“I used to work for the Planning & Placement Center when I was going to college, and we had job orders for CTA bus drivers. So I decided I wanted to check this out for myself, and I did. I went for three years, and they kept saying no, we can’t hire women, we don’t have facilities for women, so you have to do something else. I said I don’t want to do something else. I want to drive a bus. After three years of harassing them, they finally sent me a letter saying they would consider (not saying hire) me. They wanted me to come down and take some test, and I did not hear from them for about three or four months, and then I got a another letter saying I would be hired as a driver. After that, the rest is history.”
– Mary Wallace, who became the first female bus driver for the Chicago Transit Authority in 1974.
“I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: ‘We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?’ They said: ‘Of course.’ My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned Coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backward 10 years later.
Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
“When I was five I think, that’s when I started wanting to be an actress. I loved to play. I didn’t like the world around me because it was kind of grim, but I loved to play house. It was like you could make your own boundaries… When I heard that this was acting, I said that’s what I want to be.”
– Marilyn Monroe
A quote from Marilyn Monroe about wanting to become an actress sources: photo of Marilyn Monroe was taken in 1954 – Wikimedia Commons.
“By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly,” said Amelia Earhart of her first flying experience.
While Amelia fell in love with flying at that first ride, flying had been an interest from her late teenage years. Her first experience with aviation came shortly after high school when during World War I she went to work in a Canadian military hospital where she met aviators.
Soon, however, Amelia was a college student at Columbia, intending to go to medical school. Despite doing well in her classes, she spent a lot of her time adventuring. “I was familiar with all the forbidden underground passageways which connected the different buildings of the University. I think I explored every nook and cranny possible. I have sat in the lap of the gilded statue which decorates the library steps, and I was probably the most frequent visitor on the top of the library dome. I mean the top,” she said.
She didn’t stay long at Columbia. Shortly after, she dropped out to join her parents, who had moved to California.
Later that year came the day when Amelia got her first taste of flying. At an airfield in Long Beach, with her father providing the $10 fee (about $127 today), Amelia climbed into the airplane for a ten-minute flight that would change her life.
She was now determined to become a pilot. She cropped her hair short, bought a leather jacket that she slept in for three days to make it look more worn out, and she took a bus, only to then walk four more miles to get to the flight school.
The flight school was run by Anita “Neta” Snook, a pioneer female aviator who was the first woman to run her own aviation business. When Amelia arrived for her first flying lesson, she had just one question for Neta, “I want to fly. Will you teach me?”
Neta took Amelia on as a student. “I’ll never forget the day she and her father came to the field. I liked her on sight,” Neta would later say of her first time meeting Amelia.
Amelia purchased her first plane six months after her first lesson. And within a couple of years, she set the world altitude record for women at 14,000 feet.
“Amelia Earhart learns to fly” sources:
Amelia Earhart biography – https://www.ameliaearhart.com/biography/, Amelia Earhart – Aviation History / Photograph of Amelia taken in 1937 – National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George R. Rinhart, in memory of Joan Rinhart / Photograph of Amelia and Anita “Neta” Snook taken in 1921 – National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
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“My early physical misfortune has turned out to be the greatest blessing that could have come to me. Without it I should have missed all the grim struggle upward and the reward that waited at the end of it all.”
Biography of Annette Kellerman
Annette Kellerman was just six years old when she developed weakness in her legs. The cause of her ailment wasn’t clear, but treatment required wearing steel braces, which were not only painful, but left her feeling humiliated. To further help recovery, her parents enrolled Annette in swim classes upon the advice of a doctor. While Annette didn’t want to swim, fearing in part embarrassment of her legs, the doctor felt confident that swimming would help, and so her father proceeded with the plan. Annette would look back on her father’s decision with gratitude, appreciating his wisdom.
With time her legs recovered, and as a teen she became a champion swimmer, a record holder in the 100 yard swim in her native Australia, and world record holder in the mile.
She then took on long-distance swimming, swimming over 13 miles of the Thames river in under 4 hours. And she made three attempts to swim the English channel, never completing the entire journey, but once staying in the water for more than 10 hours.
But more than just swimming, she became famous for advocating for women’s rights.
“I can’t swim wearing more stuff than you hang on a clothesline,” she once said about swimming.
In a time when women were expected to wear dress and pantaloons to swim, she wore a one-piece suit. Such behavior led to her arrest on Revere Beach in Massachusetts in 1907 for indecency. But doing so also helped change the social norms. Her one-piece suit, known as the Annette Kellerman, became a popular swimsuit for women.
How to Swim by Annette Kellerman, Published by University of Michigan Library, 1918 / Photograph of Annette – Bain News Service, Publisher. Miss Annette Kellerman. 3/13/19 date created or published later by Bain. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2014683563/> / Swimming – Annette Kellerman. [No Date Recorded on Caption Card] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2002709748/>.
“I left home as soon as I could, when I was 18. I thought I was in love and got married—the press called it Prince Charming and Cinderella. He was a Hilton so I was the poor little Cinderella. And when I got a divorce nine months later I never told the court why, but he was cruel. When he drank it all came out, and I hadn’t seen that before because he was on the wagon the eight months we were engaged. I didn’t have a clue. But I thought, This isn’t why God put me on Earth. We were married in a Catholic church. I had studied Catholicism for almost a year. But when I had to swear in front of the archbishop to be a good wife and all that stuff, I had my fingers crossed behind my back because I didn’t know if I could be a good wife; I knew I was still a child.”
Elizabeth Taylor quote about first marriage source:
But when Bosie’s father learned of the relationship, he accused Oscar of sodomy. Oscar countered with a suit of libel. The lawsuit revealed gay relations in Oscar’s personal life, leading to a criminal case against him.
In May of 1895, Oscar received a prison sentence of two years. His crime was gross indecency. His punishment, while severe, was less than what the judge wanted. “It is the worst case I have ever tried. In my judgement it is totally inadequate for such a case as this. The sentence of the Court is that you be imprisoned and kept to hard labor for two years,” said the judge.
Upon his release, when others recommended he forget his time and the reasons for his imprisonment, Oscar wrote that “To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”
“The love of Oscar Wilde and Bosie” notes and sources:
Photograph of Oscar Wilde and Bosie was taken in 1893.
British Museum Shelfmark MS 81783 A / Wikimedia Commons
“De Profundis” by Oscar Wilde, published in 1997 and transcribed from the 1913 Methuen & Co. edition by David Price – Project Gutenberg
She drank whiskey, swore often, and smoked handmade cigars. She wore pants under her skirt and a gun under her apron. At six feet tall and two hundred pounds, Mary Fields was an intimidating woman.
Mary lived in Montana, in a town called Cascade. She was a special member of the community there. All schools would close on her birthday, and though women were not allowed entry into saloons, she was given special permission by the mayor to come in anytime and to any saloon she liked.
But Mary wasn’t from Montana. She was born into enslavement in Tennessee sometime in the early 1830s, and lived enslaved for more than thirty years until slavery was abolished. As a free woman, life led her first to Florida to work for a family and then Ohio when part of the family moved.
When Mary was 52, her close friend who lived in Montana became ill with pneumonia. Upon hearing the news, Mary dropped everything and came to nurse her friend back to health. Her friend soon recovered and Mary decided to stay in Montana settling in Cascade.
Her beginning in Cascade wasn’t smooth. To make ends meet, she first tried her hand at the restaurant business. She opened a restaurant, but she wasn’t much of a chef. And she was also too generous, never refusing to serve a customer who couldn’t pay. So the restaurant failed within a year.
But then in 1895, when in her sixties, Mary, or as “Stagecoach Mary” as she was sometimes called because she never missed a day of work, became the second woman and first African American to work as a mail carrier in the U.S. She got the job because she was the fastest applicant to hitch six horses.
Eventually she retired to a life of running a laundry business. And babysitting all the kids in town. And going to baseball games. And being friends with much of the townsfolk.
This was Mary Fields. A rebel, a legend.
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“All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child.”
– Marie Curie, the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize and the first person to win the prize twice. She won the award for physics in 1903 and chemistry in 1911.
“A quote from Marie Curie” sources: Portrait of Marie taken in 1911 – Wikimedia Commons / Pierre Curie (1923), as translated by Charlotte Kellogg and Vernon Lyman Kellogg, p. 162 – Marie Curie Wikiquote
In look, Nancy Wake was glamorous; in personality, she was a fearless fighter. Rebellious in her way of being, she was born in New Zealand, but by 1940, had lived in Australia, the U.S., the U.K., Austria, and France.
While living in Vienna during the late 1930s, Nancy experienced Jewish men and women being beaten in the streets by Nazi gangs. She vowed to do anything she could to stop the Nazi movement. “I hate wars and violence but if they come then I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas,” she would say.
Nancy joined the resistance, becoming a courier and escort for Allied soldiers and refugees looking to leave France. “It was much easier for us, you know, to travel all over France. A woman could get out of a lot of trouble that a man could not,” she remarked regarding the work.
She took part in many missions, and her life was in constant danger. At one time, she was the most wanted person by the Gestapo. But was always able to elude capture, a skill which earned her the nickname, “White Mouse.” Her husband, however, was captured and executed for not sharing information about her whereabouts.
Nancy became one of the most decorated servicewomen of the war by the Allies. Looking back, she would remark, “I was never afraid. I was too busy to be afraid.”
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“WWII hero Nancy Wake” Sources: “Nancy Wake” – Wikipedia / Farewell to Nancy Wake, the mouse who ran rings around the Nazis, The Guardian / Australian War Memorial