Josephine Baker, A’isha bint Abi Bakr, and other inspirations

As we wrap up Women’s History Month, I reflect on the difference the heroines in my novels have made in the world they lived in and today, including in my own life.

From A’isha bint Abi Bakr, the youngest wife of the Prophet Muhammad and protagonist of my novels The Jewel of Medina and The Sword of Medina, to the four amazing sisters from Provence who all became European queens, to the 12th-century scholar Heloise d’Argenteuil, who became lovers with her teacher in a scandal that rocked Paris, all my heroines have given me strength and inspiration when I’ve needed it most.

Muhammad’s widow, Aisha, battling the fourth caliph Ali in the Battle of the Camel. Miniature from the Siyer-i Nebi, Turkish epic about the life of Muhammad, written by Mustafa, son of Yusuf of Erzurum. 16th century. Topkapi Sarayi Museum Library, Istanbul, Turkey

A’isha was a strong and shrewd woman who refused to give in when men, jealous of her power, tried to shut her down. After Muhammad died, she went on to become a great warrior and statesman, and the most highly esteemed religious authority in the Muslim world.

Marguerite, Eleonore, Sanchia, and Beatrice, the sisters in Four Sisters, All Queens, used their status as queens–in spite of being married at frightfully young ages, barely pubescent–to fight for peace and to unite fragmented nations as well as to strengthen their own family’s stature.

Vignaud’s Abelard and Heloise Surprised by Master Fulbert. (1819)

Heloise, the heroine of The Sharp Hook of Love, gave all she had to the love of her life, the great philosopher Peter Abelard. She embraced a kinky sex life with him, refused to marry him saying she preferred “freedom to chains,” and gave up their child to protect his position in the Church. When, disgraced, he insisted she become a nun, she went on to found her own convent, where she instituted many reforms that benefited women, and grew it to become one of the largest convents in France.

(Photo: Gaston Paris/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

And then there’s Josephine Baker, protagonist of Josephine Baker’s Last Dance, my most recent book. A famous comic, dancer, object of desire and singer, she used her fame as a platform from which to fight Nazi Germany as well as racism in the United States. For me today, as for so many women as well as people of color, Josephine Baker inspires, stimulates, and challenges me to live the best possible life–one that makes a difference in the world.

My love letter to you, my readers, appears today on the “Dear Reader, Love, Author” blog. It ends, “The message of all my books is: This, as far as we know, is the only life we will ever get. Let’s make it count.”

Please come over and read my guest post, and ask yourself: How will you make a difference today?

Published by Sherry Jones

Writing fiction about kick-ass women in history. My latest: JOSEPHINE BAKER'S LAST DANCE.