Last night at the first Wining with Women, British author John Blundell explained that many Americans do not know about their own great women of history. On his book tour across America promoting his biography of Margaret Thatcher: A Portrait of the Iron Lady, he heard countless Americans say they wished America had a Margaret Thatcher. His answer: America has had many Margaret Thatchers whose courage, entrepreneurial spirit, and strength contributed to our liberty and success as a nation. The experience prompted him to write Ladies For Liberty : Women Who Made a Difference in American History which portrays the inspirational story of 20 American women who shaped the character and course of the country.

My favorite of the 20 women is Madam C.J.Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, who became the first female self-made millionaire in the U.S. She was born shortly after the Civil War to former slaves who both died by the time she was eight years old. Married at 14, a mom at 17, and a widow at 20, Walker worked as a laundress for 18 years before deciding to launch her unique hair care products for black women. She moved to Denver and began marketing her products in the south. She later founded the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company. She was an exceptional entrepreneur and a generous philanthropist who remains an inspiration to women today.

Another favorite from Blundell’s book are the Grimke Sisters, Sarah and Angelina, who had the boldness to speak out against slavery and advocate for women’s rights. Raised in the south, the Sisters had firsthand experience of the evils of slavery. They spoke out against slavery for which they were criticized not only for their abolitionist stance but for having the temerity to speak publically to both men and women. They were urged to return to the “proper women’s sphere” and be silent. To this charge, Sarah responded, “men and women were CREATED EQUAL…. Whatever is right for a man to do, is right for woman….I seek no favors for my sex. I surrender not our claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is, that they will take their feet from off our necks and permit us to stand upright on that ground which God destined us to occupy.” Quite bold for 1838!

For the rest of the stories, you’ll have to buy the book. You can bet I will. With all the rhetoric that portrays women as victims, more than ever, we need to experience the strength and determination that is the legacy of great American women.