Back in 1978, I watched 28 year-old Arianna Stassinopoulos shred an opponent during a Cambridge Union Society debate. I had attended other events at the Union–a screening of Carrie, a lecture on meditation–but the Stassinopoulos performance made by far the deepest impression.
I no longer recall the substance of that debate, but I will never forget Stassinopoulos. What captivated me was her sparkling blend of confidence with an apparent mastery of the topic at hand. Of course there was also that exotic Greek accent, so thick that even if you weren’t persuaded by her arguments, you had to admire her for speaking before an audience composed overwhelmingly of privileged English students. She deftly skewered her adversary’s claims and tossed them flailing off the stage. At least, that’s how it looked to someone who spent her days in the hermit-like study of ancient documents in dead languages. There was no way the woman wasn’t headed for something big.
Fast forward to 2011. Arianna Huffington had become a household name. And again we found ourselves in the same room, at least figuratively speaking. My second book, A Home A of Her Own, had just been published by the Indiana University Press. A publicist called to tell me that the Huffington Post wanted to include our book in its list of “Books We Love” and asked for a related essay. A few months later, the Huffington Post published a grittier piece decrying ridiculously objectified images of women who work in manual trades and professions.
We still haven’t met in person, and we probably never will. But it’s fun to recall the fearless young woman I saw in action more than a quarter-century ago.–Nancy Hiller, author of Making Things Work