When we were little, my sister and I had a variety of dolls. Baby Bubbles, Water Babies, Cabbage Patch Kids. But one of my favorites was named Felicity, and she was an American Girl doll. If you are familiar with the American Girl company in its early days, back before it became a behemoth of tiny overpriced accessories, you know that it started with a handful of dolls, each from a different period of American history and each accompanied by five books about her life. Felicity’s story begins in 1774, at the dawn of the American Revolution. I loved Felicity’s soft cinnamon-colored hair and bell-sleeved dress. But I also loved that she was smart, compassionate, and brave. During a tumultuous time, she pushed herself to discover her purpose and love those around her. To my ten-year-old self, she was the definition of an American Girl.
But what does it really mean to be an American girl 240 years later? I decided to take an informal Facebook survey and asked my female friends for three words they would use to describe American womanhood today. The answers I got varied greatly, but one trend I noticed was the pressure to be everything, do everything, and have everything. Many described American womanhood in a negative way, with words like busy, tired, and not good enough. I couldn’t help but agree.
July 4, 1776 was the day 56 signatures changed history. The Declaration of Independence ripped King George III a proverbial new rear (Check it out here! It’s pretty epic.) and the revolution was on.
And it got me thinking.
About life, liberty, and how not one person who responded to my survey described the American woman as happy.
I wondered: What would happen if American women wrote a declaration of independence from the negativity, the hype, the noise about who we’re supposed to be?
If I were to write such a declaration for us, it would include three statements declaring our independence from such sad descriptions of who we are.
- American girls will be unapologetically themselves. Loretta Young, American actress from the 1910s through 1950s, once said, “A charming woman doesn’t follow the crowd. She is herself.” Ironically, Loretta’s real name was Gretchen. Following the fad of celebrity pseudonyms, I guess her given name just didn’t make the cut.
To say there are mixed messages about being “who we really are” is a vast understatement. So what does it really mean to be yourself? I don’t believe it means being static, stubborn, or smug. I believe it is imperative to constantly and humbly push ourselves to grow and learn. But there is something incredibly freeing in being transparent about our struggles, our mistakes, and our successes. And there are some things about us that will not change, no matter how many years pass. These are the special pieces of God-given uniqueness that will always be a part of us. We will embrace our nerdiness, our gifts, our interests. And most of all, we will embrace our one-of-a-kind journey.
- American girls will create community and crush comparison. One of the most powerful words that turned up in my impromptu survey was lonely. And it’s true, isn’t it? Work and family duties and general life busyness crowd true friendship out to the sidelines. Outside the shallow world of social media and the party scene, many women don’t have a real support system. Too often, interactions with other women feel more like competition or a job interview.
The last line of the Declaration of Independence says, “With a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” They knew how important it would be to lean on each other during the difficult days that would surely follow. We are no different today. We need each other.
- American girls will believe they can change the world a little bit each day. Author Ann Voskamp recently garnered a lot of attention when, after a trip to Iraq with Preemptive Love Coalition, she began to share stories via social media of the unfathomable horrors being faced by many women in that region at the hands of ISIS and other terrorist groups. With her simple gift of words, she asked American women to care. Our hearts broke, and our hands opened. We believed in what we could do, in what God could do through us, and in a matter of a few days over $500,000 was raised to transform despair into hope.
When a lot of us do a good small thing, it becomes a great big thing. And when we invite a neighbor over for dinner or speak a word of encouragement to our child or a stranger, we change the world as well. Maybe just for a moment Heaven comes closer to Earth. Or maybe we make an impact that lasts forever.
Writing the Declaration of Independence didn’t mean the battle was over. Indeed, it meant it was just beginning. A declaration has to be followed by action. Regardless of our social status, economic status, marital status, or any other benchmark, I believe we can claim these three statements as part of who we are and begin to live them out today.
And if we do? Well, girls, the revolution is on.
This 4th of July, is there anything from which you’d like to declare independence?