Mabel Dodge was an heiress and a patron of the arts who was, according to Wikipedia, "raised to charm and groomed to marry." She wed her first husband in secret because her father did not approve. She was widowed by age 23. The single mother then had an affair with a prominent New York gynecologist, was sent away to Paris by her parents, and married her second husband, an architect. The couple lived in Florence for several years, during which time Dodge had a "liason" with her chauffeur. She attemped suicide twice (once by eating figs with shards of glass!) but survived and moved back to the United States with her estranged husband. Dodge became friends with many artistic types and began hosting a weekly salon. An affair or two later, she became a nationally syndicated columnist for Hearst and married for the third time. She moved to New Mexico with her husband to start a literary colony, and it was there she met Tony Luhan, who would become her fourth (and final) husband. Over the years, Dodge and Luhan would host the likes of Willa Cather, D.H. Lawrence, and Georgia O'Keeffe. The Mabel Dodge Luhan House is now a National Historical Landmark, and is where our next featured female hosted writing workshops for twenty years...
Brooklyn-born Goldberg studied Zen Buddhism for many years in Minnesota. It was this training that informed her book Writing Down the Bones, one of the quintessential tomes for aspiring writers. Bones, which combines Buddhist precepts with lessons on literary craft, has sold over a million copies since it was published in 1986. Listening to her books on tape--in a New York accent no less--is so inspiring. Goldberg is also a painter and once made a documentary about Bob Dylan (with whom she is ever-so-slightly obsessed). On a personal note, Goldberg was the first teacher that really lit my writing fire. I've attended several of her workshops in Taos and consider her a kind of mother to my writing self. She is a living legend and a true role model for those who want to walk the creative path.
Kahlo is a painter known for her unflinching self-portraits. Born to a German father and a mother of indigenous Spanish ancestry, Kahlo expressed the ugliest, darkest, and most unutterable emotions of her psyche in her paintings. Frida suffered an unforgivable amount of pain in her life, and not just from the accident that mangled her spine in her youth or from multiple miscarriages as an adult, but because of Diego Rivera, a fellow painter who became her husband. Rivera was notoriously unfaithful, going so far as to sleep with Kahlo's sister, yet she found the strength to forgive him time and time again; Kahlo's capacity for love in the face of adversity is truly revolutionary. (Read more about my thoughts on Kahlo and Rivera's relationship here.)
Sexton was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet known for her brutally honest, confessional-style writing. Sexton was wrought with depression, mania, and suicidal tendencies for much of her life. In fact, it was a long-term therapist that suggested she take up writing as part of her treatment for mental illness. A Roman Catholic priest even once advised a struggling Sexton that "God is in your typewriter." Sexton addressed the most taboo of topics in her work, from masturbation and abortion to incest and addiction. She had two children and co-wrote four children's books as well. Despite her success, ultimately the demons won out and Sexton took her own life in 1974.
Nikki Giovanni has been dubbed the "Princess of Black Poetry," and one of Oprah Winfrey's 25 Living Legends. Giovanni published her first book, Black Feeling Black Talk in 1968, and has since gone on to pen an extensive amount of poetry, an autobiography and children's books. Among her accolades are a #4 spot on the Los Angeles Times' bestseller list, a finalist nomination for the National Book Award, four NAACP Image Awards, and a Caldecott Honors Book award. She has been named a Woman of the Year by Mademoiselle magazine, the Ladies Home Journal, and Ebony magazine. Giovanni has received over 25 honorary degrees. As if her résumé weren't impressive enough, her verse is straightforward and simple, always passionate and often political. But what I love most about Giovanni is that she unabashedly believes in love.
Cho is called a "Queen of all Media" for her lengthy career which has included stand-up comedy, television series, fashion design, book publishing, and album recording. Cho is also an activist for marriage equality and anti-bullying issues. Cho is one of the few female public figures who isn't afraid to discuss body images, sexuality, and bitchiness: "Whenever anyone has called me a bitch, I have taken it as a compliment. To me, a bitch is assertive, unapologetic, demanding, intimidating, intelligent, fiercely protective, in control — all very positive attributes. But it’s not supposed to be a compliment, because there’s that stupid double standard: When men are aggressive and dominant, they are admired, but when a woman possesses those same qualities, she is dismissed and called a bitch." Well, then. Cho is also in an open marriage. You can read an interview I did with her in 2013 here.
The music industry is a goddamn boys' club, but Neko Case has really given those guys a run for their money. A child of divorced parents, Case left home at the age of 15. She became a drummer for a punk band and later contributed vocals to The New Pornographers. In 2003, Case was approached by Playboy magazine to do a shoot after being nominated the Sexiest Babe of Indie Rock in an online poll, but she turned them down. (You go, girl!) Her album Fox Confessor Brings The Flood made many top ten lists in 2006 and was followed by another LP, Middle Cyclone, which debuted at #3 on the Billboard Charts in 2009. Her latest release, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You is a painfully beautiful collection of songs inspired, in part, by a period of depression. Case has been nominated for three Grammy awards. She now lives in a 1787 Vermont farmhouse where she composes songs on a piano in her kitchen! (Could this chick be any cooler?!)
Gould is the author of And the Heart Says Whatever and the forthcoming tome Friendship. (I wrote about Heart here.) A former Gawker employee, Gould documented a relationship with a co-worker in a blog called Heartbreak Soup and was vilified for it. In an article in the New York Times, Gould didn't apologize for her actions, nor did she promise to keep her mouth shut in the future. She likened blogging to breathing. Gould now runs Emily Books, a digital bookstore that features hand-picked titles from lesser-known authors and distributes them to subscribers. She's also one of the wittiest and most refreshing female voices on Twitter. Gold is also foodie, once dabbling in a cooking series on YouTube called Cooking the Books.
A woman who needs no introduction, I believe Clinton is going to be our first female president. (The best revenge against a philandering husband is becoming the leader of the free world.) Not only is Clinton whip-smart and unflappable, she has some of the biggest balls on Capitol Hill. Upon receiving the Women for Women International Champion of Peace award, Clinton said, "You cannot have real peace and security if you marginalize women."
As I composed this post, name after name of strong women I admire came to mind. (Including my two young daughters, for whom I hope for a brighter future.) I wish I had the time (and you had the attention spans) to read about all of them in one blog post. I urge you to seek out your own women role models, support your fellow females, and recognize that we have a long way to go before we get anywhere near equality.
Did you know a woman invented chocolate chips? Of course she did! (And I invented devouring them by the fistful for sport!) In 1937, Ruth Graves Wakefield of the Toll House Inn added chunks of chocolate to her cookie dough. Wakefield's cookies were so popular, Nestle caught wind and partnered with her in 1939 to add her recipe to their chocolate bar's packaging.
Today's recipe is one of my own, and a favorite go-to gluten free treat. Unlike all the aforementioned women, who are tough cookies, these cookies are incredibly moist, and therefore fragile. Be gentle with them and do not stack when storing.
DARK CHOCOLATE CHIP PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES (GLUTEN FREE)
1 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
• Combine peanut butter and sugar in large bowl. Stir until incorporated. Add egg whites and vanilla; stir. Add baking soda; stir until dough forms. Fold in dark chocolate chips.
• Roll tablespoon-sized amount of dough between palms to form ball. Place on cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough (makes about a dozen cookies).
• Bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let cool on cookies sheets for a couple of minutes, let slide (on parchment paper) to wire rack to cool completely. Transfer to Tupperware or serving platter carefully with spatula. These cookies also freeze very well (I actually like eating them frozen sometimes).
• Share with your female BFF while plotting how to take over the world.
What do women want? R-E-S-P-E-C-T. This video includes the lyrics so there's no question what Aretha Franklin wants to spell out for you.