DEBORAH CROMBIE: Three women died on Monday. Margaret Thatcher, Baroness, former British Prime Minister, at 87. Annette Funicello, former Disney Mouseketeer, singer, actor, fundraiser and spokesperson for Multiple Sclerosis research--the complications of the disease contributed to her death at 70. Lilly Pulitzer, the heiress who founded a fashion empire, in her Florida home at age 81.
Not much in common, these three, you might say, other than the
fact that they all had an impact on a generation of women. (We all thought, didn't we, that when Margaret Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister of Britain in 1979 that America couldn't be far behind...) But there were other similarities--they were all trendsetters, and all pretty determined to take charge of their own lives, despite pressure to the contrary.
Did any of the three making a lasting impression on you, fellow REDS?
LUCY BURDETTE: Such an interesting constellation of strong women! I definitely connected with Annette and the Mouseketeers. In fact, John and I were testing each other this week about remembering the words to that wonderful song:). The other two I've enjoyed hearing about over the last few days on NPR. Margaret Thatcher--how do you get to the point that you are so sure you're RIGHT that you will battle powerful people to the death to make sure it's done your way? As for Lilly Pulitzer, we have one of those shops in Key West and we walk by it most days to get our morning coffee. We always shake our heads and wonder who buys all that stuff. (Although I did buy the cutest pink sweater for one of the babies in our extended family...) And yet--she was so very clever to come up with something so distinctive!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Well, I could certainly sing the MM song. Let me know, Roberta, if you need any lyrics. I adored Horsemasters on Mickey Mouse Club, and was quite devoted. What did I learn from Annette at that age? I admit--nothing. I read this morning that she essentially gave up acting because she didn't want to play less-than-wholesome roles, so good for her--having the courage of her convictions. Speaking of which:
From Margaret Thatcher? To be tough, and stand up for yourself and your beliefs and that women can have power. And that the search for power can be life-defining. Which is...not necessarily to be desired.
And speaking of "to be desired"--Lilly! Ah, I do have some little Lilly skirts, and they are hilarious. But my favorite quote of all time, I read earlier this week. And it's worthy of the Downton's Dowager.
When Lilly Pulitzer (whose sisters were Mimsy and Flossie, really, or close to that) was told there was a fabric that couldn't be purchased for an exhibition because it was out of the budget, she said "A budget? Oh, how embarrassing."
RHYS BOWEN: It's interesting that they represent the extremes of womanhood, isn't it? The sweet innocent ingenue, the Iron lady and the flamboyant Floridian.
I regret not growing up with the Mouseketeers, because we didn't have them in England, and I lived in America while Mrs. Thatcher was PM, so I had an outsiders view of her. I certainly admired her strong stance and her insistence on being treated no differently from the boys, if I wasn't always thrilled about her politics. She was a terrific example that women could be anything they wanted, even a humble grocer's daughter.
And I had a small personal connection to Lilly Pulitzer. I was signing books in Palm Beach once when a woman put my book in front of me and said, "I'm Lilly Pulizer's personal secretary. She sent me to get a book signed by you." It was one of my author highlights along with Steve Forbes requesting on for his daughter's birthday.
HALLIE EPHRON: Oh my, Rhys, ANOTHER brush for you with royalty!!
I love the contrast: VIVE la difference. Also love the rumor that went around that Cher had died too (Twitter hashtag, #nowthatchersdead. Cher would have taken the week into a whole different dimension.
Horsemasters?? I must have been sleeping between commercials.
I wanted to be Annette. There. I said it. She was the quintessential NICE girl.
Margaret Thatcher scared me. She seemed like Agnes Trunchbull in Matilda or Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I missed the Mouseketeers, so my glimpses of Annette Funicello were from the rear-view mirror. I always think of the Beach Blanket Bingo parody done by SNL in 1978 with a young Carrie Fisher: "You got me all wrong, Annette! I'm no space slut!"
Lucy, if you want to know who buys Lilly Pulitzer: we do! Her cheerful prints are always right for summer - maybe not to the office, but who wants to think about what to wear to work in the summer? Her shifts, skirts and tunics are very female-friendly, for lack of a better word: they look adorable on a reed-slim size 2, but they also skim forgivingly over those of us who are some multiple of 2! When she heard that Pulitzer had died, the Youngest said, "Mom, I think you should buy me a new Lilly skirt as a memorial."
I went to school in London in '82-'83, and as a result, I have a harsh opinion of Lady Thatcher. She broke the spine of the British working class, decimated towns and neighborhoods in a way that hasn't been seen since the Industrial Revolution, and set the stage for Britan's present-day FIRE* economy, wherein the rich get richer and the poor get cheap Chinese-made track suits.
Okay, I'm going to take a deep breath and think about Lilly skirts.
*Finance, Insurance, Real Estate
DEBS: I never wanted to be Annette. She seemed old to me, and a little too cute, watching the Mouseketeers as a child. But it's all relative, and only now do I realize how young she was. I have to give her credit for making her own decisions and not letting herself be railroaded into the sad has-been child-star route...
I certainly never wanted to be Margaret Thatcher. Like Julia, I lived in the UK in the late seventies/early eighties, so I have a personal bias. But more than that, I've never had any desire to have public power. I can admire her for having shown that a woman, and a grocer's daughter, could realize her ambitions.
But of the three, my sentiments lie with Lilly Pulitzer. Born to wealth, married into money--and publishing royalty--she opened a juice stand in Palm Beach, and designed those first bright dresses to cover the orange juice stains on her clothes. She didn't have to work, but she was creative and determined and she made her own life.
I never bought a Lilly Pulitzer dress, but maybe it's time I did.
What about you, readers? Did any of these women inspire you?
PS: Prairillon, you are the winner of The Perfect Ghost. If you'll email me at deb at deborahcrombie dot com with your address, I'll pass it on to Linda. Congrats!