I’ve been contemplating how difficult it is to speak up and be heard as a woman and was pondering why. I did a little research on two women who found their voices and spoke up. I discovered that they both were able to do this despite some very intriguing circumstances. Let’s take a peek behind the curtain…
Let’s begin with Eleanor Roosevelt. One of my favorite quotes from her is: “Speak your mind, even though your voice shakes.”
When we think of Eleanor Roosevelt we think “Strong, Smart Woman;” after all she even has US stamps with her image on them. Yet everything that happened to her from her childhood would tell her to not speak up – to hide in the shadows and to be invisible.
- Her mother emotionally rejected Eleanor and was also somewhat ashamed of her daughter’s alleged “plainness.”
- Her father had a child through an affair and was sent to a sanitarium suffering from alcoholism, eventually dying there.
- Her mother and brother died from diphtheria and Eleanor was left to take care of her remaining brother who also suffered from alcoholism.
- She was only 10 years old when all of this occurred.
And so…what happened?
- Eleanor Roosevelt became an American political figure, diplomat and activist.
- She served as the first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945, during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office, making her the longest-serving first lady of the United States.
- She was a controversial first lady at the time for her outspokenness.
- She served as United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1952.
- She was the first presidential spouse to hold regular press conferences, write a daily newspaper column, write a monthly magazine column, host a weekly radio show and speak at a national party convention.
- She advocated for expanded roles for women in the workplace, the civil rights of African & Asian Americans and the rights of World War II refugees.
By the time of her death, Roosevelt was regarded as the “World’s Most Admired Woman” by the New York Times.
Then I took a look at Madeleine K. Albright whose favorite quote of mine is: “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, but now that I have it, I’m not going to be silent.”
A little history of Madeleine Albright…
- The signing of the Munich Agreement in September 1938 and the German occupation of Czechoslovakia by Adolf Hitler’s troops forced her family into exile.
- In 1941 her parents converted from Judaism to Catholicism. Albright said her parents never told her or her two siblings about their Jewish ancestry and heritage.
- Her family arrived at Ellis Island in New York Harbor on November 11, 1948.
- Her father applied for political asylum.
These are just a few reasons for someone not to speak up. Speaking up could be scary. There could be dangerous consequences.
- She founded her school’s international relations club and was its first president.
- She attended Wellesley College on a full scholarship.
- In 1993 Albright was appointed Ambassador to the United Nations.
- Madeleine Korbel Albright was the first woman Secretary of State under President Clinton in 1996 and served in the position for four years.
And lots of other amazing things!
Madeleine Albright found her voice and used it often; but sometimes the outcomes were not always favorable.
- On May 12, 1996 Albright defended UN sanctions against Iraq on a 60 Minutes segment in which Lesley Stahl asked her, “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “We think the price is worth it.” Later she regretted coming “across as cold-blooded and cruel.” The segment won an Emmy Award.
- Albright said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” which was criticized in the context she used it during the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign.
- In 2010 Albright began promoting the controversial Multi-Level Marketing company Herbalife. Observers have criticized and publicly admonished her for this undertaking.
When I think of these women, I just think they were born this way. They were born to speak their true minds, but it isn’t so. They had to overcome many obstacles, challenges and fears to become the women we know them to be today.
We don’t see the personal inner work, or the work in progress as they grew into the people we look up to. We just see the admirable end result. It takes courage. It takes the ability to move out of your comfort zone and past your terrifying fears of being seen and heard.
Why? Because we may upset people, ruffle feathers, be challenged, be berated and harshly judged by others. That feels scary. We might be rejected. Forever.
Is that when we find our voices? People won’t always love everything that we say or do, and everything will not be the right thing. That is OK, we are not striving to be saints or perfectionists. We are striving to be true authentic humans (who sometimes make mistakes) who have a purpose and contribute to the world with our purpose – and using our most powerful tool…our voice.
Are you ready to find your voice and stop being “silent”?
I believe in you!