FIERCE GIRLS: May We Hear Them, May We Be Them

GeekMom

March is Women’s History Month; though, to be fair, I am still looking forward to the day when we don’t need a special month because we are finally learning our collective history with full recognition of women’s contribution. But that is not the case. Especially when we are still arguing about the selective teaching of history in our schools worldwide. You may think this is an abrupt start to our article today. And you would be right. However, Women’s History Month didn’t start because someone (a woman) politely raised their hand and asked Congress to give us a little consideration. We needed someone fierce to stand up and point out the obvious. And in today’s environment, I have absolutely no cares about encouraging more fierce girls to stand up and speak up. This year’s theme is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope”. And the first step is to provide a platform and promote more opportunities to speak up.

Fierce Girls

One of the most accessible platforms to share ideas is podcasting. There is something out there for everyone, both a good thing and a bad thing. The good podcasts are insightful, entertaining, and (what I consider most important) educated. One of my faves is an Australian podcast called Fierce Girls, available through the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Fierce Girls is a weekly podcast with a different female narrator sharing stories about ‘fierce women’ from all over the world. It’s possibly the best podcast for kids of all genders, and pretty damn special for adults too. In 2022, Jamila Rizvi told us about Dr Meru Sheel, a disease detective and field epidemiologist. We’ve also had Amber Bourke talk about Valerie Taylor, a pioneering shark conservationist who has fought long and hard for recognition in a male-dominated industry. Rae Johnson shared terrific insight into the determination of Melanie Perkins, the creator of Canva.

The standout of this podcast is the collective support of this fantastic group of women, sharing their stories of other women with fierce determination to make a difference. The stories show confidence, compassion, and unforgettable characters. Best of all, they are real people with real experiences. We hear about their failures as well as their success. The podcast aims to inspire girls to embrace their own fierce nature and find their path in life. That in itself is inspiring for anyone.

The ‘Fierce Girl’ Behind the Podcast

Samantha Turnbull is the writer and podcast-maker behind Fierce Girls. She has produced a podcast that shares and educates on women in history while collectively empowering more women with storytelling. I had a chat with Turnbull earlier this month and gained some insight into the woman behind the podcast. For starters, I think you can tell a lot about a person by their favorite historic female:

Turnbull: It’s difficult to choose a favorite, but some of the historical subjects in the podcast that I’ve loved are politician Edith Cowan, writer P.L. Travers, and singer Helen Reddy.

Image of Edith Cowan from FIERCE GIRLS podcast
Image of Edith Cowan from FIERCE GIRLS podcast

For those playing at home, Edith Cowan was the first woman to be elected to an Australian Parliament after spending many years already working to improve the lives of women, children and the underprivileged. In 1921, she joined the Western Australian Parliament–a year after white women were given the right to vote (Indigenous women didn’t have the same right until 1962). During her time as a parliamentarian, Cowan introduced a Bill, which later became legislation, for the right of women, married or single, to enter the professions.

P.L. Travers is more famously known for her literary work, particularly the creation of Mary Poppins. Helen Reddy is equally famous for her performing arts contributions, including the song “I am Woman”. It is easy to see how each of these historic women has influenced Turnbull and the Fierce Girls podcast, bringing creative writing to real-life stories in a way to inspire future generations.

Image of Helen Reddy from Fierce Girls podcast
Image of Helen Reddy from FIERCE GIRLS podcast

Turnbull: I hope that girls and women see the struggles that those before them have had to overcome to not only reach their own goals but to pave the way for future generations. Issues like violence against women, the gender pay gap, and general continued discrimination show that we still need to be telling stories like Fierce Girls to celebrate women but also highlight injustice.

The Expectation of Fierceness

The truth is we can’t all be Edith Cowan. We can’t all be fierce, and we should never expect to be fierce all the time. For some, there is a fine line between the uplifting winds of inspiration and the suffocating weight of expectation. Fierce Girls balances that tightrope by encouraging people to find their own ways. It’s okay to not be fierce. Women’s History Month is essential to look back, acknowledge what has been achieved and give us the strength to continue forward. At the same time, we also need to accept we can’t always do it the same way. These stories are meant to encourage us but not tell us exactly how to do it.

EG Mum: When people look back at history, at writers and yourself, what do you hope people will think about Women’s History Month? Especially with this year’s theme: “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope”?

Turnbull: I hope they will continue to be inspired by women’s stories, proud of how far we’ve come but also determined to continue to create change in the future. The theme ‘providing healing, promoting hope’ resonates with me because sometimes stories of oppression can be triggering and weigh us down but if we look through a lens of healing and hope, the weight isn’t as hard to bear.

Reading Up on History

cover of FIERCE GIRLS by Samantha Turnbull and Kim Siew

For those who aren’t fans of podcasts, you can now read the book Fierce Girls by Samantha Turnbull with art by Kim Siew. It features some of the most popular stories shared in the podcast in the same approachable manner.

The Fierce Girls podcast is found on ABC listen app, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts.

For more Women’s History Month content, check out fellow GeekMom Sophie and her Picture Book Round-Up here

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