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What Can You Learn From Two Famous Women?

March '16

Here are two tales about two remarkable women.

The first is a story of Diana Nyad, who was the first person to swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida without the aid of a shark cage. She accomplished this record-breaking feat in 2013 at the age of 64. This was not her first crack at this challenging 110 mile swim. She was 30 when she made her initial attempt and failed. She set aside that dream and went about her life as a broadcast sports journalist and writer.

When she turned 60, she revisited this dream. On her second attempt, an attack of asthma brought her out of the water after 29 hours. She tried for a third time a year later, but had to stop after 49 hours because of stings from jelly fish and a Portuguese man of war. Determined, she made a fourth attempt and failed after spending even more time in the water. On this try a storm along with jelly fish stings prevented her from completing the journey. Undaunted, she stepped into the ocean at Havana once again on the morning of August 31st. This time a silicone mask, bodysuit, gloves and booties protected her from jelly fish stings. She reached Key West 63 hours later!

Sandra Day O’Conner broke a different kind of record when she was appointed the first woman to serve as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Her road to this highest office did not start with much promise despite her graduation from a prestigious law school where she served on their law review.

After graduating with her LLB from Stanford University Law School, she applied to every law firm that affirmed “we hire Stanford grads.” When she called each one of these 40 firms, the response she received was, “We don’t hire women.” After being turned away from all these firms, she approached an appellate judge whom she knew had a woman on staff. While he agreed she would be a fine asset, he had no money to hire anyone; she offered to work for free. Noting there was no office for her, she spied an extra chair in the secretary’s office and volunteered to work there as long as the secretary agreed. That’s how she got her first job as deputy county attorney in San Mateo, California!

What do you take away from the stories of these two remarkable women? Love to know your thoughts and hear your perspective.

Happy spring!


  1. Suzanne Bessin said on March 31, 2016:

    Neither jellyfish nor sexist assholes can stop me when I know what I want.

  2. Roberta Taylor said on April 3, 2016:

    These women did not give up. They kept on trying even with failure which they would not accept, staring them in the face.

  3. Lucy Kluckhohn Jones (Wales '55) said on May 1, 2016:

    Persistence pays off. It helps to be stubborn!

    After I was first widowed, I tried to “do the right thing” by changing the name on various accounts to my name. On learning that I was widowed, one store wanted to cancel the credit card. Since the store sold the clothes favored by my sons, I demurred–never quite got around to changing the information. As a result the kids had clothes, and I had a track record of sorts.
    Those were the days when a woman didn’t quite exist.
    Thanks, Bonnie, for your good thoughts! Happy Spring!

  4. Bonnie said on July 1, 2016:

    Yes indeed! As I said to Lucy, persistence often pays off.

  5. Bonnie said on July 1, 2016:

    Now there’s a comment I’ve never heard before!

    Thanks, Bonnie

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