One of the traits I admire in heroines (real or fictional) are the ones who are clever, –as in innovative or resourceful. Not everyone has a lot of money, and maybe the ones who do are the ones who have been clever and resourceful as well. More great ideas have been bred out of need than luxury. It gives me inspiration to hear of how somone survives an ordeal by using what they have in a pickle. Businesses have been born, lives saved, and frontiers won by many a hero/heroine who has thought up a great strategy for surviving and thriving.
Who are some literary heroines we can think of who fit this bill? The first ones that come to mind are experiencing a resurgence in popularity lately (due to the new movie Little Women): Jo March and her sisters! The March family had once upon a time been a fairly wealthy one, but have fallen upon hard times in the years during the war. As the young girls find out, it’s not a lot of fun to be strapped. Especially when all your friends can afford beautiful ball gowns and limes. But it doesn’t prevent them from living fully in any case. They invent their own ways to amuse and entertain themselves– putting on plays, writing stories, making gifts. Their stage props are made out of curtains and houseplants, but they make do with imagination.
“Being still too young to go often to the theater, and not rich enough to afford any great outlay for private performances, the girls put their wits to work, and– necessity being the mother of invetion– made whatever they needed. Very clever were some of their productions– pasteboard guitars, antique lamps made out of old-fashioned butter boats covered with silver paper, gorgeous robes of old cotton, glittering with tin spangles from a pickle factory, and armor covered with the same useful diamond-shaped bits, left in sheets when the lids of tin preserve pots were cut out. The furniture was used to being turned topsy-turvy, and the big chamber was the scene of many innocent revels.”
~”Little Women,” by Louisa May Alcott
In fact, a large portion of a chapter details their theater inventions. I remember reading Little Women when I was about 12 years old and this Christmas play of theirs was one of my favorite parts. My sister and I used to mimic the March girls and come up with all sorts of ingenious substitutes for swords, costumes and props out of anything we could find in the house. We turned “Ivanhoe” by Sir Walter Scott into a 75 page play (which we memorized) and veggie platters became our knights’ shields, ski masks our helmets, and swaths of solid polyester material that were left over from grandma’s quilt backings were our costumes held together with safety pins. I think the only thing we bought for the entire thing was a red lightbulb for the dungeon scene. Homemade makes better memories!
Learning to be inventive from an early age serves well in later life. For one thing, you can think faster on your feet. Now, this I can’t personally claim, but I did get an idea from our next heroines that aided me in a cause just today. I recently finished the mystery novel, “Strong Poison” by Dorothy L. Sayers, where Lord Peter Wimsey (aristocratic sleuth) is determined to find a young woman innocent of a crime he knows she didn’t commit. Of course, Lord Peter has connections that many others don’t and has an entire “Cattery” of female workers in his employ when he needs someone to infiltrate a place for info. This is where Miss Climpson and Miss Murchison enter the picture. These two ladies aren’t exactly what one would usually picture as heroines. They are beyond the prime of life, spinsters, and lacking sex appeal. That makes them perfect “spies” whom nobody suspects as having ulterior motives. However, there is a moment when Miss Murchison is almost found out. Her supervisor happens across her just at the moment when she is about to discover something! Her quick thinking saves the scheme and herself, but she has to play timid and dumb. Then there is the older Miss Climpson. If ever there was an award for ingenuity, she would get the prize. By her quick wits, she weedles her way into a complete stranger’s house and makes out with a person’s will! All in the name of attaining justice, of course. It gave me an idea today; not in stealing or anything else illegal of course, but in attaining access to a place at a time when I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Thanks, Miss Climpson!
So what if you’re not a plainclothes detective? What if you’re just an ordinary person in everyday life? Maybe life feels dull, but how to spruce it up without the dramatics? Let us turn to Jerusha “Judy” Abbott, one of my favorite heroines from one of my favorite novels, “Daddy Long Legs” (Jean Webster). Judy is at college, surrounded by friends who come from impressive backgrounds. Judy doesn’t have all of the perks their families provide. She has to make her own way in the world. This means making her own way when it comes to everyday things, as well. As she tells her benefactor:
“Do you care you care to know how I’ve furnished my room? It’s a symphony in brown and yellow. The walls were tinted buff, and I’ve bought yellow denim curtains and cushions and a mahogany desk (secondhand for three dollars) and a rattan chair and a brown rug with an ink spot in the middle. I stand the chair over the spot.
“The windows are high up; you can’t look out from an ordinary seat. But I unscrewed the looking glass from the back of the bureau, upholstered the top, and moved it up against the window. It’s just the right height for a window seat. You pull out the drawers like steps and walk up. Very comfortable!”
I’ve certainly had experience with decorating on a budget. A few years ago I was dead set on decorating my bedroom in 1970’s pink and purple, like Rhoda’s apartment on the Mary Tyler Moore show. But paint is expensive and I really couldn’t afford much. Then I saw a sale in my local hardware store flyer for sample paint $2 a can (limit 2). Guess what? Since my bedroom is small, I was able to paint it in 2 pint sized cans of pink and purple paint alternating walls, with an old kitchen baster for a paintbrush. I don’t think there was a drop of paint left by the end of it all, but I have a colorful bedroom to say the least. A few thrift finds and a quilt made by my mom and grandma and I live in pink bliss!
So how about you? Are there ways you find to be inventive in your life? Are there any heroines you look to for inspiration? Share below!