How To Be A Strong Woman


A phrase that has resonated with me for many years is the term “Strong Woman.” I first heard these words used to describe my mother when I was 10 years old “…she’s a strong woman.” I knew the person wasn’t talking about my barely five foot mother’s physical strength. 

Another time I came across the term was when I worked on a new project for the California Department of Corrections. The objective was to develop a “treatment mall,” akin to the counseling areas in some newer mental health facilities: offenders from different living units meet in one area to attend counseling and living skills sessions in a cooperative, female responsive environment.
The task was to develop this treatment area without building anything new and using the existing prison facilities. The process is too long to describe here, but part of the planning involved selecting correctional staff and some female offenders to develop objectives.

One of the best parts of this project was the naming of our treatment mall. We invited all of the young women to participate by giving the building a name and a motto. Prizes were photographs and pizza. This may not sound like a lot, but in a prison, pizza and pictures are gold. (I won’t mention the illegal stuff that’s also gold).

After much fanfare and anonymous ballots, we had a winner. The name of the building: The Sunshine Mall.

Its motto:  Strong Women Grow Here

This blew my staff and me away. I think it resonated so deeply because we felt they understood what real rehabilitation was supposed to be about. It meant some correctional counselors and team got it right with these particular women and that these women were listening.

Since that time, I’ve carried this motto and it’s concept with me. It finds it way into my fiction writing and I seek out books where characters are ‘strong women.’ It’s also made me think about what makes a strong woman.

A strong woman demonstrates several qualities. I could enumerate them but I also want to show examples of contemporary women who exemplify these traits. On the top of my list is:

Grace:The exercise of love, kindness, mercy, favor; disposition to benefit or serve another; favor bestowed or privilege conferred.

“Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts broke some bad news to viewers on Monday, announcing she has been diagnosed with MDS or myelodsyplastic syndrome, a blood and bone marrow disorder.
In 2007, Roberts revealed she had breast cancer and underwent a successful surgery to treat it. Though she has been in remission since then, she revealed her new diagnosis is linked to her earlier health battle.
“When I faced breast cancer, your prayers and good wishes sustained me, gave me such hope and played a major role in my recovery,” she wrote. “In facing this new challenge, I ask humbly for more of your prayers…My doctors tell me I’m going to beat this — and I know it’s true,” she wrote in an open letter posted online after she announced her diagnosis on the show.


Here is grace in action:

Grace is not only possessing poise, it’s also an attitude of thankfulness and dignity. Everything, from Robin Roberts voice, body language, and words exude grace. Amid this health challenge she says she is blessed. Her sister is a perfect match for her bone marrow transplant. 

Roberts demonstrates her grace by telling her viewers that she is: 

“… focusing on the fight not the fright.” 

“I’m like everyone who faces some life alternating situations, whether it’s your health, finances, or whatnot. It’s getting off the mat and fighting…”

“…This too shall pass…” 

 I’ll be continuing this “Strong Women,” topic for the next month and I’d love to know what qualities you believe describe a strong woman. 



Categories: Chingonas, Female Offenders, Grace, Health, MDS, Robin Roberts, Strong Women

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