Coronado resident Barbara McNally knows a thing or two about determination. In fact, it’s taken her over a decade to write her book, Four Faces of Femininity: Heroic Woman Throughout History. Since its release last month, the book has garnered much attention: praise in the Hollywood Reporter, recommendations in The San Diego Union-Tribune, and rave reviews from book bloggers and “bookstagrammers” alike.
The book, which is divided into four parts, places heroic female figures in one of four sections: Mother, Lover, Warrior, or Sage. Readers will delight in the short histories and stories about everyone from Madonna to Julia Child, from Anne Frank to Joan of Arc.
“I picked remarkable women who, through their creativity, passion, intelligence, and sheer determination, have left an indelible mark on the history of humankind,” says Barbara. “Some of these women relied on their intelligence and ingenuity to succeed, while others leveraged their creativity, their curiosity and talent. They’ve tapped the gifts they were born with and worked hard to cultivate their skills.”
The book shares the stories of more than 40 women, many of whom I wasn’t incredibly familiar with, and some I had never heard of at all. In particular, I enjoyed the stories of Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross, and Rachel Carson, biologist and conservationist, both featured in the “Mother” section. From the “Lover” part of the book, I learned more about Carmen Amaya, the fiery Flamenco dancer, and Anais Nin, the celebrated “first lady of erotica.”
In the “Warrior” section, I loved reading about Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen of Ireland and Margaret Sanger, who fought for women’s reproductive rights, as well as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. When it comes to the “Sage” part of the book, I learned new things about Coco Chanel, as well as Malala Yousafzai, an education advocate who was shot in the head in Pakistan. (Of course, she lived to continue her work.)
“I found there wasn’t just one woman that exemplifies what a woman should be,” says Barbara. “The book demonstrated how crucial it is that women from every background be provided with role models that inspire.”
Indeed, the women featured in this book faced what seemed to be insurmountable barriers with courage and determination. Bessie Coleman, for example, was the first women of African American and Native American descent to earn an aviation pilot’s license. No flight schools in America would teach her, so she learned French and learned to fly at France’s most famous flight school. (She earned her license in only seven months.)
“These woman listened to hearts and demolished obstacles,” says Barbara. “They harnessed their inner fire to step up as leaders and stand out as individuals. These women can inspire you to be your best self.”
The inspirational stories included in the book have catapulted the new release to a book club favorite. The book also includes questions for exploration to help modern, multi-faceted women see these qualities in themselves and balance them to lead fuller lives.
Artfully illustrated by Marta Signori, the book features a rich, warm and contemporary color palette. It’s a no-brainer as coffee-table-top décor, and makes a fantastic gift to the inspiring women in your own life.
“As you reflect on the exemplary women in The Four Faces of Femininity, I invite you to acknowledge all the faces you wear—and the ones you may keep tucked away—as the facets of a diamond,” says Barbara.
When asked if there was one of the “four faces” that she identifies with more than others, Barbara says she relates to the different women more strongly at different times of her life.
“Ann Sullivan—teacher of the blind—inspired the mother, healer and nurturer inside of me to become a physical therapist,” says Barbara. “Tina Fey inspires the lover within me to laugh at myself and not take myself too seriously. Anias Ninn inspires me to keep the lover from within alive. Eleanor Roosevelt helps me find my inner warrior strength. Tammy Duckworth inspires me to fight for the rights of wounded warriors. Anne Frank and Malala Yousafzai remind me that I can tap into my intuitive wise woman, at any age.”
Barbara, who has lived in Coronado for 12 years, believes that all women have a story to tell. In fact, this is her third book. Her first, Unbridled, is a personal memoir of liberation. Her second, Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife, focuses on firsthand accounts of women thrust into the role of caregiver when their spouses return from the battlefield with major wounds.
“Sometimes we don’t see our stories as worth telling,” she says. “But reading about the incredible women throughout history inspires us to stand up and use our own voice. Every woman has a story to tell and sharing is what connects us.”
So, given the challenging times, how can accessing one (or all) of the four faces of femininity help women get through the global pandemic?
“We can tap into our mother archetype to first keep care of ourselves, so we can nurture all those around us,” says Barbara. “We can tap into our inner lover, to stay playful and keep our sense of humor. We can call on our inner warrior to stay strong, working on our personal/career goals. Our inner sage, smart and intuitive helps us see the ways we can grow through this challenge. For many of us it is a time of introspection to think about what direction and changes we want to make in our lives.”