The Book of Gutsy Women by Hillary Rodham Clinton Book Summary
The Book of Gutsy Women, Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton continue in print their decades-long conversation about strong, capable and brave women, both well known and unknown. The women and girls profiled made a difference in their communities and pioneered future opportunities for all women. An encyclopedic catalog of trailblazing women, this bestseller – which both authors acknowledge is far from comprehensive – will educate, inspire and entertain readers with its empowering overview of what women can achieve.
- Dorothy Rodham, Hillary Clinton’s mother and first role model, was like the typical 1950s TV mom.
- Margaret Chase Smith was a groundbreaking member of Congress.
- Fifty-eight percent of the women who served in the 116th Congress had been Girl Scouts.
- Title IX legislation, which guarantees that girls have equal opportunities in education, enabled the careers of superstar female athletes.
- Fearless female adventurers were often the first women in their fields.
- Many women who became well known worked for years in obscurity.
- Girls and women hold political positions that reverberate around the world.
- Women banding together over time have accomplished more than any one woman could.
- Women developed new perspectives on old problems, thus changing minds and the world.
The Book of Gutsy Women Book Summary
Dorothy Rodham, Hillary Clinton’s mother and first role model, was like the typical 1950s TV mom.
Dorothy Rodham encouraged her daughter and wanted her to have choices she didn’t have. Clinton’s other female role models were fictional, like reporter Brenda Starr and Jo March from Little Women. Nancy Drew inspired both Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. Their heroes include Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, dancer Isadora Duncan and Maria von Trapp, whose story inspired The Sound of Music. But history is full of unsung “gutsy” women. You’ve heard of Joan of Arc, but have you ever read about her mother Isabelle Romée? She worked for decades to rescue her daughter’s reputation and reverse the Catholic Church’s charge that Joan was guilty of heresy.
Margaret Chase Smith was a groundbreaking member of Congress.
Margaret Chase Smith’s husband – Clyde Harold Smith – was a Republican congressman. When he fell sick during his first term, she took over his duties, then campaigned for his re-election in 1938. In 1940, he urged his supporters to back his wife. After he died, Margaret Chase Smith won the seat in a special election to become Maine’s first congresswoman. She faced a tough primary, and the local paper declared that her gender disqualified her. She won anyway.
“Smith “was a quiet and steadfast champion of policies advancing women’s rights, equality and dignity; I think she was a feminist without claiming the label.”
When Smith ran for Senate, the Maine Republican Party opposed her. Opponents called her a communist for supporting the United Nations and the New Deal. But she won decisively. She was the first senator to speak out against Joseph McCarthy. In 1964, Smith launched her campaign for the presidency, the first woman to try seek a major party nomination. Other groundbreaking US women politicians include presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm, vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro (the first from a major party), Bella Abzug and Virginia House of Delegates member Danica Roem.
Fifty-eight percent of the women who served in the 116th Congress had been Girl Scouts.
Juliette Gordon Low was born in Georgia in 1860. Lord Robert Baden-Powell, who founded the Boy Scouts, inspired Low to start the Girl Scouts. She and her cousin began with a troop of 18 girls in Savannah. As the organization grew, it championed practical knowledge under the motto “Be Prepared.” Low pushed for educating girls and giving them leadership training and financial literacy. Girl Scouts supported the US Army in World War I as volunteer ambulance drivers and nurses’ aides. They sold cookies during the war years. Their program is the largest “girl-led business” worldwide, selling 200 million boxes of cookies annually. Barbara Walters, Serena and Venus Williams, and Madeleine Albright were all Girl Scouts, as were 59 million of today’s American women. Engineer Sylvia Acevedo, current CEO of the Girl Scouts, created new badge programs for the sciences and other fields that men have traditionally dominated.
Title IX legislation, which guarantees that girls have equal opportunities in education, enabled the careers of superstar female athletes.
After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, police interrogated Patsy Mink’s father, a Japanese-American engineer in Hawaii. Every medical school she applied to rejected Mink because of her gender, despite her stellar grades. She applied to law school, and the University of Chicago accepted her by labeling her an international student, though Hawaii was then a US territory. When she returned home to Hawaii, she fought to take the bar exam. Firms wouldn’t hire her because she was a wife and mother, so she opened her own law practice. She won a US House seat representing Hawaii in 1964.
Bernice “Bunny” Sandler studied sex discrimination. She found that women often had to meet higher standards than men – or gained admission to college only if the school had a quota for women, no matter their qualifications. Sandler discovered that it was unlawful for organizations – including universities – to discriminate on the basis of gender if they accepted money from the federal government. So she filed a class action suit in 1970 against universities. She enlisted Oregon representative Edith Green, an education advocate, who held Congressional hearings on the matter. Green and Mink drafted the legislation for Title IX, which guaranteed equal opportunities in education regardless of gender. Congress passed it, and President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
“Nearly 50 years later, Title IX has transformed educational opportunities for generations of women and girls.
In 1973, the world watched mesmerized as tennis stars Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs played their historical “Battle of the Sexes” match. King knew it was important to women that she win, and she did. She was afraid that a loss would undermine Title IX and harm the women’s movement. Later, King came out as a lesbian and a champion of LGBTQ rights and equal rights for female athletes.
Title IX boosted the participation of girls in secondary school sports more than 900%. International athletes train in the United States and return home to elevate sports in their countries. Only 700 girls participated in soccer programs before Title IX. Now, more than 390,000 play, paving the way for the championship US women’s soccer team. Despite winning the World Cup several times, US women’s team members still earned just $250,000 in prize money in comparison with their male counterparts – who, if they had won, would have earned $1.1 million each.
Fearless female adventurers were often the first women in their fields.
Margaret Bourke-White was the first American female war correspondent. She began working as a photographer for an architectural firm after graduating from college. She gained fame for her stunning industrial pictures. She worked for Fortune and became the first foreign photojournalist to photograph the Soviet Union in 1930.
Her husband, journalist Erskine Caldwell, joined her in Europe, where Bourke-White documented rising Nazism. As the US entered World War II, she took a job with a New York newspaper. Caldwell wanted to start a family, but Bourke-White didn’t want to give up her career, and she found little support for working and raising children. She went back to Europe, and their marriage ended. Her assignments took her to combat zones and concentration camps. She photographed Gandhi’s struggle in India and South African apartheid. She published 11 collections of photographs.
“Sally Ride and “her fellow would-be astronauts practiced jumping out of planes with parachutes and surviving in open water.” ”
Around the time that eighth-grader Hillary Rodham got a rejection letter from NASA saying the space program didn’t accept women, Sally Ride was growing up in Encino, California. She was interested in space, but dropped out of college to become a tennis player. She later studied physics at Stanford University and earned her PhD. She won a place in the space shuttle program in 1978, one of 35 astronauts, including six women, that the program accepted from more than 8,000 candidates. Ride piloted jets. She trained for five years, and gained a spot on the Challenger crew for a mission in 1983. She was the first American woman in space. After her career at NASA, she founded the Sally Ride Science organization to develop science programs for schools. Following her death in 2012, the Navy named a research ship for her. Since Ride, 50 American women have traveled to space.
Many women who became well known worked for years in obscurity.
Rosa Parks became known as a civil rights activist in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white passenger, leading to her arrest. Parks trained for years as an activist and was well-versed in black history, nonviolent action and organizing. She served as secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Through the years, Parks pushed for antilynching bills and voter rights protection in the days of arbitrary tests and poll taxes in the South. She persevered until she was able to vote. By 1955, she’d had enough of discrimination. The Montgomery’s Women’s Political Council called for a bus strike the day Parks went to court, and it maintained the strike for nearly a year.
Dolores Huerta is less well known than Cesar Chavez, the leader with whom she co-founded the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) in 1962. While he was the face of the farm workers’ movement, she worked behind the scenes organizing rallies and lobbying for legal protections for workers. Migrant farm workers, usually Latino and Asian, faced abuse and financial hardship. The UFW led fruit and vegetable boycotts, and won stronger contracts with farm owners and vineyards.
“In media interviews, “Chavez was asked about his leadership of the organization…Dolores was asked about motherhood and whether she ever wanted to take a day off and go to a spa!”
Huerta and the UFW got California to pass a law allowing farm workers to unionize and negotiate collectively. Huerta spoke out against the health threats of pesticides. She protested many times over the years, leading to her being arrested 22 times. While she was peacefully protesting against Vice President George H.W. Bush, the San Francisco police beat Huerta so severely she had to have emergency surgery. She won a large settlement, which funded her work and the union. Huerta created the UFW motto “Sí, se puede” – “Yes, we can” – which Barack Obama used in his 2008 presidential campaign. He thanked her for her inspiration when he awarded Huerta the Medal of Freedom in 2012.
Girls and women hold political positions that reverberate around the world.
Malala Yousafzai has advocated for girls’ education in Pakistan since she was 11 years old, when she chastised the Taliban for shutting down girls’ schools. The Taliban stormed her school bus and shot her when she was 15. She was still recovering at age 16 when she spoke at the United Nations to promote girls’ education. Her Malala Fund supports education for girls worldwide.
“Greta Thunberg “couldn’t understand why everyone around her – from classmates to world leaders – wasn’t similarly fixated on confronting this global emergency.”
Greta Thunberg started to raise awareness about the climate emergency in 2018, at age 15. She went on strike from school. She found inspiration from the shooting survivors of Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and the gun reform movement they started. Thunberg protested alone in front of the building where the Swedish legislature meets – continuing her strike on Fridays, with other students joining her. Her #FridaysForFuture protest has grown worldwide. Thunberg is open about her Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism, and claims it’s given her singular focus.
Women banding together over time have accomplished more than any one woman could.
Journalist and anti-lynching advocate Ida B. Wells was a suffragette and campaigned for US women’s right to vote. She joined the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade with her sorority, but grew angry when she learned the white women who organized the parade relegated black women to the back of the march. She marched at the front with other women from Chicago.
“In 1900, in the face of rising white supremacy within the suffrage movement, [Terrell] reiterated her commitment to suffrage for all women.”
African-American suffragettes took leadership roles, including Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, who spoke at black women’s clubs to persuade members to fight for suffrage. She and Mary Church Terrell taught at the same school. Like Cooper, Terrell believed black and white women had to join together to ensure women’s voting rights. With luminaries who included Wells, Harriet Tubman and poet Frances E.W. Harper, Terrell organized and became the first president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. These women advocated for equality and fought racism. Wells later co-founded the NAACP. While women won the vote in 1920, the US Senate did not pass antilynching legislation until December 2018.
Women developed new perspectives on old problems, thus changing minds and the world.
Biologist and educator Wangari Maathai began her Green Belt Movement in Kenya to reforest the country and lift people out of poverty. The government targeted her for assassination as a prodemocracy leader. She suffered a vicious beating during a public hunger strike. For leading the Green Belt Movement, which spread throughout Africa and worldwide, in 2004 Maathai became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Her movement planted 50 million trees by the time of her death in 2011, and her daughter Wanjira Mathai continues her work.
“Eleanor Roosevelt “stood up against racism, advocated for the trade union movement, worked to alleviate poverty and create jobs.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921, and Eleanor Roosevelt took charge of his care. Despite his polio and the opposition of her mother-in-law, Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged her husband’s political ambitions. After FDR’s death, Roosevelt represented the United States in the United Nations, where she spent seven years as ambassador. Roosevelt chaired the UN Human Rights Committee and built consensus for the universal declaration of human rights (UDHR), a visionary codification of “social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights.”
About the Authors
Hillary Rodham Clinton served as first lady, senator from New York and US secretary of state. She became the first woman to win her political party’s nomination for president. Her daughter Chelsea Clinton advocates for women and girls through the Clinton Foundation.
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