As a latch-key kid from 1965-1972, I had TV as a companion. Coming home after school, and while my mom worked overtime, I had the TV on while I did my homework and read books beyond my school assignments. There were three women in particular who inspired me during those years. I am grateful to Nichelle Nichols, Diahann Carroll, and Sally Fields for portraying women who increased my confidence.
As Lt. Uhura, Nichelle Nichols worked on the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise, responding quickly and competently to communications challenges. I loved that she worked with languages. Following my reading of A Wrinkle in Time, even my mother forbidding me to watch Star Trek (who knows why?) couldn’t keep me from traveling through space. Uhura was the woman who helped me understand what a woman could do as a professional.
Diahann Carroll portrayed Julia Baker, a nurse and mother who, like my mother, had lost her husband and was raising her child alone. She did so with grace and good humor. At a time when most families in my school and church had two parents and often more than one child, it was important to me to see these fictional lives as happy and normal.
And Sally Fields as Gidget? Well, she was the intrepid, clever, and well-dressed teen I wanted to be. I loved her sparkle and her sense of humor. When we moved to California for a year, she inspired me to try surfing … once.
I suspect we all have these role models. Who were yours?