Words for Women to Live By

My parents raised me knowing I could and would be anything I wanted to, as long as I worked hard.

Being born a girl in the 1980’s was special. And I believe my generation of girls is the luckiest inhistory. We were born with the innate knowledge that we were equal to boys. We were special, too. We had right, freedoms and liberties socially and beyond. We were blessed with the right to dream big. And dream big we did.

Women like my mother fought battles against inequality in pay, workplace attitudes and the simple dream to make equal opportunities available to everyone. They fought bravely. They fought for us – their children yet to be born. More than anything, Mom and her contemporaries set the scene for me and my girlfriends to grow up in a society where we were just as cherished as boys.

We weren’t only allowed to dream, we were encouraged to do so. Success was something everyone could achieve – if it was strived for individually.

So, when I was sent this poem by the inspirational Maya Angelou, I read it and then re-read it. I internalised it and began living it.

I printed it out, folded it up, and slipped it into my wallet. The edges are frayed and there are holes in the paper – but I can read it still. Missing words are ethced in my memory.

This poem has now traveled across oceans and continents with me. It’s been pulled out and shared with friends who need words when words escape me.

We are strong. We are free. And we are fierce when need be.

Thank you Mom. Thank you Maya. Thank you strong women I admire.

MAYA ANGELOU

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE
enough money within her control to move out and rent a place of her own, even if she never wants to or needs to…
something perfect to wear if the employer, or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour…

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE
a youth she’s content to leave behind….
a past juicy enough that she’s looking forward to retelling it in her old age….
a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra…
one friend who always makes her laugh…
and one who lets her cry…

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE
a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family…
eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems, and a recipe for a meal, that will make her guests feel honored…

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE
a feeling of control over her destiny…
and should know how to fall in love without losing herself…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW
how to quit a job, break up with a lover, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship….

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW
when to try harder…
and WHEN TO WALK AWAY…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW
that she can’t change the length of her calves, the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents..
that her childhood may not have been perfect…
but it’s over…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW
what she would and wouldn’t do for love or more…
how to live alone, even if she doesn’t like it…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW
whom she can trust, whom she can’t, and why she shouldn’t take it personally…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW
where to go…
be it to her best friend’s kitchen table…
or a charming Inn in the woods…
when her soul needs soothing…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW
What she can and can’t accomplish in a day…
a month…
and a year…

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