Redefining the Accomplished Woman

Since I started blogging this spring, I’ve been thinking a lot about Jane Austen.

After all, this is Modern Mrs Darcy–the inspiration from the site name was taken from the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, all grown up and married to her Mr. Darcy.

And the tagline of this blog is “redefining the accomplished woman”–a reference to a scene in Pride and Prejudice in which Mr. Bingley marvels at the accomplished ladies he knows,  Caroline Bingley scoffs at them, Mr. Darcy raises the bar yet higher, and Elizabeth laughs at the lot of them for their impossible standards.  “I never saw such a woman.”  (You can read the full excerpt here.)

Caroline Bingley set down the first definition of the accomplished woman, and it’s a mean-spirited one.  She sets the bar high for her sex, not because she thinks highly of other women, but because she thinks highly of herself.  She’s the girl who puts down others just to make herself feel better.  She’s competing fiercely with other women–for love, and money, attention and pride–and she wants to make sure she comes out on top.   And her definition reflects that.

(No wonder they call Jane Austen’s work “timeless”!  It seems human nature hasn’t much changed since 1813.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the accomplished woman since this blog rolled out earlier this year, and what an accomplished woman might look like in today’s world.  I’m ready to lay out a new definition–and I’m sure shallow Caroline Bingley would hate what I have to say.

This month I’m going to be laying out my ideas about what it takes to be an accomplished woman in today’s world.  And I’m not thinking about painting screens and speaking French.  I’m interested in exploring how we, as modern women, can live our lives in a way that is full and satisfying and good–for ourselves, and for those near and dear to us, and the communities we live in.  I’ve been thinking about this for ages now, and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you–and even more excited to hear what you have to say!

What kind of life do you want to live?  What do you think today’s women need?  And what makes your life more satisfying?

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  1. Christine says:

    I’m looking forward to what you have to say about this. It’s interesting that my ideas of what an accomplished woman is has changes over the last ten to fifteen years. Life experience has a way of molding our ideals!

  2. Maria says:

    I am very much looking forward to this too! I feel I’m at my happiest and most accomplished now.

    I just got married to a wonderful man. And I’ve just started a job working from home for a company I used to work for in the UK in an industry I adore (film). I love the people I work with and because I’m in Greece and they’re in the UK and I work to their hours, I don’t actually have to be at my computer until 11am.

    Which means I have plenty of free time from when I wake up with my hubby who goes off to work to plan what I’ll cook for the day and also ample time to write and read my favourite blogs. I’m glad I’m now getting the opportunity to write and cook. Both things which I love doing more than I thought I would.

    Maria xx

  3. Jodi B says:

    I’m totally curious about what you have to say. It has taken me these 6 years of marriage to START to feel like I am understand my role in the world right now – as a mother, as wife, as myself, as a child of God. I can almost see what it would look like, but I know I am not there yet.

  4. Stacy says:

    I think it is hard to define an accomplished woman, as we each have our own traits and skills that will make us feel accomplished.

    I love to cook, to sew, to photograph and I get “picked on” in a soft-hearted way by friends because I am essentially very creative. It comes easy to me, perhaps just because of how my brain is wired. I don’t look down at others because they can’t do things that come to me fairly easily, mostly because I know I am lucky (though I do work at what I do!).

    Others I know are more accomplished than I in volunteering, being social with friends and being more “there” for their children. Working full-time I feel as though I am missing out on some of their lives.

    It is very difficult for women to meet the standard of perfection – even the modern day standards. I think we should feel accomplished if we can even meet just a few.

  5. I think each woman would define “accomplished” differently. For some women being accomplished means being a successful businesswoman, juggling a job and home life, and being a wife and mother are secondary accomplishments if necessary at all.

    For other women–and I think you are of this type, as am I–accomplishment is not necessarily something that makes a lot of money or earns praise and promotions. It has more to do with being generous, kind, a good homemaker, a faithful wife and loving mother than having a prestigious title in a Fortune-500 company.

    I believe that each person has their own unique God-given vocation. An accomplished woman is one who fulfills her vocation to the best of her ability, with the help of God, no matter what it is.

  6. Lucky says:

    This is interesting. Maybe the accomplished woman in 2011 is one who is happy in her own skin and making the world confirm to her own vision of accomplishment no matter if that means climbing mountains, climbing the corporate ladder or climbing on the jungle gym with her kids.

  7. Michelle says:

    I think that this is such a difficult thing to “put a finger on”. Because now women can be accomplished in so many different and varied ways, and many women choose to celebrate those differences instead of limiting what “accomplished” might mean to fit their talents and what they know. (Silly Ms. Bingley)

    The life I want to live is one that is my own – not defined by someone else’s terms of accomplishments or successes. That, right now, consists of learning to be a mother and having strong relationships and fostering love in all that I do. I think that everyone should read something (fiction or nonfiction) and have hobbies. But I’m certainly not one to say that one hobby is more worthwhile than another. But I don’t think, in order to be accomplished, one must win awards or be an entrepreneur or even have a career. One thing I believe that people should have in order to be accomplished (male or female) is the spirit to want to make the world better and the wherewithal to do something about it. Other than that, I’m not sure I could define it.

    My life is much more satisfying when I’m doing that – trying to make things better for someone, somewhere. And I feel like this is done in even small things – bringing my own grocery bags or resuable cups to the coffee shop, making an effort to cut down on wasteful things, being frugal and mindful with our purchases so that we can give back more money to charity. It doesn’t have to be a “grand” gesture, so to speak.

  8. Amy says:

    That’s kind of a hard one for me. I have a sense of how the world defines “accomplished”, but I question more and more each year just how much some of those accomplishments would really matter. More and more, over time I come to realize that my vision of an accomplished women looks rather like one who uses her God-given gifts (whatever those might be) and lives in His will. Personally, I would consider myself an accomplished woman if I leave the world better than I found it.

  9. To answer your questions:
    What kind of life do you want to live?
    – An open-minded one.

    What do you think today’s women need?
    – Fewer airbrushed magazines. Why should every wrinkle and pore have to be invisible for a woman to be beautiful?

    And what makes your life more satisfying?
    – In no particular order: reading voraciously; exploring new places; running; spending quality time with my husband, friends, family, and cat; teaching

    I can’t wait to read more (posts and reader comments)!

  10. Jennifer says:

    I think the things that make a woman accomplished aren’t that different today than they were in Jane Austen’s day. The thing that differentiated “upper class” women from everyone else was the time and opportunities they had to persue hobbies and education. I think that a woman is accomplished if she is educated, well rounded and has actual skills. Sporting skills (a great swimmer, kayaker, soccer player, marathon runner or 5k competitor), Artistic/creative skills (knitting, sewing, painting, writing, photography, cooking, baking, etc.), Musical skills (playing the guitar, piano, or singing). Everyone likes people who can DO things. Someone who can bake a great treat to bring to a party. Someone who can sit down at a piano and play Christmas Carrols. Someone who can jump into an impromtu soccer match. Someone who can speak a second language and open a whole new culture or world to us not previously known. I think that these things make a woman accomplished. Luckily, we have so many more things to learn and choose from than did the women in Jane Austen’s day. We don’t have to learn French, piano, and horse riding. We can learn Arabic, the banjo, and hot air ballooning. We just need to engage and try to master our interests.

  11. Dawn says:

    I am seventeen but just recently read Pride and Prejudice . I thought it insane that Caroline Bingley held women up to such a standard. But I do wonder what would make a woman seem accomplished in today’s world .

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