Read an Excerpt
Introduction: Stumbling Onto Our Paths
How far can you go? Four? Three? Two years old? What do you remember? A toy? A dress? A pet? A day? Close your eyes and imagine your girlhood bedroom. What do you see? What songs did you sing and who sang them to you? What did you believe in? Santa Claus? The Tooth Fairy? Monsters under your bed?
When did you start to believe in yourself?
It's been said that memory is the portable little library we all carry with us. In this book, as in life, it's the details of memory that count, details that, when added up, amount to something women share. It's clear that many of the most powerful connections among women are rarely documented in history books. Emotional ties connect women. They are the ties that bind us, move us -- and often make us double over with laughter.
Call them the connections of the heart. This book is about those connections.
Here's how it happened. Rolfe Tessem (partner in business and in life) and I own Lucky Duck Productions. We produce television shows. In 2002 Marty von Ruden, executive vice president and general manager, and Jeff Eisenberg, vice president and executive in charge of production for WE: Women's Entertainment, asked us to collaborate on a television special. Because the "motto" of WE is "The Space We Share," we thought it would be good to celebrate something all women share on a personal level.
But what, exactly?
We weren't all the same race or religion -- or age. We didn't all share the same politics or professions. We weren't all mothers. We weren't all married. Or single. We didn't all love the same kinds of men (or women) or go to the same kinds of movies or laugh at the same things. We didn't all look alike or dream alike. Apart from the perfectly obvious physical attributes of gender, what was it that all women shared?
We tried imagining a dinner party. If you could invite the most remarkable and diverse group of women to a dinner party -- women who had followed different paths, and had succeeded in the arts, politics, literature, sports, science, business, activism -- what was the one thing they would have in common? The answer proved to be, as answers often are, monumentally simple. That is, once we thought of it.
At one time or another all those women -- indeed, all women -- were little girls.
And so we put together a television special about defining moments in girls' lives. It included personal stories from some of the country's most recognized and distinguished women, stories that were individual and unique, but when told, spoke to, and collectively demonstrated, the shared experience of all girls.
That television special was called "When I Was a Girl."
We knew we were on to something when two things happened almost immediately. One, the women featured in the show told us how much they enjoyed the experience (said Candice Bergen, after telling us the story of an elaborate funeral her family held for a beloved pet turtle, "I've never been asked questions like these"). Two, when we showed the program to groups of women, at the end of it, they began talking, not about the program, but about their own experiences as girls.
And so When I Was a Girl became a series.
The series regularly catapults women back to an era, a milestone -- a moment when they learned something about themselves. Of course not all memories were funny or funereal (not everybody's pet turtle got a five-star send-off) -- but they were all telling.
Ann Curry, news anchor for The Today Show, said the thing she most treasured from her childhood was the dictionary her father gave her when she was twelve. She said he told her, "These words will open the world for you."
"And," said Ann, "they did."
Novelist Anna Quindlen said she wanted to speak up for nuns, because four nuns changed her life: her favorite nun; the nun who hated her; the nun who expelled her; and Sister Rita, the nun who led her to become a writer.
Opera singer Denyce Graves spoke of how a fluke in the weather gave her something to believe in, and a confidence she didn't have before that. "I remember the kids on the other side of the street thought they were better than us. And then one day it rained. But it only rained on their side of the street. I thought that was magic."
I guess it is rather like being invited to a wonderful dinner party with some of the world's most interesting women. Or little girls, as it were.
So sit down. Open the book. Join the party.
Think back. How far can you go...?
One last note before you begin: Speaking for Lucky Duck Productions and WE, I want to say that this series has become a source of great pride, not to mention pleasure. It allows us to continue learning about the infinite variety of women's experiences -- and what that means to all of us (yes, men too). And it really could not have been accomplished without the dedication, talent, and hard work of many people, including Rolfe, Marty, and Jeff (guys so smart they might have been women), but most especially that of Katherine Drew, vice president of development for Lucky Duck Productions, an uncommonly fine and creative woman I'd love to have known when she was a girl.
-- Linda Ellerbee
Copyright © 2003 by Women's Entertainment, LLC.
When I was a girl...
Dee Dee Myers
I always had an answer and I always had an opinion.
I never would have guessed I would be so lucky.
I saw people the way they really were. I had no illusions.
I dreamed of being happy.
Marian Wright Edelman
I loved life, wanted to do everything and be everything.
I wasn't sure I wanted to become a woman.
Copyright © 2003 by Women's Entertainment, LLC.