Sunday, February 5, 2006

Three Women

They say that famous deaths come in threes, and this past week proves that conincidence, I suppose. Losing Coretta Scott King, Wendy Wasserstein, and Betty Friedan all in a seven-day period is sad for both those who loved them as a member of their family and friend, but also for what they did for all of us.

I’m sure that all three women will be remembered in the press as extraordinary, and they were. I’m sure that all of them will be remembered as pioneers, and they were. And I’m pretty sure that someone will say that each of them deserves a place in the history of American arts, civil rights, and sociology all on their own, and they do. I just hope that no one makes a big deal out of the fact that they were extraordinary because they were women and that becomes the only measuring stick that matters. The accomplishments of these women would have been extraordinary regardless of their gender, and the contribution they made advanced knowledge and understanding and not just from a female persepective.

What I find most encouraging is that all three of them made their mark in fields that have been bastions of men; civil rights, theatre, and sociology were all dominated by men until these three came along and showed that with grace, wit, charm, and just plain common sense that there was a dimension of leadership and purpose that had been missing. Mrs. King led the battle for civil rights longer than her husband did; Ms. Wasserstein rivaled some of the most established names in contemporary theatre with her creation of fully-drawn characters and artfully-crafted stories that went beyond the situation comedy or the angry scream; and Ms. Friedan literally wrote the book on defining where women saw themselves in our civilization.

They were role models for us all — male and female — and we’re going to miss them.