The Story of Two Inspirational Women
To start the New Year, I’ve decided to write a series of articles based on inspirational stories, which I hope will motivate readers to think differently about their careers. The economy is a gloomy subject at the moment and with so many people out of work or fearing redundancy, it’s important to remember that anything is possible. Happy 2012!
Over the holidays I read a very motivational story about two incredibly inspiring women (I’d never heard of them before I came across the book at the local libary) which illustrated several points which are incredibly relevant today. Even though the story is set in the 1920s and 30s, they are still very relevant today:
- Doing what you love can lead to an interesting and exciting life
- You don’t know where each step you take will lead
- Ordinary people can have extraordinary lives.
The book, entitled Safe Passage, by Ida Cook is the true story of two very ordinary young women who followed their passion in the 1920s and 30s and ended up travelling all over the world, as well as saving the lives of many Jews before the outbreak of the Second World War.
The pivotal event in the story is their acquisition of a gramaphone in 1923 – one of the first. The sales assistant suggested a couple of records and amongst them was one by Amelita Galli-Curci
Ida and her sister Louise went to hear Galli-Curci when she first came to London, cutting down or doing without lunch to be able to afford tickets. It was Louise who soon afterwards discovered opera and this became their passion. However, they discovered that Galli-Curci only sang opera in New York.
Inspirational Women Take Action
So they decided they would have to go to New York to see her. No looking for a cheap deal on Virgin Atlantic – at that time the only way to get there was by boat. And it took 2 years of cutting back on lunches to save enough for the trip – £100 each to cover fare, a new outfit and accommodation . Both of the sisters had modest jobs with the civil service, earning around £2.30 a week.
Unsure if they would actually manage to save enough, Ida and Louise decided to keep their plan a secret, but the desire to tell someone was enormous and this led to their telling Galli-Curci herself, who soon became a friend.
Things were very different back then – although stars at the time had many fans, the celebrity culture we have these days did not exist, in fact, even taking a photo of a star was a novelty.
Needing some extra money if they were to return to the US for future operas, Ida tried writing a few articles, which were accepted by a magazine, and was then asked to write more holiday articles. She also decided to learn shorthand because as a shorthand typist, she could earn more than she did in her job at the time. I think her salary went up to about £3 a week.
She was later offered a job as a fiction sub , leaving behind the security of a civil service post with its eventual pension, or as she put it “Safe until I was nailed down in my coffin”. The new job was a complete disaster for the first few months, but she persevered and was just about scraping by when her boss offered her the chance to write an article herself. This article was a success and the boss encouraged Ida to write a short story. Being short of cash, as usual, she agreed. The story was considered just good enough to use when nothing else was available.
She wrote an additional story to fund a trip to Florence to see another of her operatic favourites, thus beginning their European trips which were to lead to the dangerous mission of rescuing Jews.
Ida ‘s short story writing continued and she eventually became a novelist, writing romantic fiction This enabled the sisters to fund their frequent trips, which were no longer just for pleasure and also provided enough to invest money in helping the people they saved.
How Can The Lives of the Inspirational Women this Help us Today?
I think one of the best things about this story is that it shows how doors open you do what you really enjoy. These days many pepple want to become celebrities and there are plenty of opportunities, thanks to reality TV. So life changing events are possible for those with talent and even those with no talent at all. However, following an interest, even if you are an observer rather than a participant, can lead to adventures, as Ida and Louise proved. So if you want to have a great life, you don’t have to be the best or even have a career which could be described as successful.
Also, you don’t necessarily need to have a lot of money to follow your dreams.
When they bought their gramophone in 1923 neither of the Cook sisters had plans to travel to the US or anywhere else and Ida had no thoughts about a career as a novelist. Had they not discovered opera, fallen in love with it and followed their hearts, they would probably have both had very quiet, boring lives as civil servants.
The interesting thing is that none of this was planned, yet we so often spend a lot of time planning careers, when in fact too much planning can blind us to other opportunities.
New technology and world events played major roles in the lives of the Cook sisters. These days, the world is still turbulent and technology is developing much more rapidly than it did at the beginning of the 20th century.
Today there are many more options open to us and these are increasing on an almost daily basis. The internet and mobile devices enable us to follow our passions, make new friends and earn a living without leaving home or while we are on the go.
There is an element of adventure in not knowing what will happen next and in taking new directions. And these days it’s a lot easier to go to other parts of the world, although it might have been a lot more fun to save for two years and travel to New York by ship.