Holding Her Head High: Inspiration from 12 Single Mothers Who Championed Their Children and Changed History


Life lessons from single mothers throughout history form the inspiration for single mothers today.

Single moms are not just a product of our modern culture. There have been single mothers throughout history, women who have raised not only their children but also nations with a higher vision for life. Holding Her Head High recounts stories of twelve such women from the third to the twenty-first centuries, women who found ways to twist their ...

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Holding Her Head High: Inspiration from 12 Single Mothers Who Championed Their Children and Changed History

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Life lessons from single mothers throughout history form the inspiration for single mothers today.

Single moms are not just a product of our modern culture. There have been single mothers throughout history, women who have raised not only their children but also nations with a higher vision for life. Holding Her Head High recounts stories of twelve such women from the third to the twenty-first centuries, women who found ways to twist their fates to represent God's destiny for their lives.

These uniquely powerful, brave women, within the scope of their own world and times, are like the ninety-nine percent of single mothers today who never intended to carry that distinction. They are abandoned, widowed, or divorced, all carrying wounds, yet they also all found ways to exhibit courage, kindness, dignity, and faith to heal themselves by healing others.

Actress Janine Turner, herself a single mother, describes the social implications for women and children from the Roman Empire through the Middle Ages to Pioneer days, including a single mother of slavery. Stories from women like Rachel Lavein Fawcett, abandoned single mother of Alexander Hamilton; Abagail Adams, a wartime widow; Harriet Jacobs, an unwed mother of slavery whose autobiography was published the year the Civil War began; and widowed Belva Lockwood, the first woman to officially run for President, all carrying wounds but all offering insight, wisdom, and encouragement. Lessons include:

  • Listen for God's higher calling
  • Hold your head high
  • Dare to dream
  • Champion your children
  • Heal with humor
  • Don't Give Up Before the Miracle
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Many articles treat single motherhood as if the situation never existed until recently. Janine Turner's Holding Her Head High serves as a hearty, soulful corrective to that narrow view. The 12 single mothers she spotlights are not all modern; indeed, her choices include a third-century widow, former slave Harriet Jacobs, and the abandoned mother of Alexander Hamilton. Turner, a single mom herself, uses these spiritually empowering stories to show that raising children alone has often required acts of great courage.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780785223245
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/4/2008
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,490,510
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Janine Turner, single mother and actress, played the indefatigable Maggie O'Connell on CBS's hit show Northern Exposure for which she received three Golden Globe Best Actress nominations and one Emmy nomination. She was also chosen as one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People and 10 Best Dressed, and as one of Esquire's Women We Love. She starred in Cliffhanger with Sylvester Stallone and as June Cleaver in the feature film Leave It to Beaver. More recently she starred on Lifetime's hit series Strong Medicine. Besides acting and directing she serves on President Bush's Council for Service and Civic Participation, but her most cherished role is that of mother to Juliette, now nine years old. She counts her greatest blessings to be her faith, her daughter, and spending time together on their ranch in Texas.

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Read an Excerpt

holding her head high
12 single mothers who championed their children and changed history
By Janine Turner
Thomas Nelson
Copyright © 2008 Janine Turner
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7852-2324-5

Chapter One
The Roman Empire-Setting the Stage 27 BC-AD 476

After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the conversion of Constantine may have been the most implication-laden event in western history. -James Carroll, Constantine's Sword

Rome. The Roman Empire. Vast. Vacillating. Murder and intrigue. Senators and emperors. War and warriors. Proudly civilized and grandly grotesque. Christians in chains and children's cries. A culture poised on the brink of change. Who will be their leader?

The Roman Empire was vast, from western Asia to Britain and Spain, from the Danube River in Central Europe to the edge of the Sahara Desert in North Africa. The eastern part of the empire survived until AD 476 and the Western Empire survived as the Byzantine Empire until AD 1453.

The early Roman population was pagan, tolerating the bane of human behavior, and could be easily justified as a religion steeped in evil, as exhibited in the games and circuses in places such as the Coliseum, which exhibited public displays of torture, violence, and death. Romans entertained themselves with triumphs, games, and great spectacles that concluded with slaughters of animals and humans. It was barbaric and cruel. Paganism also tolerated all sexual mores in their temples, ranging from sodomy to orgies, prostitution to bestiality and sadomasochism.

After the death and resurrection of Christ, Christians were subjected to horrific executions. The early church sustained an intense period of savage persecution, and Christians were brutally martyred by the Roman government up to twenty-five years before Constantine. And there was no collective, social consciousness that exhibited restraint or remorse. Infants' spirits were snuffed out as they were given as human sacrifices to the false gods. "Paganism prevailed in the land of the prophets." Darkness reigned.

The Father

By Roman law, the family was strictly patriarchal. The paterfamilias, the father, was the head of the Roman family. He owned the property acquired by his sons and had the right to sell his children into slavery or expose them. Women did have a few advantages compared to other centuries-they could divorce their husbands and control their own property. A woman was held under the legal control of the father until his death, even if she were married. After the death of her father, she was under the legal hand of her husband. If a woman was raped, she could not seek recourse, only her father or husband could press charges. A man could, by law, kill his wife if she was caught in an adulterous affair, but if a man committed adultery, he was not punished. Women had no status or political rights.

Marriage and childbearing were considered a woman's purpose in the Roman Empire. Marriages were arranged by the parents, and a young girl was usually married by the age of sixteen. The bride brought a dowry to the marriage, but unlike later centuries and societies, the dowry was not to be touched in case of unforeseen circumstances, such as divorce. Capturing a woman was a way of getting around a fixed marriage and was, perhaps, a way of getting the parents to accept a true love. However, this practice was later forbidden because it forbad the father the right to decide what was best for his daughter. Interestingly, divorce was very easily obtained during Roman times. A marriage was not considered holy, only a loose contract. Marriages were dissolved by mutual consent, the couple simply declaring their desire to divorce before seven witnesses.

The father also had control of a child's fate. Infanticide was an accepted act in the Roman culture. After birth a child was set at the feet of the father, who would lift the child into the air, deciding if the child should live or die. A wife could be disowned if she denied the father that decision. Infanticide was widely accepted, considered legal, and justified by philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. Baby girls were more susceptible to the act of infanticide due to the considerable expense of wedding dowries. Roman law also forbad a man from taking in an abandoned child and saving it. Alarmingly, children were sometimes sealed in the foundations of bridges to strengthen the structures dating back to the walls of Jericho. Lloyd de Mause states, "To this day, when children play 'London Bridge is falling down' they are acting out a sacrifice to the river goddess when they catch a child at the end of the game." Disregard for children permeated all lands.

Light into Darkness

Then Christ. Light breathed into darkness. Christianity's mission was to spread "the light" through all ethnic cultures. Matthew 19:13-14 says,

Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (NIV)

Children have value? Children belonged to the kingdom of heaven? This concept was revolutionary! Everyone, even the little children, was created in God's image. The Epistle of Barnabas prohibited infanticide, and following this law was considered essential to the "way of light." Infanticide was considered murder. Various Christian pamphlets taught, "You shall not commit infanticide." However, as long as Christianity was an underground religion hiding from persecution, efforts remained almost ineffectual.


Entering the world stage next was Constantine, whose conversion to Christianity and breadth of change he brought to Christians, Christianity, and to the Christian church is, according to James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword, "the second greatest story ever told." Carroll expresses that "after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the conversion of Constantine may have been the most implication-laden event in western history."

Constantine unified a suppressed church and a scattered band of disciples. As the leader of the world's biggest empire, his acceptance of Christ paved the way for the end of persecutions of Christians and propelled the illumination of Christ's light upon a dark, barbaric land. Disciples could now spread the word about how, with Christ's intervention, the human spirit can transcend the limitations of evil and partake in the supernatural. The Christian way of life was to offer alternative behaviors to murder and perverse sexuality. Christians had been in hiding. Jerusalem had lain as a wasteland but the scene was set to change. God had chosen Constantine through a divine vision to be a facilitator of unity for Christians and the Christian church.

Constantine, the son of Helena Augusta.

Then Christ. Light breathed into darkness ... Jesus, by reaching out to little children, validated and honored the life of a child. -Janine Turner


Excerpted from holding her head high by Janine Turner Copyright © 2008 by Janine Turner. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     xiii
Introduction: How Did a Baptist Girl from Texas End Up as a Single Mom?     xv
The Roman Empire-Setting the Stage     1
Listen for God's Higher Calling-Helena Augusta     7
The Middle Ages-Setting the Stage     27
Choose God's Greatness-Blanche of Castile     35
Turn Tribulations into Triumphs-Christine De Pizan     59
Colonial and Revolutionary America-Setting the Stage     85
Define Your Own Destiny-Rachel Lavein Fawcett     95
Dare to Dream-Eliza Pinckney     113
Put God First-Isabella Graham     133
Go the Extra Mile-Elizabeth Timothy     155
Champion Your Children-Abigail Adams     165
Single Mothers of Slavery-Setting the Stage     181
Don't Give Up Before the Miracle-Harriet Jacobs     187
Pioneer Single Mothers-Setting the Stage     221
Heal with Humor-Elinore Pruitt Stewart     229
Persevere with Praise-Aunt Clara Brown     251
Soar on Eagle's Wings-Belva Lockwood     277
Conclusion: Virtual Conversations     313
Notes     325
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2008

    Needs a new title

    I'm not really sure how to feel about this book. I do think that Turner should have chosen another title. Holding Her Head High implies to me that these women had reason to be ashamed of their single motherhood. Of the biographies I read (I didn't finish the last three), only one woman meets that criteria - and there were extenuating circumstances in her case as well (her abusive husband wouldn't grant her a divorce, so she left anyway and later lived with another man). That said, these women do have amazing stories to tell, and their lives can be used to encourage many women. While the stories are interesting, the writing is rough. Turner learned the English grammar lesson that a series is 'three or more things' well and EVERYTHING is 'point A, point B, and point C'. Many of her turns of phrase are awkward, and I found myself having to reread sentences to figure out exactly what she meant. Still, Turner makes her point with these stories, and the book would make a good study for a women's Bible group.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2008

    Every Mother Should Read This Book!

    Holding Her Head High is an inspirational book that lifts up every mother, single or married, who ever felt alone and challenged by circumstances beyond her control. Janine Turner, herself a single mother, reaches back through time to bring us well researched, intimate portraits of 12 amazing women who lovingly raised their children through faith and determination, and 'found their wings' along the way, changing history! The portraits Janine paints will stay with you long after you turn the last page, to be called up at will during trying times. Janine not only chronicles these women's lives, she highlights valuable lessons to be learned from each, and intersperses their stories with personal insights on her life as a single mother. This book will make a wonderful Mother's Day gift for any mother, and its historical accounts are just in time for Women's History Month in March! I suggest you buy at least two - one for yourself and one to give away!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2008

    A subject that is rarely written about.

    A rare subject not often written about and this one is EXCELLENT. Not too often have I seen books written about single mothers and the plight that these inspirational women endured to make it in life. Janine's words are inviting and I couldn't put the book down. She describes even the most poor and vulnerable women who somehow had the courage and the strength to buck the norm and raise children who contributed to society in many valuable ways. The charm of this book is, it was written so all woman of all walks of life could relate to it. The fact that she undertook such a huge but under written subject is amazing. Janine just proves that her mountains in life are the same mountains that we as women all face in our life. How many people knew about Christine Pisan, the strength of Harriet Jacobs a slave women and Belva Lockwood the first woman to practice in the Supreme Court and run for the highest office in the land and years before The Women's Sufferage Act of 1921...amazing. These women deserve to be praised for their contributions not only to society but also for the trail they blazed for all of us. I'm glad Janine, a single mother herself, was able to take time to read about these amazing women in history and put it in her own words as seen through her own eyes from her own experience.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2008

    Turner's Celebration of Motherhood!

    Janine Turner's first book deals with a subject near and dear to her heart: Motherhood and specifically Single Motherhood! Her tales of single moms through history is enlightening, empowering, and frankly fascinating. From Helena Augusta to Belva Lockwood, she shows that the trials, tribulations and triumphs of being a single mom is not a new phenomenon. Janine takes us on an historic journey and we also see a whole new side of the gal we'll always think of as Maggie on TV's 'Northern Exposure!'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2008

    Gives hope when it seems all hope may be lost

    I am convinced that Ms. Turner has been truly blessed with a gift that gives hope and inspiration with her writing. This Book has the power to lift you up when you feel at your lowest. Be it that you are a single parent through choice or circumstance, this book shows that with the love of God, you can withstand all of the odds to be the parent and person that God has planned. Thank You MS. Turner for sharing these stories with us.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2008

    A reviewer

    After reading some of the online pages available for preview, I can tell this is a book I'm gonna really enjoy. Having to handle all the responsibilities for raising two young children after a divorce is more than I can take sometimes. Thank you Janine for writing this book. Single Mom's like me need this kind of encouragement that what we're going really can make a difference.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2008

    I cried

    Each storie touched me. As a woman who has gone through divorce and seen first hand the struggles of a single mother I could relate to each story. I thank Janine for having the courage and fortitude to make sure that theses stories are heard and hopefully they will inspire others as they have me. As a long time fan of Ms. Turner she continuously amazes me with her versatility. Thank you and please don't stop doing what you think is right.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2011

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