Hutchison Spotlights ‘American Heroines’

Posted November 15, 2004 at 2:42pm

Though she doesn’t sugar-coat the obstacles or play down the hardships that American women have faced in 228 years of history, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) also sets out to make a clear case for why “America is the best place on earth to be a woman” in her new book, “American Heroines: The Spirited Women Who Shaped Our Country,” released this month through HarperCollins publishing.

A colorful collage of autobiography, interviews and American social history from a feminine perspective, Hutchison’s new book shows how tenacious and spirited American women, through the power of their own positive thinking and indomitable personalities, built the long bridge over the gender gap one plank at a time.

The book focuses on 45 “American heroines” (46 if you count Hutchison, whose own life story is sown into the book during her profiles and interviews) and shows the progress women have achieved in several fields by telling the stories of both early pioneers and “women of today.” For example, in the chapter on “Saving Lives,” Hutchison chose to profile Clara Barton, who founded the American Red Cross as well as Antonia Novello, the first woman, and first Hispanic American, to hold the position of surgeon general.

While her profiles of American pioneers are written as social histories, her sections on “women of today” are set down as interviews that cover questions like the “important trait for success” and the “best preparation for a rough-and-tumble life.”

“I thought it would be a more interesting book to hear directly from the women about what they thought were the important experiences in their lives and the important traits for success,” Hutchison said in an interview last week.

And from Texas patriot Mary Austin Holley to news personality Barbara Walters, educators to athletes, renaissance women to record breakers, “the strain that runs through all of them is hard work and perseverance,” she said. “Everyone in my book has failed, but every one of them has learned from the experience and made themselves better, and that’s how they were able to make their contributions.”

The result is a study in determination of two centuries of women who may not have set out to change the world but did just that.

“It applies to anyone looking for history and stories of perseverance, and I think it applies to men and women who are looking for inspiration,” Hutchison said, pointing out that at recent book signings her crowds are mixed with men and women.

“From the beginning, women have had the respect of the men in our country and without that we would not have been able to build the equality we have today,” she said.

Unfortunately, that shared effort is something that is lacking in many other countries today, Hutchison said. In repressive countries, many of which the Lone Star State Senator has visited in her travels around the world, “the societies have suffered, not just the women.”

But those experiences have only given Hutchison a stronger appreciation for the American women who have paved, and are still paving, the the way for the next generation.

“I believe America is the best place in the world to be a woman,” she writes in her introduction. “Our opportunities are boundless. Our predecessors put building blocks in place, and each decade our place in society improves. The indomitable optimism will be passed on, and we must assure that it is.”

Hutchison will be appearing today from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. for a signing at Trover Shop, 221 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. She will also be at B. Dalton Bookseller at Union Station from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. for a talk and a signing. She will also appear at the National Press Club Author Reception at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.