There is a perception in our society that once you reach a certain age you are done – there’s no more success, progress or fun. You can’t do anything new because you’ve hit the 40s or your 50s and that’s it. You might be surprised to learn just how many women in the public eye didn’t achieve their success until later in life.
We have become a nation obsessed with youth and anyone who doesn’t fall into that category is expected to sit back and let others take their crack. Don’t listen to that nonsense, just take a look at four amazing women who didn’t find their wings until later in life.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder
We probably best remember her for the television series that was made and based on her books. Melissa Gilbert brought her to life and Michael Landon made us fall in love with Pa. It turns out that she didn’t start writing those books until quite late in life.
Her first novel was published at the age of 65 and another 11 followed (though, some of them were published after her death).
She was born in a time where women were expected to focus on their family and put aside any career ideas. Wilder may have married young and worked on the farm beside her husband, but she didn’t let that stop her from following her dreams. She was 64 when she decided to start writing her story.
- Julia Child
Child grew up in a wealthy family and had dreams of being a writer – she worked for the government and moved to Paris when she met and married her husband. It was then, at 36, that she started attending cooking school and from there she (and two of her student friends) opened their very own cooking school. The trio wrote a cookbook that was designed to make French cooking easy for the American audience. It spent five years on the bestseller list upon its release.
She then made an appearance on a public access television program which led to her very own cooking show. For a woman who was in her late 30s when learning how to cook, she went on to be admitted to the Culinary Institute’s Hall of Fame and also received the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor.
- Kathryn Joosten
You may know her better as Mrs. McCluskey from Desperate Housewives, but she didn’t start pursuing her dream until she hit her 40s. She was a nurse throughout the 60s and 70s. When she divorced her husband, she decided to chase her childhood dreams.
She started out as a street performer at Disney World and then in 1995 she made the move to California. She appeared as a guest in sitcoms, and also landed a recurring role on The West Wing (her big break at the age of 60). The double Emmy winner is proof that it’s never too late to go after your dreams.
- Phyllis Diller
When we look at the history of women in comedy it’s difficult to overlook the impact that Phyllis Diller had. She was famous for being eccentric as well as her takes on suburbia, but she didn’t taste a spot of success until she was almost 40.
She married in her early 20s and had six children with her husband. She had been working as a journalist before appearing on a game show, hosted by Groucho Marx.
The response was so positive that she appeared at a comedy club, aged 37. They told her she was too old, nevertheless, she persisted. Not only did she succeed in film and as a comedian, she published her first (of five) books when she was 46.
Success takes time – and it doesn’t matter how old you are – you can make your own now. Is there something that you have always wanted to do, but you have been too scared to go for it, assuming you’re too old? There’s no such thing – if you have the drive and the passion to make it happen, then you can and will make it happen.
Let the successes of the women above, along with the likes of Jane Lynch who didn’t get a big break until she was 49, Leslie Jones who was 47, Kathy Bates at 43, or Lucille Ball who didn’t really attain her fame until she was 40.