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In honor of Women’s History Month and the recent International Women’s Day, here are three stories of inspiring women who overcame all odds to chase their dreams and change the world.
At age 16, Sara witness her best friend get killed by a car. In the same year, her parents divorced. Two of her former prom dates tragically passed away as well within months of each other. Because of this horrifying year, Sara’s father bought her some motivational tapes called, How to Be a No-Limit Person by Dr. Wayne Dyer. Sara ended up memorizing these tapes and sought out more motivational tapes and stories.
Sara became determined to be successful. She began to imagine herself on the Oprah show in front of a crowd talking with Oprah. She didn’t know exactly what for though yet.
During high school her friends made fun of her for her obsession of listening to her Wayne Dyer tapes. After high school, she tried to pursue a legal degree but changed her mind after two failed admissions test. She got a job as a greeter at Disney World in Orlando, Fl. Her old high school friends laughed at her for this.
After this, she got a job selling fax machines door to door. This made her extremely uncomfortable, but she was determined to get over her fear. She started trying stand-up comedy, but she wasn’t very good at it. She learned to have the courage to face constant rejection with both try to make people laugh and selling.
Despite some success, she wanted to start a business of her own, but she had no idea what. One night, she got the idea after cutting the feet out of her pantyhose. Sara worked at honing and creating her idea. She was still living at home and only had $5,000 in savings.
Soon, she attempted to patent her idea with meetings at law firms but they all rejected and laughed at her. Because no one took her seriously, she learned about patents and trademarks and wrote her own patent. After, she start cold-calling manufactures who could build her product. Still, she faced more laughs and rejections. Her friends and family were also skeptical about her new idea, calling it “too simple.”
Needing support and mentorship, she joined a young entrepreneurs organization. The all-male group asked about her strategy. She told them she had been using visualization and asking the universe for help. They showed their support, however, she later learned that many of them placed bets against her on how long her business would last.
She finally found a manufacturer that agreed to make her product after his daughter tested it and loved it. This product is what became Spanx. Soon after, a studio producer called Sara to appear on a show to feature her and her new signature panty hose. It was a show hosted by Oprah Winfrey. Sara turned her savings of $5,000 into a multimillion dollar business leading Sara to become the youngest self-made female billionaire.
Sara was named in Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential woman in the world in 2012. In 2014, she was listed by Forbes as the 93rd most powerful woman in the world.
The friends from high school that made fun of her for listening to Wayne Dyer reached out and told her they wished they had listened to those tapes that she always played in her car. As for the men who betted against her in the young entrepreneurs organization group, Sara still meets up with that same group once a month. Now, they all ask her how to talk to the universe.
Cory and her family fled their home country, the Philippines, to the United States because her husband was a wanted man. He was a senator who advocated freedom and democracy. Because of a vile dictator, these views put a target of his back so their family were forced to flee. After a few years in exile, they heard rumors that it might be finally safe to return home.
So her husband went back alone. He was assassinated upon his return. Her world was shattered. Cory was now alone with their five children. She not only lost the love of her life, but everything she had sacrificed and supported her husband through felt in vain. He was a nonviolent proponent whose goal was to end the corruption in their country. But he was now gone.
Cory was faced with a difficult decision. She could give up and stay safe in the United States with her family. Or she could return to her home country they had both been fighting to save. She decided to continue the nonviolent fight against the government who killed anyone who disagreed.
She was afraid. When Cory and her husband first started their movement, their first large event was bombed by the government’s secret police. They then threw her husband in jail. He was locked away for seven years which made Cory have to raise their children all on her own.
After Cory’s husband’s death, Cory had a massive wave of support. Two million people attended her husband’s funeral. He had become a martyr. A few days later, a jury acquitted all 26 defendants in the murder of her husband.
Cory then realized that she must run for president. A woman had never elected a woman for president before. She had no political experience and a self-described housewife. But that became her strength. She raised five children and helped her husband become the most influential senator in the country.
Cory started attending more demonstrations and protests. Her following grew. The dictator made a surprise announcement to hold an election, before Cory was fully ready with her campaign. She was reluctant, but with the urging of her supporters, she agreed to run.
During the election, the dictator said that Cory was just a woman and that her real place was in the bedroom. Cory knew that the dictator’s health was failing and that the dictator’s wife was really the one running everything. So she calmly replied with, “May the better woman win this election.”
He attacked her again saying that her lack of political experience was going to threaten everyone and destroy the country. She said back, “I don’t have experience in cheating, lying to the public, stealing government money, or killing political opponents. So I do agree I have less political experience than the kind that you’re talking about.”
The dictator declared himself the winner of the election without even counting the votes. Cory and her followers gathered to protest for peaceful civil disobedience by boycotting media and businesses that were controlled by the government and dictator.
Soon, the world took notice and leaders around the globe expressed their support for Cory. As a result, the dictator was forced to flee the Philippines. Corazon Aquino stepped into his place, as the first woman president of the Philippines and in all of Asia.
The Philippines experienced radical changes that improved the country and led to more freedom and rights for the people.
Yoshiko grew up in Japan during World War II. Her father died when she was just eight years old whom their family was financially dependent on. She was raised by her single mother who never remarried.
Soon after she graduated from high school, Yoshiko got married. However she realized how unhappy she was in her marriage. She didn’t love her husband. She didn’t even like him. In her marriage, the only things she was allowed to do was just some housewife tasks.
She longed for more. Divorce was the only option. It was, however, highly looked down upon from her family and society. Women didn’t initiate divorces in Japan during those time, although men could.
Being a divorced woman would come with consequences. She wouldn’t be able to get a job and her family would be shamed. Despite all of this, she decided to pursue a divorce.
With all her new freedom, Yoshiko wanted to explore the world. She was broke and didn’t have a job. All of the job opportunities for women in Japan were boring, repetitive and soul-crushing. Yoshiko wanted something exciting, to be a part of something bigger than her.
She had been trained to hate “the enemy.” But she had been learning that not all were bad and there was the hope for money and opportunities outside of her country. She planned a trip to Europe.
After saving up some money working the boring jobs, she left to Europe. She realized that all the stories she had heard about the people weren’t true. They were strange and different, but she was fascinated.
She came across hundreds of new people and new ideas. There were endless opportunities. She found a business called a temp agency that would allow her to switch different jobs. She was excited to learn and work different industries and was surprised to find that the Europeans hated these jobs and found them boring. Back in Japan, people were expected to stay at the same job for life.
Yoshiko accepted an influx of new job opportunities that sounded interesting to her and got to experience many different industries. When she saved up some money, she decided to try a new location and moved from England to Australia.
Once again, she experienced a whole new work environment. After some time, she felt the need to go back home to Japan. She returned and had the idea for a new business.
When she got back. she rented a small apartment, the size of a small walk in closet. She set up a temp staffing business there. This type of business was illegal in Japan, however. Temporary employment was not allowed in Japan.
This didn’t stop Yoshiko. She knew she saw the future. Many women were still hesitant to work temporary jobs for her business so to pay the bills, she began evening English classes.
After five years, she was able to move her business into a real office space. Despite her success, temporary employment continued to be against the law. One night, she was brought to the station after a knock on the door by the police. Luckily, she was able to talk her way out of it and they let her go.
She kept getting brought to the station by the police. Every time, she was able to get released. This gave her courage to grow bolder. She would lie awake some nights fearing she would get thrown in jail. After her continual efforts lobbying and fighting the government, the law was changed.
Temporary employment became legal in Japan. Japan entered “the lost decade” marked by a tanked economy. Every single business lost workers and began needing temp workers.
The woman’s business exploded and soon went global. Yoshiko became Japan’s first self-made woman billionaire.
She claimed that her mindset of “I hate to lose” helped her do it. She freed herself, was called to adventure, saw the future and shared it. And she refused to back down despite opposition. She didn’t wait until she had an office. She didn’t even wait until the government allowed her.
Yoshiko continued working with hope for her dreams and jobs from a tiny apartment for five years and risking jail time to create change for women and her country.
The stories of these three powerful women show that reaching your dreams and goals is possible even when faced with challenges and adversity. What will your story be?