If we could hand out prizes to each and every one of you who submitted posts for the Shine Essay Contest in honor of women's history month, we certainly would. Nearly 100 Shine readers took the time to introduce us to the inspiring women in their lives, and the stories are just wonderful. You're inspired by your mothers and grandmothers, of course, but also by your children, your sisters, your teachers, your friends, and yourselves. And we're inspired by you!
Here are the 10 finalists, in alphabetical order by the author's names on Shine. Click the links and read their stories, then come back here to vote for your favorite in the poll below. We'll announce the winner of the fashion and beauty goodies on Friday, April 1, 2011. (See the Official Rules for complete details.)
Ready? Get your tissues, and start reading:
- Cara Concannon is inspired by her biological and adoptive mothers: "I was born in 1985 to a mother who was only 15 years old. She was strong, smart, funny, and loved me enough to know that she was not ready to raise me. I was lucky enough to be adopted by a family with an amazing mother, great father, and although sometimes mean, awesome older brother."
- Colleen is inspired by her experience as a rape survivor: "I made it to a payphone , and called the Police I told them what happened and it felt like forever for them to show, people kept staring at me, I had a big bruise on my face and a broken blood vessel in my eye, felt like the world was spinning around me, Police showed up and took my kids to their Grandmother's and asked me if I could identify my attacker and they drove me back to my house and they pulled him out of his house in 'cuffs, from there I went to the Hospital, and then my statement."
- Harley is inspired by her daughter-in-law: "All of her life, she has been here in the United States illegally, until 2009. She was tired of having to look over her shoulder, wondering if she would be deported, and sent back to Mexico, her birthplace, a place she left as a three month old child. In 2009, O took the proper steps to become a legal resident of the United States. She went to the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC, and turned herself in. She and her family, and ours, spent months doing paperwork, paying thousands of dollars in fees and fines, and losing a lot of sleep over the fear of O being deported. And she was."
- Hillary is inspired by her 4-year-old daughter: "I'm a single mother and for the last 3 years have been working full time, going to school in the evenings, and doing my best to be a mother and father on my own. Every day, my daughter is the one person who is able to inspire me to keep going."
- Iamis is inspired by her mother, who fought for refugees in the Middle East: "She had so much problems with the government because of her political views. yet she was honest about it, fearless about what would happen to her if they arrest her. My mother helped more than 50 refugee families when they were stack between boarders, she made their voice heard by people, government, and the UN."
- I d is inspired by her sister, Tamika: "Tamika's strength and tenacity in the face of adversity encourage me to be a better person. You see, my sister has been on dialysis over 3 years and is only in her mid-twenties. Often, I feel ashamed of myself when I cringe at having lab work done-fully cognizant that Tamika experiences the twinge of a needle almost every day. Not once does she complain when she inserts incredibly sharp needles in her arm six days a week. In fact, she relishes life by traveling constantly and choosing to live a robust life"
- Kelly M is inspired by her mother, who helped countless children: "My mom has always been a leader in our church from womens' to children's ministries, clothing and food banks. Her heart is full of love and compassion for those in need and she will always do anything and everything that she possibly can to help anyone and everyone. This particular characteristic came in pretty handy when her and my step-father decided they would like to become a foster home."
- Lucey is inspired by Mrs. Evans, whom she met in a nursing home: "During the Great Depression, Mrs. Evan's family had migrated from Texas to California, where all of the migrant workers faced horrid circumstances that lasted, well, for more than too long. Angered by the conditions of "her people," Mrs. Evans riveted labor strikers, fought against the corrupt police, sent request letters to the government, and so much more. These actions, stereotypically, were meant to be done by men (if done at all), but Mrs. Evans defied all; she was strong, brave, and so stubborn."
- RezChick is inspired by her mother, a "beautiful, strong, Cherokee woman": "After our simple dinner of vegetables from the garden, she gets out her basket making materials. Fragrant strips of white oak that she has split and scraped smooth, strips of orange and brown that are pungent from the black walnut and bloodroot dyes. Her strong hands work deftly with the pocket knife, the blade flashes in the light of the stark kitchen bulb. Her hands are deceptively feminine looking: concealing strength beneath the silver and turquoise rings as she weaves her vessels. She works late into the night creating more than just works of art. She is making chances for us to have a better life than she had."
- Sabrina is inspired by her daughter, Adora, and the NICU nurses who helped her: "Adora was in a hospital 2 hours away from home, the closest with a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). She was there for over 3 months, past even her due date. And because of the responsibilities I had at home, I could not always be there with her. So, needless to say my heroes are the nurses that cared for my daughter when I could not."
You can find links to all of the entries by searching for Shine Essay Contest or by going to the original post, "Shine Essay Contest: In honor of Women's History Month, who's the most inspiring woman in your life?" and clicking through the names in the comments section.
Are you ready? Vote!