This year, that woman is Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. At a time of great partisan divide and many controversial political issues that span abortion rights to wars, Giffords has shown the country how abiding and uniting patriotism can be.
As 2011 opened, the representative from Arizona was shot in a brutal attack that left 14 people injured and six dead. Giffords was appearing in front of a grocery store for a "Congress on your Corner" meet-and-greet when a gunman stormed the crowd. Among the fatally wounded was nine-year-old Christine Green, a young girl who aspired to be a politician and was there to learn more about what it takes to govern a country. Giffords suffered a traumatic brain injury.
The nation waited to see if and how Giffords would recover from, as genConnect blogger Joseph Nowinski, Ph.D noted bluntly, "the gunshot that traveled through her brain." She made it through milestones of survival -- surgery, intensive care, speaking her first words aloud, re-learning how to walk and write after the trauma -- with support from her husband Mike Kelly, a former astronaut and Space Shuttle commander.
And then in August, after many small miracles of rehabilitation, Giffords appeared on the House floor to vote in the final moments of debt-ceiling compromise. She received a standing ovation from her peers. The woman who was only months earlier struggling to stay alive, released this strong statement: "I strongly believe that crossing the aisle for the good of the American people is more important than party politics. I had to be here for this vote. I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy."
Giffords recovery continues. Her determination to simply stand up and vote recalls the bravery and gusto of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, Harriet Tubman, and many, many other American women who persevered because they felt the call to make the country better with their own voices.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi acknowledged that historical spirit in Giffords the day the congresswoman voted, saying, "Her presence today to make sure that we honor the obligations of our great country is important and symbolic. We are privileged to call her colleague. Some of us very privileged to call her friend. Throughout America, there isn't a name that stirs more love, more admiration, more respect, more wishing for our daughters to be like her, than the name of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Thank you, Gabby."
We couldn't agree more.
Your votes also caused a stir! Here are the inspirational ladies you chose to honor as Shine's Reader's Choice Woman of the Year 2011.
Who else would you like to give the crown to this year?
Runner-up Reader's Choice: The Female American Soldier
Runner-up Reader's Choice - First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Runner-up Reader's Choice: Michelle Duggar
Shine's Reader's Choice Woman of the Year 2011 Dr. Judy Mikovits