The Girls You Wish You Knew

It’s Mother’s Day and even if you aren’t a mother, we all have a mother – a woman who blessed us into this world and for most, someone who has nurtured our very existence. Oh, I could write a long and sappy ode to motherhood but as I look around my house at baseball cleats, smelly socks and gum wrappers, I choose to use this day instead, to celebrate women.

I’ve been extremely fortunate over the last few years to meet extraordinary females. Some of you read my blog about meeting Sandra Day O’Connor. My early writing instruction came from Australian author, Kate Grenville. I’ve dined with Jay Parry, Esther Dyson, and Janet Napolitano and thousands of other women family members, friends, work colleagues, and amazing acquaintances.  So without driving myself into an analytical frenzy, I’ve compiled a short list of 10 living women I’d love to meet. I can tell you with certainty that the moment that I hit the publish button, I’ll think of 20 more but right now, these women regardless of their politics, their religion and what sometimes appears as ill-fated publicity are women I’d love to take to lunch.

1. Alice Waters – When I think about good food and the women who’ve influenced it most, Alice Waters is on top. Her award winning restaurant, Chez Panisse, her advocacy of local, sustainable, organic food and her charge to get healthy food into our schools places her firmly on my list.

2. Jane Goodall – There is no denying Jane Goodall’s amazing intellectual contributions to society through her famous work with chimpanzees.  Even more remarkable is her rare neurological condition known as prosopagnosia – a memory impairment for face and patterns. Unable to recognize people’s faces, Goodall has no difficulty distinguishing faces of the chimps. She established “Wildlife Awareness Weeks” around the world to boost local economies and is the founder of “Roots and Shoots” an organization that teaches children to respect all living things.

3. Cokie Roberts – With a name like Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs, I’d go by Cokie also. She’s an award winning journalist who was born to Congresswoman Lindy Boggs and Congressman Hale Boggs. She has served as the Congressional correspondent and senior news analyst for NPR for the last decade.

4. Anne LaMott – I first became acquainted with Anne LaMott when I read Bird by Bird. She is a remarkably transparent writer who discusses issues such as motherhood, alcoholism, faith and personal loss and regardless finds a way to make me laugh.

5. Melanie Safka – In my quest to honor a female musician, I found myself in a four way tie with women who I believe began singing during a time when music changed the world; Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Joan Baez and my personal favorite, Melanie. She has a fresh style of songwriting that led her from Woodstock to the Ed Sullivan show to the Sydney Opera House. She has a family, an Emmy, a restaurant and a slew of songs to her name.

6. Mira Nair – The highly regarding Indian film director leapt into the world spotlight with her first film, Salaam, Bombay! Yet it wasn’t only her filmmaking that garnered attention but also her methodology of having cast and crew practice yoga each morning before work. Mira studied documentary film which she describes as a “marriage of my interests in the visual arts, theatre, and life as it is lived”. To me, that sounds somewhat like blogging.

7.Chris Evert – I may be dating myself with this one but I do remember watching her when I was young and thinking that I could be like her one day. Although my tennis skill never took off, when Chrissie ended her tennis career, her philanthropy work began. She’s given tremendous support to causes supporting children and mothers.

8. Oprah – What can I say? She’s a journalist, author, business woman, and producer. Oprah was born in Mississippi to a single mother and is now, the greatest African American Philanthropist of all time. That’s why she’s on this list.

9. Faith Popcorn – I’ve always been drawn to market research and studies that identify trends. John Naisbitt did great work early on but I adored The Popcorn Report. In fact, it’s probably one of those books that I ought to dust off just to see how right she was. Faith’s Brain Reserve is a strategic trend-based marketing company that helps others become “friends with the future”.

10. Michelle Obama – A couple of years ago, I didn’t know who Michelle Obama was. I’ve never been a royal-lover or first lady fan but Michelle Obama has done things differently. Beyond the fact that she’s a mother with exquisite style, she’s smart.  She brought poetry into the White House, planted a garden and is taking on the issue of childhood obesity.  She is someone that I’d love to talk to.

Today, let us honor our mothers and the women who lead us in this world. I’m grateful to every one of you.

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  1. Wow, I didn’t know Mira Nair had her crew do yoga every day! Have you seen her movie, The Namesake? It is an extremely realistic portrayal of Indian immigrant life in the US. The movie is much better than the book it’s based on. I think I’ll add it to my Netflix queue now and show it to my parents…

  2. Another NPR woman I really admire is Diane Rehm. She / Her program is a national media treasure.

  3. What a lovely post this!

    I don’t know a lot of these women but I agree with Michelle Obama!

    She rocks!

  4. Jenny

     /  May 10, 2010

    Great perspective on Mother Day, Tammy!
    I’d love to meet Irshad Manji who runs the Moral Courage Project at NYU, which aims to teach young leaders to “challenge political correctness, intellectual conformity, and self-censorship.” She’s amazingly brave, and has spoke up on many issues, struggling with the responsiblity of keeping her children safe, while doing the right thing to help change the world. I can’t imagine how difficult that would be.

    • Jenny, I’m not familiar with Irshad but you’ve hit right on what my list is missing – an academic (not that some of them aren’t quite academic but someone from an academic setting). I also thought of Amy Gutman today and think she deserves a place on my list – alas, a future post!

  5. I remember Melanie . . . I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates, you’ve got a brand new key!

    Interesting list of interesting women.

  6. As usual, I love your unusual perspective: a wonderful way of turning this “Hallmark holiday” into a day of honoring important women, in general. Thank you!

  7. fitandfortysomething

     /  May 11, 2010

    i love this! what an uplifting post 🙂

  8. I’d like to meet scientist Baroness Susan Greenfield and writer/director Miranda July.

    And I have a half sister somewhere who doesn’t even know of my existence – I’d like to meet her one day….. also Lulu La Bonne on my blogroll – she makes me laugh!

    • God love the British. Here’s a sentence on the Baroness from Wikipedia “Until 8 January 2010, she was director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, but following a review,[2] she was made redundant,[3]”.

  9. Great list! i’d have Cokie on mine, as well as Christiane Amanpour…

    • Embarrassed to say that I had to look her up but found a great photo of her in a black dress with a bull dog and she sounds smart and somewhat daring in the write ups.

  10. This is a great post–what a nice idea! Your blog is so interesting.

  11. I have Kate Grenville’s book on writing on my bookshelf, must go back and have a good read of it , it is important to celebrate womanhood indeed.

  12. What a lovely post. I don’t recognize every name you’ve listed, but I’d like to join you when you take this group to lunch!

  13. Hannah

     /  May 14, 2010

    I’d definitely switch Oprah for Ellen, but apart from that – love the list! Has definitely given me a few things to think about 🙂

  14. what a beautiful post and picture!

  15. Pearlz- I need to read something of hers. I have old short stories that she wrote in the 80s.

    Kathy – I’ll bring you along!

    Hannah – thanks! I had to do a bit a research about each and I was truly amazed with the accomplishments of these women.

    Simply – I found the photo on Creative Commons but they look so happy that I am sure those girls are on someone’s list.

  16. I’d like to ask Faith Popcorn how she does it – what extranatural observational skills she’s got.

    And I’d like to meet Abegail Adams.

    • Abigail, like John Adams wife? My list grows exponentially when we add women who are no longer alive. I tried to make it as a wish list of those that I might really have a chance to meet one day.

    • Abigail. (You’d think I’d know – it was my grandmother’s name)


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