I come from a history of do-it-yourself women
Before famous female action heroes like Michelle Obama and Madonna entered the stage, and even before the world got the pleasure of the spectacularly independent, Katherine Hepburn, two women in particular inspired me with the belief that women really COULD do anything.
My great grandmother, Marie Cortorielle Christian
a Woodlands Cree Native, was one of the strongest and most independent woman I knew. She raised 6 children in a tiny log cabin in Northern Alberta, at a time when electricity, running water, and paved roads were stuff of science fiction. Kookum, which means Grandmother in the Cree Language, could write a book on self sufficient living.
If she could write. She couldn’t. At least not in English, because she refused to learn English. She understood it well enough, Kookum was stubborn. She didn’t want to lose her language and didn’t believe that anyone coming to “her lands” should tell her she need to speak English.
But she COULD kill a moose with one shot. She’d have it skinned within an hour, and within days have the meat butchered and wrapped. That moose would feed the family for months. Once the meat was taken care of, she’d be tanning the moose hide, producing the most amazingly beautiful moccasins and mukluks the world has ever seen.
I remember her still in her 9o’s, living entirely on her own, in a part of the world most people considered the Frozen Tundra. And there was Kookum Marie, a cigar stuffed in her mouth, her moose hide parka wrapped tightly around her as she shovelled the walk with gusto. She’d be digging the shovel into a foot of snow, swinging her arms around like Paul Bunyon, and letting the snow fall into the 6 foot bank. As the massive wall of snow grew, like an additional fortress to her small log house, Kookum would chat and gossip with me in Cree. I didn’t know Cree. I wish I did. All I could do, was stare in awe at my Badass Superhero.
was the second of my childhood heroes. My great aunt (through marriage) and my first childhood doctor, this woman epitomized the independent woman. Becoming a Doctor in the 1920’s (and graduating the top of her class) Dr. Jackson answered an advertisement in the Medical Journals for “Doctor On Horseback” and finds herself in the wilds of Northern Alberta.
With the nearest town over 120 km away, she lived in a tiny log cabin also without electricity or running water. And where was her “office” in which she provided top quality medical treatment?
Out there. In the boreal forest, a wilderness with little more than dirt trails which became impassible more often than not. Dr. Jackson rode her horse in a 40 km radius of “out there” visiting homesteaders and Metis families whenever they needed medical care. In the winter she had to work in temperatures as low as -40. In the spring she had to navigate through slush, mud and flooding river banks, While the summer was beautiful and hot, she had to fight mosquitos, sometimes so thick it would be tough to breathe without inhaling them.
Want to know something else that makes her a female action hero? She had NO IDEA how to ride a horse until she got the job and took riding lessons before she left England.
She was one of my first female action heroes and Dr. Jackson’s legend continued until her death at 95.
Both of these women shaped my life and the lives of every woman that knew them
My great-grandmother, Kookum Marie, is not in the history books. Her stories are now handed down by her grandchildren, and great grand children. Her lessons however, continue to inspire and encourage every one of us.
Dr. Mary Percy Jackson has received one of the highest honours of Canada, and was named an Officer in the Order of Canada. Even in death, she continues to inspire women world-wide with her story.
What did these two courageous women teach me about being an independent woman?
- Strong women may be scared s@itless, but they do it anyway.
- We can be taught almost anything if we have the desire to learn
- We will not wait for someone to do our work.
- We will do whatever is necessary to be successful.
- We can empower a nation
Join the discussion! Tell me about who inspires you, by leaving a comment below.
Deborah Vos is a dreamer, a writer, a traveler and a sailor. She believes in following her dreams and trusts that in doing so, she’s being led to an even more abundant and joyful life.
Deborah can be currently found sailing in the Caribbean. When she’s not on the water, she’s following her passion for writing and digital marketing.
Feel free to send her an email!