Her-Story Merit Badge, Beginner Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,130 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,150 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Each Other/Her-Story Beginner Level Merit Badge, I found myself stumped for a moment. Find an influential and/or powerful woman who is still alive to research.

Hmm. Seemed simple enough, but surprisingly difficult, to boot. Also, I got a little sad when random women jumped into my head, then when I Googled them, found that they had passed to their eternal reward. Sniffle. Audrey Hepburn, I’m talking to you.

Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer, while filming War and Peace. Milton H. Greene for LOOK Magazine via Wikimedia Commons.

I puzzled and puzzled till my puzzler was sore. I racked my gray matter. I pondered and pontificated and mused. I ate some cookies. I thought some more. I drummed my fingers restlessly on my coffee table, where my latest stack of library books sat ready and waiting. I looked down.

Then, I had it!

Harry Potter’s cute, little, bespectacled face peered up at me endearingly.

J.K. Rowling!

photo by Daniel Ogren via Wikimedia Commons

Talk about influential and powerful. I mean, she singlehandedly got millions of school-aged youngsters to love books again. That’s influential. She changed the game for middle school novels. That’s powerful. And even more than that, I learned she’s pretty darn inspirational too.

Some facts about J.K. you might find as super-neato as I did:

  • J.K. (or Joanne as I like to call her, since I pretty much assume we’re friends by now) wrote the first Harry Potter while she was a single mom on welfare, and it was rejected 12 times before being picked up by a publishing house for a mere $4,000.
  • The fourth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, became the fastest-selling book in history. Like, history of the world, peeps.
  • Rowling is now the 13th wealthiest woman in Britain (wealthier even than the queen!)
  • Her book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, puts every cent in royalties earned towards charity.
  • The films based on her books are the second-highest-grossing films in history.
  • She went from living on state benefits to multi-millionaire status in a mere five years.
  • Forbes ranked Rowling as the 48th most powerful celebrity of 2007, and Time magazine named her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fans. In October 2010, Rowling was named the “Most Influential Woman in Britain” by leading magazine editors.
  • She based the character of Hermione Granger on herself when she was 11.
  • In 1982, she took the entrance exams for Oxford, but was not accepted. She ended up going to University of Exeter, where she recalls doing very little work, and mostly read a lot of Dickens and Tolkien.
  • In 2012 Forbes had to remove Rowling from their list of billionaires because she had given so much money away to charities, she lost her billionaire status. Wowza!
  • Rowling has named communist and civil rights activist Jessica Mitford as her “most influential writer,” saying, “Jessica Mitford has been my heroine since I was 14 years old, when I overheard my formidable great-aunt discussing how Mitford had run away at the age of 19 to fight with the Reds in the Spanish Civil War”, and claims what inspired her about Mitford was that she was “incurably and instinctively rebellious, brave, adventurous, funny and irreverent, she liked nothing better than a good fight, preferably against a pompous and hypocritical target.” Sounds like a few s/heroes I know!
  • Rowling has described Jane Austen as her favorite author, calling Emma her favorite book. As a child, Rowling has said her early influences included The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, and Manxmousee by Paul Gallico.

  1. Krista says:

    I like this merit badge and would love to work on it sometime. It’s going to be hard to pick the right influential woman since many I would choose are no longer living. J.K. Rowling was a great choice and I love to read her books. Her facts were very interesting and go to show why she is just that more influential. I better start thinking about who I would pick!

  2. Karlyne says:

    C.S. Lewis AND Elizabeth Goudge?! This woman is even more intelligent than I thought!

  3. Karlyne says:

    (And Jane Austen and Paul Gallico), I mean, Wow!!

  4. Lisa Von Saunder says:

    Rowling is indeed an inspiration if for nothing else that she got young people reading again!

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