Monday, March 31, 2008

Strong Women: Strong Fathers – Lara Croft, Jessie Fremont, Condoleezza Rice

Happy Birthday Jessie Ann Benton Fremont

Jessie was born on May 31, 1824 in near Lexington, Virginia. She was the daughter of a famous and powerful U.S. Senator who not only doted on his daughter but included her in meetings with Washington officials and trained her to assist him in his work. Jessie's attention from her father falls under the Zeus-Athena category where the father is the one who helps his weaker-sex daughter gain power and prestige in society. It is because of the father's influence and power that the young woman is tolerated by society instead of ostracized, ignored or even in some cases burned at the stake as a witch.

Many movies and storylines today still feature women who owe their strength to their father. This archetypal thread is seen in Angelina Jolie's character, Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider movies. In these storylines, the mother is either dead or negligible because of a weakness in character. It is amazing how many times a strong female character is attributed to a powerful father instead of a powerful mother. It is almost as if we see a woman who is successful and then discover that her relationship with her father was like an internship and we say "Oh, that explains it…" I am looking forward to a shift in society when a woman attributes her success to her mother's strength and abilities.

A couple of years ago, Forbes Magazine dubbed Condoleezza Rice "The Most Powerful Woman in the World." I wanted to learn more about her because I am amazed at how well she handles herself in front of the press. How did she manage to always present herself with poise? She is always articulate even when others try desperately to ruffle her feathers. It didn't take long for me to figure out how she became such a powerhouse. I believe Condoleezza is so successful because her parents already knew their daughter was the most powerful girl (woman) in the world. It just took Forbes Magazine decades to catch on.

I've studied what little information I could find about how Condolezza Rice grew up. She had an incredibly supportive mother and father but I felt that the biographical information emphasized her father's role in her upbringing more than her mother's role.

Condoleezza was the only child of John and Angelena Rice. Angelena named her daughter after an Italian musical reference to play music "with sweetness". With foresight, her mother aptly named her as Condoleezza's persona has been like honey in drawing a varied collection of friends into her life. Her ex-students, professional football players, Vladimir Putin, the Bush Family, and the children of the New Generation (an after-school program Condoleezza co-founded for disadvantaged youth in East Palo Alto) are just a few examples.

Condoleezza was born on November 14, 1954. Her father referred to her from that time forward as his "Little Star". From birth, Condoleezza was raised within a strong community and family life. Her father was the reverend of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, a high school coach, and a high school guidance counselor. Her mother was a high school music teacher and played the organ at the church. Her parents commitment to the members of their community gave Condoleezza a first-hand glance at the power that comes from making a difference in your community, giving her a place within the community as a star within the constellation – creating a whole picture with those around her.

"The multiethnic part [of American society] does not work without another important value: belief in upward mobility. The core of that has always been the ability to level the playing field through education. Unless education is provided to all…that part of the dream will be lost."[i]

Condoleezza summarizes her family's legacy in that statement. For generations, Condoleezza's family created opportunities for themselves and their children by committing themselves to education. Self-teaching and making sure they attended university was a tradition with her family. Her parents had very high expectations of Condoleezza. They exposed her to ballet, French, music, current events, football and other athletics. They felt as if her survival depended on a comprehensive education.

Condoleezza's father worked with many children in the community that didn't have the same home opportunities as she did. He was always encouraging someone to make the most of themselves. Condoleezza followed in his footsteps with several civic commitments, including, as I mentioned before, co-founding an after-school program in Northern California while she was a professor at Stanford University.

Looking for more?

Legend of Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story by Antonia Felix

"Passion and Principle" Life of Jessie Fremont

Find female role models
[i] Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story by Antonia Felix. p.23

About the author: Allison Frederick is a writer and online marketing educator for other creative women. offers free Web 2.0 resources. She is also the author of an upcoming novel, A Portrait of Josephine, an academic-lite thriller. Find out how to receive a free copy of the novel by visiting

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