My life has been full of strong female characters: Flora, my mother, Carol, and Louise. These women were stalwart, dependable, reliable, and remarkable in their accomplishments.
Flora—a lighthouse in a sea of stormy teenage angst. Through her example, she taught me how to ground myself. Simply by doing the next thing that needed to be done day to day, month after month, year by year, she showed me a path that I was truly able to follow and still follow. She was just a woman in the world, a stalwart person, the mother of a little boy that I babysat as a teenager, and the sister of my best friend J. Dependable.
My mother— was reliable. I was her oldest of eight children, six who lived. She first married a man (our father) who couldn’t stay the course ‘for love nor money’. After they separated, she lived by her wits and pure grit. She went back to college when I was seventeen and learned a skill, which supported our family for years to come. She took it one day at a time, and she taught me gratitude—one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned. Gratitude.
Carol—saw life and her place in it in a visionary way. Through harsh trials of loss and more loss, she found her own voice, and over time, she learned to use it in the best of ways. She helped me to see her vision and I’ve made many of those elements my own—forgiveness, steadfastness, humility, and having my own voice. Remarkable.
Louise—cast a light upon the deeper recesses of my being. Ferreting out my creativity, my spirituality, and my ability to see beyond what only my eyes can see. An accomplished woman of many talents: a potter, painter, writer, poet, and pioneer in the Chilcotin Valley. She came up with nothing but a Volkswagen full of seven children and the clothes on their backs. And she ended up being married to the love of her life (fifth time’s the charm) and a renowned artist. When adversity came, she had great tools to deal with it. There was a fire that roared down the mountain, taking out their chicken coop, barn, pottery shop, dog, and home. They rebuilt. When her mate died, she didn’t. She carried on through the hurt and the pain, like always. That was the biggest lesson she taught me. Resilience.
All have passed away now but live on in the characteristics I chose to develop in myself as a result of their example.
I draw from these examples and those experiences that I shared with these women to create strong fictional women characters for my writing.
In my book, “Murder on Belcut Mountain”, the strong female characters are firmly fixed in the landscape.
Susan Miller—has chosen the life of a detective and is very diligent. Through hard work and dedication, she discovered a serial killer in their tiny town and set to work to find him/her. She is ethical and moral in her dealings. She hasn’t chosen to just focus on her career rather, she is making time for creating a family, too.
Rosie McClintock—married to a detective. She is working as a grief counsellor, helping others to cope with the darker side of life. To balance things out, she is also an artist with a good client list. She discovers she has a devasting medical diagnosis and sets about learning how to cope with it, trusting her own instincts.
Isabel Meadows—who’d lost the love of her life just over a year ago, must now learn to live without her dear granddaughter, too. When someone has been murdered, it’s a hard burden to bear. She is not imploding rather she’s reaching out to her granddaughter’s best friend so they can help each other through this devastation.
Elizabeth Campbell—crawls out of a shallow grave and walks through the desert to find help. Bleeding and badly injured, she goes on until she does. She learns how to live with the horrible disfigurement as a result of this crime. When the would-be killer is brought to justice, she doesn’t hide and cower. NO, she identifies him and testifies against him.
My favourite famous strong female characters in art and literature are:
Helen Keller— “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
When she was 19 months old, she had a bad fever that robbed her of her hearing and her vision. Still, she learned how to communicate through brail, palm signing, and reading lips with her fingers. A true innovator. She learned to verbally speak. She went to Cambridge School for Young Women and then off to Radcliffe College earning a BA. She was involved in gaining rights for handicapped people and for women. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. Her name was on the list as one of the most notable people of the 20th century.
Lucille Ball— “It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.”
She was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis while still a model and after a two-year flare she had to learn how to walk again. In 1962, she was the first woman to LEAD a major television studio. When she and Desi split, she became the head of Desilu Productions. Lucy was the person who gave Star Trek a chance 57 years ago in 1964. She was the original producer of the show. She brought laughter into our home week after week for years, and still to this day. Most definitely a trendsetter. She was the first pregnant woman to play the part of a woman who was expecting a baby. She was a pioneer in the industry.
Reba McEntire— “To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.”
She survived and went on to live and thrive after seven members of her band plus her tour manager died in a plane crash. The two pilots died, too. How does a person get through that? Keep breathing in and out and putting one foot in front of another just like always. She is a singer, songwriter, album producer, actor, and one of the most successful country music icons. She mended her broken heart by allowing the music to flow through her like a healing balm. The result was her album, “For My Broken Heart”. “Work hard, show up on time, be prepared, and have fun! Everything else will work itself out.” Resilience and gratitude fuel her life.
Meryl Streep— “Integrate what you believe into every single area of your life.”
She always plays the strong female lead. She is held in high esteem in the world of the silver screen winning 3 Academy Awards and 21 nominations. She’s been in at least 78 films. That’s no small potatoes. She’s a humanitarian supporting Artists for Peace and Justice. She founded an environmental group Mothers and Others. She’s a trailblazer. She was transformed in the crucible of death from what she was when she was young to what we see today in part as the result of her first love dying of cancer. Tenacity.
These characters taught the same lessons as the real and wonderful women in my life did. They’ve all helped me to become resilient, grateful, diligent, and integrated.
I haven’t mentioned anyone who is a badass, a rebel, or a combative as I feel that does a disservice to the inner characteristics of a true hero. None of these women are ill-tempered or belligerent. They are just normal everyday people living their best lives whether they come from my real life, the novel I wrote, or the arts. They are strong female characters.