Putting the HER in Hero!

By Nancy Black

Photo of Lucille Ball courtesy of

I read it somewhere. I don’t know where. The words just flashed by my eyes. But those five words stuck out in my mind — “put the HER in hero.”

I like that phrase. I never really enjoyed calling an inspirational female my “heroine;” it made it sound like she was my drug of choice. Same goes for “comedienne.” If you tell jokes and try to make people laugh, you’re a comic. Period.

I learned the “put the HER in hero” campaign is something that started in the UK. It was developed as a way to inspire young girls to study science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects. The inspiration for the campaign came from a young woman known as the Countess of Lovelace.

Augusta Ada King-Noel (Countess Lovelace after she married) was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.

She was the first to figure out that his machine could do more than just math, and she published the first algorithm intended to be performed by a machine. That is why many consider her the very first computer programmer. Did I mention she did all this in 1842? Yeah.

So, after learning about the HER movement, I started thinking about who my female heroes were growing up. My mother, of course, but I didn’t realize she was a true hero until I was an adult. Only then did it dawn on me that my single mother had raised four children, worked two jobs, received her master’s degree and started her own business after she gave birth to me, which was when she was 40!

Mary Tyler Moore was definitely one of my heroes growing up. Not only was she funny and beautiful, but she was smart, Lucille Ball smart. Ball was another woman I greatly admired. Both she and Moore ran their own production companies. And there is that other one. Oh, what’s her name? You know, “That Girl.” I’m writing, of course, about Marlo Thomas, whom I admired not only for her talent but also for the issues she supported off-screen.

I didn’t grow up looking for, or seeing, many women who were into science and math, except for my teachers, of course. I had female writers I admired as a child, like Erma Bombeck, Molly Ivins and even Dear Abby. I knew, even at a young age, those women were doing something that most women weren’t. But scientists? Not so many.

Sally Ride comes to mind. She became the first woman in space right about the time I was graduating from high school. And I remember learning soon after that a Texas woman had invented Liquid Paper. But it wasn’t until I was pushing 30 that I found out about some of the other amazing inventions by women: dishwasher, fire escape, solar-heated homes, Kevlar (the bullet proof vest material), computer software, windshield wiper and, a personal favorite, chocolate chip cookies.

The sky is no longer the limit for what young girls can accomplish these days. They can, literally, be shooting for the moon and beyond with their dreams.


The possibilities are endless, and I am inspired to write, “Watch out world, because the young girls of today are going to take over the world tomorrow and make it a better, stronger, safer place for everyone, everywhere.” #HERinHero

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