As I contemplate the power of women this fine morning, two very different but equally important female characters created by two powerful women come immediately to mind. These characters come to mind because they personify their creators who are, without a doubt, two of the most important and powerful creators in their chosen professions.
The first, and only because she is by far the oldest, is Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet. Jane Austen is considered by many to be one of the greatest novelists of all time. Her six novels have been read by countless generations. My personal favorite is Emma but most credit Pride and Prejudice (and Elizabeth Bennet) as her best (or at least the most popular) work. Elizabeth Bennet is one of British Literature’s most beloved characters. She is a powerful archetype who has transcended the pages of her novel world to change the perceptions of the role and lives of women. Through Lizzy, Jane Austen—an unmarried daughter who lived with her family her entire life—rendered a character who still impacts lives today, centuries after she first appeared on the literary scene.
So you must be asking yourself why am I babbling about Jane Austen, Lizzy and powerful women. Well, thinking about the power of Jane Austen’s pen (or was it a quill?) puts our recent visitor to the Twin Cities – Beyonce – into fine company. Beyonce has been selling albums and filling stadiums it seems like forever. From Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious to Crazy In Love to Formation (trust me, a little too rough for this family blog), she has been dazzling the world with her talent. What makes her relevant to my thoughts, however, is that she admittedly performs while in the character of her alter ego Sasha Fierce. While it goes without saying she is a powerful woman, Beyoncé’s need for an alter ego to perform at her level speaks to the power of imagination and art as well as the pressure to separate life from work.
Now stay with me. As a women lawyer, I have certainly taken on an alter ego (sometimes more than one) to navigate the practice of law. When I started practicing business law there just weren’t that many female lawyers practicing transactional law. The board room was (and in some ways still is) a man’s world. To succeed I needed to create a character who embodied the best parts of who I really am, but who was able to navigate a world that was foreign to me and to whom I was foreign. So when I think about Jane and Beyonce and Lizzy and Sasha, I think about how we all have to use imagination, courage, and art to navigate our professional careers as lawyers.