Role Models & Mentors (fwd)

Amy L Sheldon asheldon at MAROON.TC.UMN.EDU
Tue Nov 9 23:19:40 UTC 1999

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1999 17:18:26 -0600 (CST)
From: Amy L Sheldon <asheldon at>
To: "Aitken, J. E." <aitkenj at>
Cc: fling at
Subject: RE: Role Models & Mentors

On Tue, 9 Nov 1999, Aitken, J. E. wrote:

> I have been reading the list for a few weeks and can now post.
> I'm in my mid-fifties, and I have never observed a woman who is as Amanda
> describes "successful at what I'm pining to achieve."
> A role model is not someone I want to be, but someone who makes me believe
> that success is possible.

	"X is possible"
> I only know of one woman I consider a role model.  If I had expectations,
> she surpassed them 25 years ago, and that is what grabbed my attention. She

	"grabbed my attention"

> is not my leader, although she has influenced me.  She is not my mentor or
> teacher, although she has informed me.  She's not my pathfinder because
> we're on different paths.  We can't be professional friends because I
> hardly know her.
> I can easily define her function in my life:

	*Who she is challenges who I might be.****

> And I know exactly what I want from her: Hope.
> ~ hello from joan e. aitken  <aitkenj at>

I liked the way you said the above, which I highlighted. Some previous
posts to the list suggested that we are underselling ourselves if we
should be seeking "role models", or that to feel we need "role models" is
to operate out of a position of weak(er)ness.  I was bothered by that
sentiment.  There are some very daring things we may want to do in life
and I see nothing wrong with getting a sense of how to strike out on that
path, or to take some indirect encouragement from the deeds and
decisions others have made. I think we learn something about what matters
to ourselves when we see someone (here, a woman) doing something we
experience as new/unheard of/daring/must-be-done.

Take for example, the PBS programs (2 part) on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and
Susan B. Anthony. Whether or not we want to call them "role models" they
did a bunch of things that were important. They fought for decades for
women's suffrage, and their friendship formed around that struggle.  We
may not want the exact terms of their lives, but there is something
instructive about "what is possible" or how to make something possible,
that we might learn by studying their lives and words. That impulse to
look and learn about them is important, even if we don't know why we are
drawn to it. Perhaps it's the wish to know about women's lives, because
women have been written out of history, religion, etc. and we have not
learned as much about women as we know about men. Neither have we learned
as much as we want to about alternatives to "the natural order".

Don't miss that PBS program, being rerun next weekend - check your local


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