WWHP - Worcester Public Library Collaboration: Preethi Burkholder's 17 Women Who Shook the World

By Dianne Bruce
Preethi Burkholder
Preethi Burkholder
17 Women Who Shook the World
17 women Who shook the World

Preethi Burkholder was born in Sri Lanka. She was educated at St. Bridget’s Convent, Colombo. Perhaps it was another notable alumna of St. Bridget’s, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the modern world’s first female head of state, that inspired Ms. Burkholder to look at the patterns of thinking and acting that drove 17 women to change the world.

Ms. Burkholder (Preethi) provided a glimpse into the lives of a few women described in her book, 17 Women Who Shook the World, in her presentation at the Worcester Public Library on December 16th. The event, sponsored by Worcester Women’s History Project and the Worcester Public Library, was inspirational. Each woman demonstrated the courage of her convictions as she set about to change her life and, as a result, the world.

Wilma Rudolph weighed just over 4 pounds at birth. At the age of five she contracted polio. Her doctors and family believed that she would never walk again. Wilma did not give up. She exercised and strengthened her legs. In 1960 she became the first woman to win 3 gold medals in the Olympics (100 meter dash; 200 meter dash; 400 meter relay). In a television interview Wilma Rudolph said, "Winning is great, sure, but if you are going to do something in life the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday."

Amelia Earhart grew up in a home fraught with adversity. Her father’s battle with alcoholism inflicted financial and emotional hardship. "She was a lonely girl who preferred to go solo." On December 28, 1920, she took her first plane ride. She knew she had to fly. Ever the loner, in 1932 she became the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo – and the first person – man or woman – to make two transatlantic journeys by air. She said, "Probably my greatest satisfaction was to indicate by example now and then that women can sometimes do things themselves if given the chance."

Mother Teresa worked on behalf of many suffering material and emotional hardship. Born in Macedonia, she was inspired by the reports she read of missionaries in India. She left home in 1929 at the age of 18 to join the Sisters of Loreta. She arrived in India alone with about a nickel. In 1946 she answered what she described as "a call within a call" leaving the Sisters of Loreta to go to the slums of Calcutta. "When I pick up a hungry person from the street, I give him a plate of rice or a piece of bread, and I have removed that hunger. But the poverty of a person who is shut out, who feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, and thrown out from society is far worse. That poverty of feeling unloved is harder to satisfy."

Ms. Burkholder was inspired by these women and 14 more. During a low point in her life she looked at many women who overcame disadvantage to create a life of meaning. Her presentation inspired the audience to take action to create success.

Published Date: 
December 16, 2012