Since March is the Month of the Woman, I’ve been thinking about the first fictitious heroine who inspired me In the distant days of childhood – Sara in “A Little Princess.” For those who don’t recall the book or managed to avoid the syrupy film versions, Sara was a seven-year-old (my age!) deposited in a British boarding school by her father when he had to live in India. She was so wealthy she wore lavish clothes and had a suite to herself, while the other girls in the school doubled up in single rooms. (Obviously, Sara belonged to the“1%” we know too well today.)
But what made her my first heroine was the way she dealt with her sudden plunge into poverty when her father died. ( The author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and her family, also slid downward when she was a child, a trauma that years later inspired this book.) Sara’s reversal was dramatic, for she was stripped of her finery, banished to the attic and turned into the school’s scullery maid. This would have been enough to make any other girl dependent on some fairy godmother to rescue her. But not Sara. Armed with enormous imagination, Sara had an ability to weave stories night after night like a budding Scheherazade. This converted all the girls who had previously scorned her into a worshipful audience.. Message to my young self: Learn how to make up stories and you will reap love and admiration. (It hasn’t quite worked that way!)
A few years later my literary role model was Jo, the most spirited of Alcott’s “Little Women.” I found Meg dull, Amy shallow, and Beth too goody-goody to emulate. But Jo was a WRITER ! She also had enough spunk to endure poverty with humor and to turn down the rich boy next door who proposed to her. Instead she chose to venture forth as an Independent Woman (for a few chapters anyway).
I single out these two fictitious females because they had a quality that still lures me. It wasn’t solely that they inspired me to write. It’s that each was so dauntless and determined she wouldn’t give up, no matter what fate threw at her.
Sara and Jo stayed in my mind for many years, encouraging me to create heroines of my own. The women I write may get knocked down by fate, but rise to their metaphorical feet and valiantly go forward to triumph by the last page. (Isn’t it wonderful how writers can play God — or Goddess?)
Writing may not bring the fabled “love and admiration” I dreamed of as a child, but creating strong–willed women gives me a vicarious transfusion of strength.
As Nora Ephron memorably said, “”Be the hero of your life, not the victim. “ How’s that for a March mantra?
Books: “Widow’s Walk” – available through iUniverse.com; “Turning Toward Tomorrow” -Xlibris.com; “Ten Women of Valor” – CreateSpace.Com and Amazon.com. Also Amazon Kindle.