March is Women's History Month, and as March is drawing to a close, I thought I'd share this fun little list of Women I'd Like to Have Lunch With. It's a motley combination, and I might have to spend some time developing a careful seating arrangement to avoid awkward moments. But here are some women I would invite to lunch:
1. Queen Elizabeth II. She's fallen short of the grandeur of her namesake, but she's nonetheless fascinating. Love or hate royalty, she's iconic.
2. Martha Stewart. She's my favorite felon. Her crime has done nothing to waver my brand loyalty. And she's one of the most knowledgeable women I can think of. The woman is a walking encyclopedia, if notably neurotic. She's provided recipes for my Easter dinners, household items for my wedding registry, and all kinds of household ideas, travel ideas, gardening tips, and more. Hats off, Martha. You Win.
3. Sarah Palin. Love her or hate her, you can't talk about the future of conservative ideology without mentioning her. Unpolished? Yes. Fascinating woman? Yes. Northern Exposure mashes with the GOP. She's a tough northern woman.
4. Angelina Jolie. This sounds so cliche, but check it out: she doesn't fit into the Hollywood categories. She allows her son to play with toy guns and have a military-themed birthday party. She's modeled a global motherhood that many women can identify with, who've adopted children from Asia or South America. And she takes big questions seriously, interested in world religions and human rights. She doesn't pass herself off as an airhead. (This photo shows a very pregnant Jolie with journalist Ann Curry, in Namibia.)
5. Condoleezza Rice. This woman was one of the most powerful people in the world for the past few years. Surprisingly well-rounded: classical pianist, football fan, southerner, well-educated, an African-American woman who remembered the segregated South, and boldly defended conservative foreign policy. Single, known for a piercing stare-down of opponents, and made headlines for a kick-butt pair of boots she wore on a diplomatic trip once.
6. Michelle Obama. It's so great to see cute fashion on a first lady. But it's surprising to see her very stay-at-home mom approach to her first lady duties. She's an intelligent, well-educated lawyer, who has chosen a very different role from that of the last Democrat first lady, Hillary Clinton. And I wonder why. For the record, she has great triceps, and if she wants to wear sleeveless dresses, I applaud her ability to do so with class.
7. Jan Karon. She has introduced millions of readers to quaint Mitford, and gave a sincere, hard-working priest serious currency on bestseller lists. And her Mitford cookbook? Amazing. Try Harley's brownies.
8. A British trifecta: Dame Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, and Helen Mirren. These women make many American actresses look like bubble-gum popping adolescents. Maybe it's being born in the land of Shakespeare: I suspect it has more to do with raw talent and years of hard work. But these women possess a commanding ability to rule the screen from the moment they appear on camera.
9. Marilyn McCord Adams. She teaches theology at Oxford University, is Canon of Christ Church, and is a formidable intellectual powerhouse. I met her once in Oxford. Agree or disagree with her thoughts on philosophy of religion, she is nonetheless one of the People To Whom You Must Respond if studying certain issues, like the problem of evil. She represents women in academia with surprising energy.
10. Lauren Bacall. Watch five minutes of one of her black and white screen performances, and you'll be spellbound. She's the woman who married Bogart, who burned up the film in "To Have or Have Not," who trumped Princess Diana's ability to look coyly out from under her eyelids, shyly - slyly? - at the press. She always manages to seem unconciously powerful.
11. Karin Bergquist. The enigmatic voice of "Over the Rhine" includes Sarah McLachlan in her fans. She was born, bred, and has stayed in Ohio, married to her musical partner, Linford Detweiler. Together, they've spun out intensely lyrical albums with sounds tinged with bluegrass, indie rock, jazz, and even Tom Waits. She exhibits keen vulnerability in her singing, especially in concerts, but this same introspective thread often renders her manner a bit melancholic, slightly troubled, or moody. The flip side of this is a sensitive sketch of each note, each word, each pause between notes and chords and rhythms.
12. Jenna Fischer. "The Office" actress who plays Pam seems to take enjoyment in deliberately keeping her Hollywood profile low and midwestern. She blogs about shopping at Target and Bed, Bath, and Beyond, while giddily describing her preparations for Red Carpet events, and deconstructing a bit of the glam associated with L.A. life. She describes starving after waiting a long time at awards shows, she took pictures of the photographers at the red carpet, so one can see just what an actor or actress sees as they smile for never-ending flash bulbs. And she kept her recent divorce low-drama, refusing to say anything negative publicly about her former husband. She is the girl next door - just on your TV.
13. J.K. Rowling. The woman singlehandedly demonstrated the power of quality literature. She not only rose from single mom to author to literary superstar/mogul of a vast empire, she introduced literature that assumed a supernatural world, a reality other than the immediately seen. And with the quality of her writing, she makes one wonder: if one great writer can get a whole generation of kids reading six hundred page books, just what has the publishing industry been producing beforehand that kept kids uninterested and unchallenged?
14. Ali Hewson. The woman behind the man Bono. They've been married for a couple decades and have several children. Ali has weathered all the rock star and international humanitarian fame that Bono has experienced for the past thirty years. She has to be one interesting woman.
15. Kay Warren. I interviewed the "purpose-driven" wife once, and deeply appreciated her recent book, "Dangerous Surrender." She has a vibrant personal faith, and a driving passion to serve the poor and diseased around the world. She displays surprising candor, intellectual honesty, and disarming bluntness. I like her already.
16. Pat Summit. It's always fascinating to watch a female coach stand at the sidelines and contort her face, yelling at her players. Pat Summit has coached women's college basketball in Tennessee for years, and has set records with her wins. What does it take to be a woman who coaches women in sports? Are you always tough, or do you bring brownies to practice sometimes? I'm curious.
17. I can't get around it: Oprah Winfrey, the woman who only needs a first-name introduction. Alright, I think she needs some humility, and I dislike her propensity of giving out spiritualistic advice. That being said, she's filling a void that needs noticing: female leadership. Women need other women to look up to, and if women are looking up to Oprah, the question is, why? What need is she filling? And even though I disagree with her positions on some things, I also respect her success. She's come a long way, she's branded herself, and has built a whole lifestyle and company based on her name.Where in some ways she's out of touch with people who don't have chauffeurs, in other ways she's constantly wanting to learn - and I respect that native curiosity.
18. Carol Drinkwater. Everyone knows #17, and probably no one recognizes this name. But Carol Drinkwater is fascinating. The actress who played "Helen Herriott" in the Brit TV series "All Creatures Great and Small" in the 80's, Carol now lives in southern France, and has written several books about the olive farm she has worked with her husband.
19. Carol Burnett. One of the few comediennes still living from an era of brilliant female comics - Gilda Radnor, Madeline Kahn, etc. Carol Burnett helped women to be taken seriously (ba-dum-bum) as performers. Her comedy is still funny - which attests to its genius - and spans generations - which also attests to its genius. All my thumbs are up for Carol Burnett.
20. Miss Piggy. Okay, maybe she's not a woman. She's a sow. But Miss Piggy had delighted me with cackles of laughter for years. She's one strong pig - rather Type A, of course, but fiercely - fiercely - protective of her frog. Any lunch gathering would be made better by Miss Piggy's presence.
21. A place set for the dead: women across time I want to have lunch with - Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Madeleine L'Engle, Elizabeth I, Lady Jane Grey, George Eliot, Jane Austen, St. Perpetua, Queen Victoria, Louisa May Alcott, Abigail Adams, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Amelia Earhart, Flannery O'Connor, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Alzheimer's victim Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto, Eva Peron, Diana Princess of Wales, Georgia O'Keefe, and the many, many other voices now fallen silent.
I forgot to make space for Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond, but I'd add a chair to the table and invite her to lunch, too. If you could invite anyone to a grand lunch, to whom would you pen invitations?