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Strong Women

“Writing Strong Women” exists to encourage and support positive social change for women by creating mutual empowerment. I hope you find something here to help you on your journey. I encourage you to forward it to other women. ~~Sylvia Dickey Smith


Our guest today is Radine Nehring, one of my favorite people. If you haven’t met her, you’ve missed out. She combines gentleness with strength and wisdom.

Radine Trees grew up in a household where women were second-class citizens. When her father told her she could attend secretarial school, not college, she found a job selling drapery fabric in a furniture/decorating store (where only men were allowed to write up sales of furniture or other high ticket items). When she had earned enough for a half-year of college, her father relented, and said he’d pay for one additional year. After finishing the year and a half, she married John Nehring–a man strong enough within himself to love and respect a strong woman. Radine then finished college while working full time, and, later, was able to attend advanced writing classes at the University of Tulsa and the University of Iowa Summer Writing School.

Her writing career took off in 1985 with the international publication of her first essay about the Ozarks, “Where Hummingbirds Matter.” She has eight published books, a large number of published essays, short stories, and feature articles, and, for ten years, was a broadcast journalist with her own weekly program of Ozarks news. She and John live in Northwest Arkansas. A true strong woman!


For some of us, singing the praises of strong women reflects both a yearning and a shout of triumph. Stories of women seeking to display and use their strengths in any way that worked call out to us through the centuries. Think of (in the Old Testament), Queen Esther and Jael, for example. In Roman history, what about Cleopatra? And what about our history in the USA? We read about females who fought disguised as men, or acted as spies and nurses during the Civil War. What about Carrie Nation? Agree with her cause or not, you gotta admit she was strong!

Nearer our own time, there are hundreds of “sheroes” we can look to, and movements on behalf of freedom and justice that women can cherish. The fight to gain the right to vote is uppermost in my thoughts now, followed closely by the fight for passage of the ERA. (One win, after years of trying. One loss, after years of trying.)

It currently seems as if the right for women to display appropriate strengths, control their lives and destinies–even their own bodies–is fragmented, varying from place-to-place, organization-to-organization, and sometimes appearing only in spurts. Yes, we’ve come a long way, but . . . .

Question: How do we define strength? Rosie the Riveter or a woman in the background, holding family and home together? CEO of a large corporation, or the single mom who works two jobs? I think, if we have learned anything, we must admit that feminine strength can be defined many ways, and each of us has a definition that possibly will not fit any other woman, and, most probably, no man. I do believe we have, as a gender, special strengths to trumpet. Yes, as humans, we can make it in a “man’s world.” But we can triumph as women being women as well.

I work as a writer of novels and, today, there is–among female writers and those who read their work–a celebration of stories featuring women being strong in many ways. Is this type of writing a sign of newly awakened feminine striving for personal and societal strength? Why is this surge happening? Maybe because, in 2012, we’re “liberated” enough to at least be willing, in print and speech, to realize what we lack, to fight oppression where it exists, and to shout about being or becoming strong. Advances everywhere make us more aware of what we still lack in the court of public opinion. (Why, when women move into fields formerly dominated by men, is it necessary to state what they wear, whether or not they are married, and how many children of what ages they have? Do we see that information about their male co-workers?)

So, maybe we have at least an inkling of what attitudes toward women, in the twenty-first century, are still held in the minds of many men and even some women. Hooray if we sit down and write about it.

I enjoy reading fiction about women who display realistic ways of using their strengths as humans, and especially as females. I most certainly enjoy writing about them. In my novels, most often the starring women call on personal and/or prayed-for strength during trials, and use it in a way particularly suited to a female. In A RIVER TO DIE FOR, Catherine King, threatened with violent rape and eventual death, throws that I might call a temper tantrum to erase panic and keep up her courage. It works, and she is then able to reason about ways she might save herself.

In my most recent release, A FAIR TO DIE FOR, Carrie is faced with more danger than she has experienced in the six previous stories of her adventures, and her reaction to the situation is totally unique to a woman. Could Henry, her husband, (a retired police major), have reacted in the same way? No, and it’s doubtful he would have survived.

Perhaps not all of us think we achieve a satisfying demonstration of strength in our personal lives, but maybe it’s time for each of us to define what strength means to us. Can’t each of us claim our own kind of strength and our victories over weaknesses that, at one time or another, have held us back?

Think about it. And, if you are a writer, for goodness’ sake, write about it, as has Sylvia Dickey Smith, the host of this blog!
Read more about my novels and read opening chapters at Read my thoughts and those of guests on many topics at my blog.

Strong Women make our world a better place.

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