10 Dead Dudettes Every Entrepreneur Should Follow

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This is a guest post from uber-copywriter, blogger, genius and all-around insanely cool person, Julie Roads. Visit her at WritingRoads.com.

This was a hard list to make. Because the number of amazing dead dudettes is really off the charts. It’s also a fairly different one than Jonathan’s list of Dead Dudes because, as it turns out, men and women really are different. And the thing is, there isn’t a historic list of women entrepreneurs – that are called that – like there is of men.

So, as women often do, I took another tack. I found women that succeeded and failed and got back up again, that did things no once else had done and that used their voices in mighty ways – because even though they aren’t marketing gurus, the lessons they left us are indelible and critical to the entrepreneur’s path, male or female.

1. Katherine Graham presided over the Washington Post for more than two decades. Her leadership and pursuit of the truth was critical in exposing the Watergate scandal and prompting Nixon’s eventual impeachment. She took a huge risk by believing and supporting Woodward and Bernstein. All of this would have been challenging for any one, but Katherine did it as a woman in a traditionally male world. There were no role models as no one had come before her, she was the first female head of a major paper. Follow Katherine to trail blaze and make your own way; know that your example helps everyone that follows. Her memoir, Personal History, won the Nobel Prize in 1998.

2. Golda Meir First of all, she was the daughter of a grocery store clerk from Milwaukee and she ended up as the Prime Minister of Israel – need I say more? Golda followed a dream and a belief from Wisconsin to the Middle East. She was a critical player in the establishment of the Jewish state. This story tells us so much: “On May 10th, 1948, four days before the official establishment of the state of Israel, Golda traveled to Amman disguised as an Arab woman for a secret meeting with King Abdullah of Transjordan where she urged him not to join the other Arab countries in attacking the Jews. Abdullah asked her not to hurry to proclaim a state. Golda, known for her acerbic wit, replied: ‘We’ve been waiting for 2,000 years. Is that hurrying?'” Follow Golda by taking risks (the danger she put herself in!) for what you know is right and speaking up for what you believe (no matter who your company). Her autobiography is a life changer: My Life.

3. Martha Graham was a dancer and a choreographer, but she really wanted to be known as a dancer. Inevitably, as her youth faded, her dancing, and then her life, did as well. Her own personal accounts tell of the terror of watching someone else – younger – dance her dances, “…how can you avoid it when you look on stage and see a dancer made up to look as you did thirty years ago, dancing a ballet you created with someone you were then deeply in love with, your husband? I think that is a circle of hell Dante omitted.” At this point, she admittedly lost her will to live, stopped eating and started drinking, until she ended up hospitalized in a coma. And then she came back. She reorganized her company, choreographed 10 new revivals and won the Medal of Freedom from President Ford over the course of the next 20 years until her death at 96. Follow Martha Graham for resurgence, grit, grace and that second wind when you really need it the most. Read The Life and Work of Martha Graham.

4. Anais Nin is best known for her erotica and her diaries. In writing erotica, she opened up a world where women do daring things and take pleasure at will, it was and continues to be empowering and tantilizing. With her diaries, she exposed her personal life and her relationships with famous writers like Henry Miller. She uncovered the writer/thinker’s life, their inspirations and actual lives. She said, “This diary is my kief, hashish, and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice.” Imagine what she would have done with a blog? Follow Anais to get in touch with your erotic side, to give taboo subjects a beautiful voice and when you’re searching for transparency. Read her diaries and (definitely) read Delta of Venus.

5. Eve There’s a bumper sticker that I believe was written for Eve, it says: Well-behaved women seldom make history. Once upon a time, Eve had a choice, she could follow the rules or not. She chose to be a daredevil, truth be told. That serpent helped her get the hell out of dodge and pave her own way – a way filled with the good and the bad. Because, as all women know, being good is just plain boring (most of us like bad boys and if Adam was going to play the goody two shoes, by God, Eve was going to corrupt him). Follow Eve by being curious, by following your cravings and your passions, and – of course – by misbehaving. There are many books that talk about Eve, (sadly she didn’t leave us a personal account of what really went down) but you might want to start with the Old Testament (and make sure to read in between the lines).

6. Georgia O’Keeffe‘s artwork is undeniably female – though she emphatically claimed that her flower images really were of flowers. Georgia is about being an individual – in person and in expression. No other art looks like hers. It is so unique. I am not an art buff, but I can always spot an O’Keeffe. Her style, her colors, her medium are undeniably her. Cow skull, iris, landscape, desert – it’s all Georgia. Follow her to make your mark, create your signature, stand out from everyone else; follow her for beauty – often explored at short range. Read Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life

7. Katharine Hepburn wore pants and wore them so well. She was the picture of poise, but she was fiercely strong. In a biz where smiling for the press and everyone else was box office gold, she was labeled box office poison for her unconventional, straight-shooting, anti-Hollywood attitude. She was outspoken, esoteric and had a sharp tongue. And none of this was softened by her refusal of make-up and pretty dresses. Still, she earned 12 Oscar nominations and four statues. On location filming African Queen, director John Huston spoke of how on their days off, he and Bogart would go hunting for lions and such, and how one day Hepburn asked to join them. “He described her as a “Diana of the Hunt” — utterly fearless — and able to shoot with the best of them.” Follow Katharine to go against all conventions and to be real – as in ‘not fake’ or hidden under pretenses or make-up (actual or metaphorical). Read Me: Stories of My Life

8. Sacajawea As the native American guide who accompanied Lewis and Clark, Sacajawea accomplished magnificent feats such as cooking food she foraged to keep the men alive and identifying the correct route through the Yellowstone River Basin that would eventually be chosen as the best path for the the Northern Pacific Railway to cross the continental divide. But her main role was interpreter. She was critical to the expedition as she communicated to tribes encountered along the way, letting them know that no harm was meant, sometimes enlisting their help. Some historians believe it was her ‘womanness’ that proved the most useful as it effectively and unequivocally signaled peace. Follow Sacajawea for vision, clear communication and peace keeping.

9. Babe Zaharias wasn’t just an athlete. She was the quintessential athlete. She earned international fame in track and field and All-American status in basketball. She was an expert diver, roller-skater and bowler and played organized baseball and softball. And, she earmed two gold medals and one silver for track and field in the 1932 Olympics. But wait, there’s more! She was a golfer, too. Babe was the first (and currently only) woman to make the cut in a regular PGA tour event. Against the women, she dominated, winning just about everything you can imagine including the Grand Slam (3 women’s majors) in 1950. She still holds several golfing records today. Oh, and she performed in vaudeville. Follow Babe to cover the spectrum, to take your talent and use it across the field, for diversity, for skill, strength and stamina…and to win. Read Babe Didrikson: The Greatest All-Sport Athlete of All Time.

10. Virgina Woolf In her most widely known work, A Room of One’s Own, Virginia claims, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” You can take that at face value, or you can take it further. Her proclamation, to me, is that a woman’s writing is worthy of a room and money. That there is value in a woman’s work, in her creative pursuits, in her mind. Her writing came at a time when female hysteria anxiety was treated with rest and stillness. Her statement is a direct retaliation. Let us out, let us create. Follow Virgina to take your work seriously, to demand compensation and space for your art and passion and for value…of your self. Carve out your own space in here: A Room of One’s Own.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

from The Life and Work of Martha Graham

This is a guest post from uber-copywriter, blogger, genius and all-around insanely cool person, Julie Roads. Visit her at WritingRoads.com.

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31 responses

31 responses to “10 Dead Dudettes Every Entrepreneur Should Follow”

  1. Valter says:

    Being Italian, I have to add Maria Montessori (the creator of Montessori schooling method, still used worldwide).
    She was the first woman to get an M.D. degree in Italy (Italy was even more sexist than now!).
    She fought against tons of prejudices (and even against Fascist government), and her work deeply influenced modern pedagogy.

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by twittybean: 10 Dead Dudettes Every Entrepreneur Should Follow http://bit.ly/cKsqTD

  3. Tim Brownson says:

    I’m stunned I’ve never heard of Babe Zaharias. I consider myself knowledgeable on sport (although I guess more so UK and Europe) and yet she has slipped right by me.

    Let me through in a UK guy. The ONLY person in the history of the Olympics to win 5 consecutive gold medals in a power event.

    Rower Steve Redgrave said after his 4th gold. “If anybody sees me get back into a boat again – shoot me”

    4 years later in 2000 and he had another gold in a man killer of an event the 2km 4 man.

    For sheer dedication he tops the lot yet he’s not very well known outside the UK or the rowing world. He’s also by all accounts a brilliant person, fantastic speaker, ambassador and was part of the team that someway managed to con the world into giving the Olympics to the UK!

    You do know we’re going to screw that one up, right?

    • Julie Roads says:

      Hey Tim – I have to admit, I didn’t know about Babe either – and I was also stunned. My parents told me about her…and I was hooked, totally HOOKED! Thanks for sharing Steve!

  4. Sally G. says:

    This is one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time. I loved meeting these women from the perspective of how I might keep their vitality alive in my own engagement with the world. I’ll be following up with some of the books you’ve shared too as I would love to get to know some of these women better. Julie ~ thank you sooooo much! And Jonathan, thank you for hosting!!

  5. Dawna Jarvis says:

    What an exceptional list of women. I think now is the best time to be a woman entrepreneur and these interesting and compelling individuals help to inspire us each day.

    As I am sure there will be more suggestions for this list, I am adding my own. Bella Abzug, who became a politician when few women even considered it as a possibility.

    Thank you again for this wonderful list and your terrific writing. I will refer to it often for inspiration.

  6. Thanks for a wonderful post and a great way to ring in the end of Women’s History Month. Recently watched 2 video/DVD on Golda Meir’s life. After reading this I want to get her book as well as Martha Graham’s. I was pleased that I knew all the women. However, did not know some of the details, like Katherine Graham winning a Pulitzer Prize, and that’s a pretty big detail. Again, thank.

  7. robyn says:

    great list! i’ve bookmarked this page, and am set to learn more about many of these women. i’d also add Mother Theresa to the list – her way of caring for the poorest of the poor, of choosing to live a life of service to others has inspired me in my journey!

  8. Absolutely love the list.

    One thing about Eve though: God never told Eve not to eat of the tree. He told Adam. So technically, Eve didn’t break the commandment. Adam however most likely stood by her watching her eat it and did not say a thing. Some leadership style…

    Ana Hoffman/YourNetBiz Attraction Marketing Cafe Blog

  9. Great list though I would have to add Dorothy Parker. She showed the women of her time that it was okay to have your own opinions and voice them. Plus her acerbic wit still delights people decades later.

  10. Megan says:

    Loved this Julie… It made me think of a list of saints or goddesses we could prey to and model to obtain our goals!


  11. Amazing women, thanks for bringing them to us!

    Don’t forget Coco Chanel, a real brand builder, to say the least. She forged a new concept of fashion and elegance by emphasizing comfort and self-expression; in doing so she let women know that chic has nothing to do with money.

    Go Women!

  12. Sue says:

    Hi Julie,

    Interesting list. There’s another bumper sticker about Eve that states “Eve was framed.” I’m surprised you didn’t include Rosa Parks who even though she was doubly oppressed on the basis of race and gender still had the courage to dig in and refuse to give up her seat and the determination to challenge an unfair and completely irrational policy.

    Since I’m Canadian, I just have to add Nellie McLung to the list of women who challenged the status quo and made a difference. Nellie was among the first wave of feminists who played a key role in the Canadian women’s suffragette movement. She is most well known for the 1929 “Persons” case in which she challenged the legislation in the British North America Act (now Canada’s Constitution Act)that stated one had to be a “person” to serve in the Canadian Senate–and of course women apparently weren’t considered persons in 1867 when the British North America Act was passed. Nellie, along with 4 other women challenged the definition and took their case all the way to the British Privy Council (At that time the equivalent of the “highest court in the land”, despite the fact that it was across the pond in England.) and they won their case. If you’re feeling inspired by the Canadian women’s history lesson, you can find out more at this site: http://www.mta.ca/about_canada/study_guide/famous_women/nellie_mcclung.html

    Have a great day,

    • Julie Roads says:

      I actually tried to pick women that aren’t ‘usually’ chosen…and I only had space for 10!!! But I did, of course, consider Rosa Parks…

  13. Cathy says:

    Wow! I feel inspired to take on the world just by reading this list! 😀 What indomitable women!

    Thanks, Julie, for an inspiring read!

  14. shanna says:

    I love this list, but Eve? Really? Might as well add Hera, then, too 🙂

    I would add Twyla Tharp, Emma Goldman, Tina Modotti, Waris Dirie, Dr. Wangari Maathai, and Vandana Shiva. These additions would flesh out a more global list.

  15. Finally herstories are getting airtime. Thanks, Julie!
    There are many accomplished women and always have been. They just have not been included in general literature much.
    ~ Arlene

  16. Deb says:

    This is an outstanding list. I wanted to provide a little more information about Katherine Graham. Her memoir is a fascinating read. She was a smart woman who was able to accomplish much by reaching out to others who could help her learn about both business and print media when her husband died and left her with the Washington Post. For example, she created a business relationship and friendship with Warren Buffet which paid off huge dividends in her success. And she had Ben Bradley at her side as the editor. In other words she wasn’t reluctant to create partnerships- regardless of whether it was with Dudes or Dudettes. She also had a natural sense of confidence that probably kept her “in the game” when difficult situations arose such as Watergate.

  17. I’ve never heard of Anais Nin. Out of all of these dudettes, this one intrigued me the most. She didn’t just break down the wall, she blew it up. Looks like I have some reading to do. I’m bookmarking this post.

    There are so many great dead people we can learn from. It’s these people we need to teach our kids about. If we teach them to conform that’s what they will do. If we teach them to think for themselves, challenge the social norms, then they will live a life of freedom.

  18. Two women who I consider essential editions to this list:

    Olgivanna Lloyd Wright – Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s third wife. She was a force of her own, but also helped reignite Frank’s waning career. Together they built Taliesin West during the depths of the Depression and with Olgivanna’s encouragement, started Taliesin Fellowship, a school for apprentices. Part school, part commune, Olgivanna was extremely invested in developing the “whole person” and education there extended well beyond architecture. Many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s best known works were created during the time he was married to Olgivanna, including Falling Water, the Modern Museum of New York, etc. Interesting side note…Olgivanna’s mother was a general in the Montenegro army. See “Partner to Genius: A Biography of Olgivanna Lloyd Wright.”

    Martha Gellhorn – Today she is better known as Hemmingway’s third wife, but during her lifetime, she was a well-known journalist and war correspondent. (Gellhorn resented her reflected fame as Hemingway’s third wife, remarking that she had no intention of “being a footnote in someone else’s life.”) Gellhorn’s career as a journalist spanned over 60 years. She covered the Spanish Civil War, America’s Depression, WWII, and the war in Vietnam. At the age of 81, she went to Panama to cover the American invasion. A favorite collection of her work is “The View From the Ground” (1988)

  19. Trece says:

    I was particularly pleased to see Babe Zaharias on this list. She came to my attention via the movie “Babe” (starring Susan Clark and Alex Karas) as a woman who managed to reinvent herself quite successfully.

    I look forward to reading more of your work.

    Thanks, Jonathan, for having her!

  20. Anne says:

    I have to take exception to the characterization of the story of Eve. And personally, I’m tired of hearing that “good girls are boring and bad girls are the ones who are exciting and getting things done.” That’s simply B.S.

    I am a pro-life, committed to marriage, Christian female. That doesn’t mean I necessarily follow along with what is considered traditional church teaching – matter of fact, I don’t even attend an institutional church (I worship at home with my husband and kids). BUT, each to his own as far as I am concerned when it comes to whether one worships in a traditional church or not.

    Where am I going with this? It’s this: I don’t necessarily conform but I also don’t have a goal to be a “bad girl.” Exactly what is the point of that? From what I have seen, and experienced when I was young and naive – being a bad girl can have LOTS of negative consequences: STD’s, addictions, bad relationships.

    You may have been writing “tongue-in-cheek” but it didn’t sound like it. And like I said, I am just fed up with the whole “bad girls have more fun, make history, blah, blah, blah.” So because I am still married after 28 years and have devoted the majority of my life to parenting and home-schooling my kids I am a failure, in your opinion?

    I’ll take being a good girl and have the kids I have, who because of my sacrifices, have turned out to be amazing, responsible, wonderful people.

    • I have to say that, while I found the others fascinating and worthy of further research, including Eve seemed somewhere between preposterously frivolous and intentionally offensive.

      But then, this is the internet, where we’re not allowed to discuss traditional spirituality because it’s too old-fashioned.

      If you want a female from scripture, how about Ruth, a widow who, out of love and loyalty, left her home and her people, penniless and alone except for her mother-in-law, also a widow, and yet her great-grandson was the second king of Israel.

      But, Eve? “Let’s tell all our daughters that disobedience leads to happiness.”

      I’m wondering what the other amazing members of this list would say about that.

  21. Reba says:

    Hi ! many thanks for this! It brings back to mind many like Anais Nin that I have always meant to get better acquainted with and others like Babe, whom I am meeting for the first time. She sounds fascinating … thanks for the intro! I have to say i was delighted to see Eve on the list (the irony of commenting right after Anne did..:))anyway, I say I’m delighted because even while growing up in a conservative orthodox small Christian community, i always felt a buzz of pride that Eve actually was bold enough to give in to curiosity and check out things for herself. i love that attitude! And I always felt like it was wrong to clamp down on such a genuine curiosity and spirit of enterprise. I could never understand God not understanding such a basic tendency of man…!Looking forward to reading more of your writing. Cheers!

  22. Van says:

    Amazing and inspirational post, thank you! I plant to read all books listed in the coming months…

  23. Wow I love your list and am familiar with many. O’Keefe is my first love…I have her stuff hanging in my office, kitchen and just returned from another visit to her museum in Sanat Fe. My favorite is a photo of her on the back of a motorcycle. Her caretaker, a young man is driving. That’s exactly how I want to be in my 80’s. She’s my constant reminder to be unconventional and truly myself no matter what the rest of the world is doing or thinking. If more women would have followed her lead we wouldn’t be in second place to this day!

  24. Anne Wayman says:

    Love the list, and love shanna’s additions – Emma Goldman and Dr Wangari Maathai… I’d add Eleanor Roosevelt.

    We wimmen need more of this sort of thing… thanks! I’m breathing more fully.

  25. Eve is a graet one and I love that quote “Well behaved women scarcely make history”. It rings so true, think about the top 10 women of the past like Monroe or Sacajawea for example.

  26. […] know about ten women whose advice should be followed by every entrepreneur then I suggest reading this list.  Shame they’re all dead (although that is the point of the […]