because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ida Lewis

Called "the bravest woman in America" in some of the most prestigious newspapers and magazines in the country in the mid to late 1800's, Ida Lewis was really just a person who took her responsibilities very seriously.  Lewis lived for thirty-nine years on Lime Rock, a tiny island off Newport, Rhode Island, where a lighthouse stands warning ships to avoid the rocks.

Originally, her father had taken the position of lighthouse keeper, but after he had a stroke, she and her mother did the job for him. Then, when her mother became ill, Lewis continued to do the job alone (a twenty-four hour per day responsibility 365 days per year). But this is not why Lewis was considered brave nor why she made the cut as an in-your-face woman, though violent storms -- which were to be expected on a fairly regular basis -- could be wildly dangerous.

What got Lewis all the recognition, accolades, awards, articles, honors, and even financial rewards, were the many times she climbed in a lifeboat (usually alone and without coat or shoes on more than one occasion) and rowed out into the choppy waters to save men, women and children from drowning. Only sixteen-years-old when she made her first rescue, dragging four young men over the side of her boat to safety, she later said she "never gave it a second thought."

Credited through the years with risking her own life to save at least eighteen and maybe as many as thirty-six other people's lives -- the last time when she was sixty-three years old! -- Lewis became so famous that hundreds of people per day would try to pay their respects. When she died, both Lime Rock and the lighthouse were renamed for her, an honor never previously awarded to any lighthouse keeper in the United States ever. Obviously, in-your-face women are liable to pop up almost anywhere, even hanging over the side of a lifeboat in a storm at sea!

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