Blazing trails is a solitary task. Wikipedia defines a trailblazer as "a person who marks a trail through wilderness area.” They look beyond their own often less than ideal circumstances to break through. There is no one ahead to light the way and those behind might be afraid or doubtful in the wisdom of moving in the same direction. Forging a new path takes tools, creative thinking, vision, grit, timing, a little luck, and a lot of chutzpah.
Anyone who has the intestinal fortitude to challenge society's status quo gets my attention. Standing up to governments or sitting down to protest societal norms takes a lot of guts. I admire the rabble rousers. The sprit and strength it takes to move mountains is like a whole other world to me. Where does that steely determination come from? It seems as varied as the DNA of the trail blazers themselves. It is one thing to confront your own fears, but quite another to stand alone in confrontation with institutions, laws, and the powers that be blocking your course. I have a hard enough time pushing past my own apprehensions when dealing with an uncomfortable situation, however I can usually bear down and get the job done. But the big frontier of the complete unknown, how do you make that leap? Maybe it’s reserved for the chosen few who change our world, but I want the motivation formula. What is in it, where does it come from, how can I get it? Where is my genie that is going to capture that magic?!
This has all been on my mind in part due to Women's History Month. Much of the publicity surrounding the event naturally focuses on famous women who have marched through the wilderness. In their quest for progress, they each made a difference in some realm and found a new way forward. Controversy swirls around some of these women and in fact may endure as part of their legacy. Setting new boundaries can involve encroaching on someone else's turf which is bound to rattle someone's cage. It comes with marking new territory.
What makes the women trail blazers so special? Face it, in the history of humanity there has never been gender parity. For women to mark extraordinary achievement, they have more hurdles to overcome than their male counterparts. Add race to the equation (at least in the America) and the challenges become even more significant. These women have starred down daunting challenges: women had to be recognized by people as the law before pushing for the right to vote…and then find their way to the halls of Congress; they had to be admitted to and graduate from college to gain entry into law school…before being considered for a Judicial appointment; they had to find gainful employment as riveters, garment workers, miners, scientists, journalists, and (even) as maids before they could penetrate the obstacles that holds us back.
A myriad of motivational factors pushes these women on. But page through any list of these women's stories and you will find a common theme. Someone told them it couldn't or shouldn’t be done. Lesser people walk away, but the trailblazer doesn’t see that as an option.
I marvel at the stories of women who all hail from vastly different backgrounds and circumstances spanning centuries and geographic boundaries to all carry on in their own right. They have challenged, fought, and fought for governments and institutions not of their own choosing but of their vision. All they had before them was possibility, but they nevertheless summoned the courage and resilience to bring about change. You may not agree with their philosophy, or even view what they did as an accomplishment. But there is no disputing that trail blazers create a path so that others may follow and reach beyond to create even more ways forward.
The absolute beauty in what trail blazers leave behind is this: inspiration. Ladies, I, for one, thank you.
P.S. Just in case you are wondering who is on my list (and while by no means exhaustive), a few of my favorites are Hon. Sandra Day O'Connor, Hon. Joyce Kennard, Sarah Weddington, Hon. Betty Roberts, Florence Nightingale, Margaret Sanger, Harriet Tubman, Grace Hopper, Gloria Steinem, Madeleine Albright, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller, Shirley Chisholm, Rosie Bonavita (aka Rosie the Riveter), Women's Airforce Service Pilots, Angela Bambace, Sally Ride, Anne Frank, Sojourner Truth, and the grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, and women everywhere who are strong, courageous and spur us on to greatness.
The postings on this site reflect my own views and don't neccessarily represent the positions, strategies, or opinions of Major, Lindsey & Africa.