Famous Women in History Jackie Cochran & Babe Didrikson Zaharias Were All-American in Their Ambition, Independence of Mind and Determination to Win
by Heidi A. Olinger
Pretty Brainy founder & CEO
Following are excerpts from the Pretty Brainy biographies of Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Jackie Cochran, the sheroes of the World Champion Babe and World-Class Fly Girl Ts. We choose Cochran and Zaharias as the first heroes to (re)introduce to smart girls because —
- They are real women whose accomplishments are genuinely inspiring.
- Theirs are stories girls can take to heart and feel confident in knowing, “If they could do this, so can I.”
Cochran and Zaharias grew up in economic tough times, such as we are experiencing now, but even as young girls, they provided the financial backbone for their parents and siblings, whom they supported throughout their lives.
If you are a grown-up choosing Pretty Brainy for the girls in your life, here is some of the info we place up a girl’s sleeve—
Babe Didrikson Zaharias, World Champion Babe
“Before I was even into my teens,” said Babe Didrikson Zaharias, “I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. My goal was to be the greatest athlete that ever lived.”
In one afternoon of track-and-field competition, Babe won 5 gold medals, broke 4 world records, and qualified for the Olympics. Despite being the only one on her team, she won the team championship. The morning after the meet, she resumed training.
- When one journalist called her unfeminine because of her athleticism, she retorted, “I know I’m not pretty, but I do try to be graceful.”
- In 1938, Babe was the first woman ever to qualify for a men’s Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) tournament. Not until 2003, 65 years later, would another woman, Annika Sörenstam, qualify.
- Another of Babe’s goals was to be the greatest woman golfer, and, over her career, she won every major professional championship. Through golf, she also met and married George Zaharias, saying, “I always said I could fall in love with a man strong enough to outdrive me [in golf].”
Jackie Cochran, World-Class Fly Girl
- In the summer of 1953, Jackie Cochran was the first woman in the world to fly faster than the speed of sound. The speed at which she flew is Mach 1. In the air at Mach 1, everything is silent. On the ground, however, the sound Jackie out-flew made two sonic booms and shattered window panes.
- She was determined and tenacious: in 1932 she learned to fly in 17 days. Her boyfriend had bet her she could not learn in 6 weeks, and her instructor had said she needed 2 to 3 months to learn.
- She studied advanced math on her own to further her goal of being a top pilot. She accomplished this never having attended school past the second grade.
- Jackie first wanted to fly so she could travel the entire United States to sell cosmetics made by the company she founded, Jacqueline Cochran Cosmetics. Actress Marilyn Monroe wore her lipsticks.
- Among her best friends was aviator Amelia Earhart.
- At the end of her life in 1980, Jackie Cochran held more records than any pilot, man or woman, for flying the fastest, farthest, and highest.
More about Jackie Cochran and Babe Didrikson Zaharias are on World-Class Fly Girl and World Champion Babe Ts — preteen girls’ printed Ts created to match a preteen girl’s eye on the world. These smart goods for smart girls are available here in the Pretty Brainy Girls’ Clothing Boutique.
Look for Pretty Brainy’s summer reading picks on Cochran, Zaharias and other sheroes and famous women in history — top reading recommendations for smart girls of all ages from Pretty Brainy.
Heidi Olinger is the founder, president & CEO of Pretty Brainy, Inc. She has been a journalist, marketing director, executive director, foster parent, and aunt. “Being pretty brainy,” she writes, “is about believing in your capabilities and locating the self-confidence to act on your ambitions.”