAuliffe’s death, schools and scholarships were named in her honor, and in 2004 she was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
Oprah Gail Winfrey is an American television host, producer, and philanthropist, best known for her self-titled, multi-award winning talk show, which has become the highest-rated program of its kind in history. She is also, according to some assessments, the most influential woman in the world. According to Forbes magazine, Oprah was the richest African American of the 20th century and the world's only black billionaire for three years running. Life magazine hailed her as the most influential woman of her generation. In 2005, Business Week named her the greatest Black philanthropist in American history. Oprah's Angel Network has raised more than $51 million for charitable programs, including girls' education in South Africa and relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Any net worth estimates fail to account for the value of Oprah's powerful brand.
About International Women’s Day:
Each year around the world, International Women's Day (IWD) is observed on March 8. Hundreds of events occur not just on this day but also throughout March to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women. The first IWD was held 1911 in the USA. For more information, click here.