Red wine on my lips.
The breeze off the canal ruffling my hair.
Warm sunshine washing over my face.
A loving husband by my side.
This… this is how everyone expected my life to be.
They wanted me to fit in with society and take my place as a woman full of grace, poise, and personality. Goodness, how I have fulfilled their expectations!
Pretty sure I blew them away.
I was pure poise and charisma as I lectured crowds of men in suits on how to improve trade with foreign governments.
Personality charmed while I brought state-of-the-art presentations before huge assemblies of curious spectators.
And a wonderfully strong man joined me in my adventures, supporting me on my quest to learn everything I could about the world.
But I doubt they ever once thought about how far I would exceed these limiting objectives.
They had no idea who I really am.
They probably weren’t expecting my years abroad, when I ravenously sought new lands and people to understand.
They probably weren’t expecting me to go to the frontlines of the war, exercising my skills as a photographer and communicator as the first woman allowed to do so.
They probably weren’t expecting the way I led the way for other women geographers and founded an exclusive club just for us.
They probably weren’t expecting me to challenge the rhetoric and question the authority of past colonizers after meeting the people of South America.
They probably weren’t expecting me to defy gender norms and brave the elements during my travels, facing death by drowning, falls, and exposure.
They probably weren’t expecting all the talk about how women could explore as far as men could, or how well I could get by without all the niceties to which women of my time and culture were accustomed.
But of course, it’s not their fault.
They likely didn’t know about that first tell-tale sign of heart when I caught a reporter’s attention by swimming a surprising distance as a child.
They likely didn’t know how the spirit of adventure was planted in my heart when my father included me in hundreds of miles of horseback riding along the west coast.
They likely didn’t know about how these early adventures changed me “from a domestic little girl fond of knitting and skipping rope to one who wished to go to the ends of the earth and to see and study the people of all lands.”
They didn’t know the Adams woman that I am…
And so much more.
But most of all they didn’t know that this woman was Freedom.
Freedom from so many things that sought to keep me down and hold me back.
Yes. I, Harriett Chalmers Adams, am Freedom.
I am Elira Woman.
(This writing is dedicated to the memory of Harriet Chalmers Adams, the namesake for Elira Apparel’s Adams pant.)