Have you seen “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio“? It’s a sweet little tearjerker about a Midwestern 1950s housewife who supports her family with her knack for writing prize-winning jingles and slogans. Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson are winsome: I particularly admire an actor who’s willing to embrace an unappealing character, as Harrelson does as the drunkard father of 10. The nonfiction book on which it’s based, written by Evelyn Ryan’s daughter Terry, is even better.
Evelyn Ryan was a talented writer who found opportunity in surprising places. Not every woman in postwar America who could write could find such opportunities or exploit them effectively. (A notable exception was Life magazine’s Career Girl, and even she had to take a sabbatical to marry and have a family.) For every Carol Burnett, there must have been dozens of Jane Q. Smiths overflowing with ideas. Imagine all that intellectual power!
Unfortunately, I can’t really go on without bordering on stridency. I just wanted to take a moment to marvel at the women who came before me, both fictional and real. I’m grateful to make a living as a writer and editor. I hope to emulate Evelyn Ryan by living outside the clichés through the pursuit of happiness and success in surprising ways.