Sally Field: Award-Winning Actress and Vital Voice for Women

If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamn wars in the first place!
– Sally Field
Sally Field seems to perpetually be one of the first celebrities who shows up to prevent domestic violence.  She doesn’t, however, say much about her own experiences.  She was one of 100 celebrities in 2009 to “Join the List” in the Department of Justice’s initiative to raise awareness.  She is a strong supporter of Eve Ensler’s V-Day Movement.  She has been active in Vital Voices since it was founded in 1997 by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  She is currently on their Board of Directors.
Ms. Field has won every acting award including two Oscars for best actress for Norma Rae andPlaces in the Heart.  The awards ~ including Emmys and Golden Globes ~ are showcased in her den.  One of the Emmys is for her role as Nora Walker in Brothers & Sisters.  In her acceptance speech, she made her infamous critique of the war and was censored by Fox.  She told Oprah that a mother’s sensibility springs from, “a soul that cares about the future more than you care about yourself.”

Vital Voices CEO Alyse Nelson and Sally Field

  Women are quite simply the best change agents in the world.
– Sally Field
Vital Voices:  Empowering Women
The movie Norma Rae was about real-life union organizer Crystal Lee Sutton, who worked in the textile mills of rural North Carolina. Ms. Field played Norma Rae and discovered that personal transformation can empower those around us:
When women are empowered and their human rights are respected they are the most powerful force for global transformation!
Vital Voices believes in the transformative value of women’s full participation in society.  We invest in emerging women leaders across the globe—pioneers in economic development, political participation and human rights in their countries and regions.  We help them build the capabilities, connections and credibility needed to unlock their potential as catalysts of global progress.
These women take risks ~ sometimes life threatening ~ to fight for better lives and healthier communities.  Each day, they work heroically to end violence against women and girls, economic isolation, conflict and corruption.

The ripple effect is astonishing and earned her recognition in 2010 by NBC’s Making a Difference.  I urge you to watch the video and be inspired.

Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda, Sally Field


V-Days with Eve Ensler and Jane Fonda
In 2008, Ms. Field was in New Orleans for V-Day to the Tenth.   In 2007, she was in LA for the Stories of Women in Conflict/Women of Peace pre-Oscar event.  She spoke at the 2005 Women & Power Conference, and she hosted a V-day benefit for Ms. Ensler’s performance of The Good BodyIn 2004, she was part of the V-Day delegation to Juarez, Mexico to shine a bright spotlight on the 400 women and girls who either disappeared or were killed.
I’d landed in the drama department, and it just kind of saved me.
– Sally Field
Drama Was Her Safe Haven
Her stepfather, stuntman Jock Mahoney, was verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive. She was accepted into an acting class at Columbia Studios which led to her first role as Gidget. Mr. Mahoney coerced her into playing The Flying Nun, a role she found humiliating. She told Good Housekeeping in a rare interview that her father’s absence from her life and her step-father’s intimidation likely contributed to her relationship issues:
It’s so difficult to move on, even with all the therapy in the world. I always say that if a group of men were herded together, and I was asked to pick the one I would really love, it would be the one who was mean to me.  If they were interesting and smart and generous, I’d probably walk right by.
I wouldn’t mind having my heart broken because it would mean that I had that much feeling connected to somebody.  And that would be really great.  My lover and my best friend and my partner has been my work.  But I certainly would in life have wanted to know ~ would like to know ~ what it was like to have a real partner.
In a 2008 interview with Oprah, she recalled her relationship with her stepfather:
I was both terrified of him and madly in love with him. Unfortunately, that stayed with me as I grew up:  I was attracted only to men I simultaneously feared and loved.  My stepfather was both cruel and loving, and therefore our relationship was very confusing.  I felt I was in danger all the time.

. . .the emotional abuse was even worse [than the physical abuse].  But in some ways, he saved my life. Even though my mother is a loving person, she and my real father were extremely passive and repressed.  My stepfather, on the other hand, created a situation in which my survival was dependent on getting angry.  So when I was 14 or 15, I would literally stand on the coffee table to look this 6’5″ man in the face and scream at him.  During my adolescence, that was the only communication that could go on between us.  I couldn’t swallow my feelings, or something in me would have died.  I fought for everybody else in the family, too, including my older brother.

There was always the threat of violence in the air, and a few times, it turned physical.  I never felt safe. In high school, acting is what I did to stay sane.  It wasn’t about showing off; it was about revealing parts of myself that I couldn’t reveal anyplace else.

Sally Field as Gidget

Gidget Launched Her Career
Ms. Fields’ first role as Gidget is so iconic that I was shocked to discover that the series lasted just one season. It was enough to launch Ms. Field’s career. She told Oprah that she didn’t have a plan for after high school graduation:
I never even took the SAT. During that era, few people had great expectations for women. I didn’t even have enough sense to panic; I just put myself in a fog. I couldn’t feel a lot. The only thing I knew was that I had to keep acting. . .
She got $25 from her father, Richard Dryden Field, to attend the acting class at Columbia Studios:

After the first night of my workshop, a casting guy asked me if I had an agent. I didn’t, but I still went in for an interview. The waiting room was filled with girls who looked like movie stars. They all had professional head shots; the only pictures I had were wallet photos of me with my friends.

At my screen test, I walked in and said, “Which one is the camera?” The crew members were like, “Oh, boy.”  But the casting director said, “You’re it.”  God was looking out for me.  He thought he’d throw me in the ocean and see if I could swim.

It was such bliss.  I was in heaven, learning as much as I could learn.  I loved, loved, loved every minute of it.  On the show, Don Porter, who played my father, was this sweet, loving, gentle, generous man you wished was your father.  He didn’t scare you. He didn’t hurt you.

Steel Magnolia cast

Ms. Field unwinds at her home overlooking the ocean in Malibu. She knits, does needlepoint, and reads.  Twice divorced, she told Good Housekeeping that she may be incapable of sharing her life with a man.  She delights in her three sons and her grandchildren.  She has a rich, full life.

 She survived.  She’s thriving and has found joy.  She is making a difference internationally to prevent violence against women and children.

 October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.  Please join me in wearing your purple and celebrating survivors.

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