Small and mighty role models
July 31, 2018 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me compile a list of women-identifying people who are short but powerful? I'm in my mid-30s, I'm 5'1," and I'd like to be taken seriously and to feel more capable. Details inside.

One of my summer projects is to learn more about the Greek goddesses and apply their energies in my own life, as inspired by "Goddesses in Everywoman" by Jean Shinoda Bolen (an oldie but a goodie!). For most of my 35-year-old life I've been a Persephone archetype — child-like, people-pleasing, eager to be liked, a touch narcissistic, kinda weak-willed, avoidant and scared of life.

I want to cultivate Artemis — huntress, protector of young women and wild creatures, fearless, externally focused and entirely independent. (She had her problems, too, but I'm trying to mine the good stuff for inspiration.)

One problem I have as I try to implement this stuff in my decidedly non-Greek-mythical real life is that I'm short (5'1") and friendly and in general seem to give off an aura of someone who needs to be protected. Not so much Artemis the Huntress. Lots of "Awww, you're so adorable!" and offers of unsolicited advice, etc. I know this comes from a good place! But I would also love to be seen as a capable powerhouse. I know that for that to happen, I have to embody it.

Can you help me compile a list of women-identifying people in film, media, literature, or even in your own lives who are small-yet-mighty, whom I can learn from? By that I mean on the short side, height-wise, but with a larger-than-life vibe about them.

I'd also love to hear stories (yours, someone else's, or in literature) about a hero(ine)'s journey from childlike and fearful— even as a full adult — and to truly adult, focused, capable and independent.

Thanks, MeFites!
posted by gold bridges to Society & Culture (56 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dr. Ruth is 4'7".
posted by Melismata at 12:42 PM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Madeleine Albright is 4'10"
posted by theora55 at 12:43 PM on July 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


Madeleine Albright is 4'10".
posted by saeculorum at 12:43 PM on July 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


Notorious RBG
posted by greta simone at 12:44 PM on July 31, 2018 [15 favorites]


Jodie Foster is 5'3".

Edna Mode (3'?) is a more comic role but ... nonetheless.
posted by praemunire at 12:45 PM on July 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


Queen Victoria was 5'0".
posted by saeculorum at 12:45 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


jinx!
posted by theora55 at 12:45 PM on July 31, 2018


Fictional, but:
- Lisa Cuddy (from House)
- Annabeth Schott (West Wing)
- Leslie Knope (Parks & Rec)
posted by hepta at 12:46 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Also, YMMV on her, but Lady Gaga is 5'1".
posted by praemunire at 12:47 PM on July 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


Linda Hunt is 4’9”
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:47 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Buffy Summers? And Hillary Clinton is 5'4".
posted by backwards compatible at 12:50 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Sandi Toksvig.
posted by penguin pie at 12:52 PM on July 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


As a fellow 5'1", 30-something lady, I feel this so hard. Here are some of my favorite short queens.

Kristen Chenoweth, powerhouse of stage and screen, is 4'11". So is Lil' Kim.
Rhea Perlman, sass queen, is 5'0".
Kristen Bell, my fave, is 5'1".
Emilia Clark, mother of dragons, is 5'2".
posted by helloimjennsco at 12:58 PM on July 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


Simone Biles is 4'8"!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:06 PM on July 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


Lisa Hammond
posted by crocomancer at 1:10 PM on July 31, 2018


Quick internet search shows that Joan of Arc was 5'2''. Dunno if that counts since it seems to be average for that time and place perhaps.

Marie Curie was 5'.

Rosa Parks 5'3''.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:11 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


The awesome heroine of Stones from the River is a little person. The novel takes place partly during World War II in Germany, and she hides Jewish people in her cellar.
posted by FencingGal at 1:11 PM on July 31, 2018


Barbara Boxer 4'11
Michelle Kwan 5'2
Jane Goodall 5'5 (not necessarily short, but I'm 5'5 and don't consider myself tall)
posted by Everydayville at 1:15 PM on July 31, 2018


Dolores Huerta!
Rosa Parks
posted by brookeb at 1:16 PM on July 31, 2018


Michelle Yeoh is 5'4".
posted by Quonab at 1:20 PM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Gillian Anderson is 5'3
posted by Query at 1:21 PM on July 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


Significantly less serious than many of these responses, but this question immediately made me think of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a giant of comedy, with enormous stage presence, and 5'3".
posted by acroyear2 at 1:22 PM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Barbara Boxer 4'11

And Barbara Mikulski, Sen. Boxer's colleague in the Senate for a few decades, was also 4' 11".
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:29 PM on July 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


Judge Judy is 5' 1"
posted by Sophont at 1:36 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


I came in to say RBG too (reportedly 5'1"), and Elena Kagan (reportedly 5'3") is not super-tall either.

Also, I like fellow 5-footers Dolly Parton, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Anna Kendrick for very different examples of capital-P Presence among the petite.
posted by LadyInWaiting at 1:37 PM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Michelle Yeoh 5'4"
Kate McKinnon 5'3"
Melissa McCarthy 5'2"
Eartha Kitt 5'2"
Lucy Liu 5'3"
posted by wintersweet at 1:40 PM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Star Wars Edition: Kelly Marie Tran/Rose Tico is 5'2", and Carrie Fisher was 5'1"!
posted by colorblock sock at 1:43 PM on July 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


Kristen Bell, my fave, is 5'1".

Veronica Mars is a great archetype of this.
posted by lunasol at 1:44 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


I am 5' 2". Everyone I meet who knows me from the internet comments on how they assumed I was taller. I presume this is because I am loud and assertive.
posted by jessamyn at 2:09 PM on July 31, 2018 [9 favorites]


Janelle Monae is 5'0"!
posted by anotherthink at 2:11 PM on July 31, 2018 [8 favorites]


Although I don't have actual numbers Fannie Lou Hamer appears to be short.
posted by brookeb at 2:26 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


The title character in Little Dorrit is small enough to be frequently mistaken for a child (she's in her early 20s) and seen as a person who (depending on your perspective) needs to be protected or can safely be ignored. Over the course of the novel it becomes clear that despite being called "Little Dorrit," despite being a de facto orphan, etc., she is actually the one doing the protecting in almost every relationship in her life.

One thing I appreciated about her character is that her strength, capability, and determination are not seen as separate from or overriding/putting the lie to her stature and her demeanor; there's no big montage where she lifts weights or punches out the bad guy or whatever and is suddenly Different And Better. All of those physical and mental characteristics are a part of who she is, inseparable from the whole, and if people saw one but not the other at first it's because they weren't paying full attention.
posted by Polycarp at 2:30 PM on July 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


Judi Dench is 5'1".
posted by Lexica at 2:38 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


The Wikipedia article on Comandanta Ramona says that she was famous for her petite body frame masked and clothed in indigenous dresses.
posted by XMLicious at 2:50 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Janet Yellen
posted by eponym at 2:51 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Jillian Michaels is 5’3”.
posted by hazel79 at 2:52 PM on July 31, 2018


Empress Dowager Cixi (d. 1908) was the last adult ruler of Qing Dynasty China.
posted by XMLicious at 3:07 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Searching on a hunch, as this is not a sport I pay attention to, I found lots of MMA / UFC fighters who are under 5'3". Including currently #5 and #6 in their class, Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres (5'1") and Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza (5'0").
posted by D.Billy at 3:21 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Harriet Tubman was 5' 2"
Rosa Parks was 5' 3"
posted by subocoyne at 3:22 PM on July 31, 2018


Chandra Wilson (Dr. Miranda Bailey on Grey's Anatomy) is 5 feet tall.
posted by DuckGirl at 3:44 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Holly Hunter is 5' 2", and a formidable woman on and off screen.
posted by agatha_magatha at 3:59 PM on July 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


Alex Puccio, goddess of rock, is 5'2".
posted by Hellgirl at 4:11 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Lynn Hill is 5’2”
posted by doctord at 4:20 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


I haven't read "Goddesses in Everywoman", but my understanding of Persephone is that the qualities that you describe may have characterized her as a maiden (Kore), but after her Descent (when she acquired the name Persephone) she became Queen of the Underworld, independent and immensely powerful. Her story (try some additional sources?) may be an example of the heroine's journey that you also ask about.

Another cycle to possibly look into is the life story of the Goddess Inanna of Sumer, as translated in Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth (I love this book). There are some elements kinda sorta parallel to the descent of Persephone, but there are a lot of additional "chapters" from different parts of Inanna's life.
posted by heatherlogan at 4:26 PM on July 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


Arya Stark would slit your throat without blinking and is played by 5'1'' Maisie Williams.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:41 PM on July 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


The Premier of my province is Rachel Notley, and while I don't know her exact height, I would guess she's 5'1" or 5'2". She is strong, powerful, and quite often the only woman in the room. Don't worry about the associated news story, but here's a photo of all of our Canadian premiers. Notley is the one who... well, you'll see. If your politics lean towards the left, you might like her. I admit to being a total fangirl.
posted by arcticwoman at 4:43 PM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


(for non-Canadians, the Premier is the head of our Provincial government. Rachel Notley is the highest-ranking politician in Alberta)
posted by arcticwoman at 4:45 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Nell Carter: 4'11"
posted by rhizome at 4:51 PM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Mary Lou Retton is 4'9" and definitely powerful.
posted by belladonna at 5:37 PM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Mother Jones was around 5'0"
posted by dilettante at 7:16 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


"Mighty Kacy" Catanzaro is 5' tall and has made a career from being unbelievably good at "American Ninja Warrior" and is now a WWE wrestler. She is amazing!

Speaking of wrestling, Alison Brie's (5'3") character on "Glow" finds her power through her wrestling persona. I was inspired by Ruth's first season story.
posted by hiker U. at 7:37 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Salma Hayek is just under 5'2". She overcame her limited knowledge of English and dyslexia to become an Academy Award-nominated actress. She testified to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary about the Violence Against Women Act. She was rated number four in Hollywood Reporter's inaugural Latino Power 50 list.
posted by some little punk in a rocket at 9:51 PM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


(I knew none of these! Thank you all, I am saving these to share with my not-at-all-tall wife & daughters!)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:37 AM on August 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yesssssss. Thank you all so much for this goldmine of answers. I've got some research to do on some of these... others I just plain didn't realize how short they were (Julia Louise Dreyfus! RBG! Rosa Parks!).

heatherlogan, you're totally right about Persephone's metamorphosis into Queen of the Underworld. I'm still familiarizing myself with her myth, but I believe her descent represents growth through exploring the depths of one's own psyche.
posted by gold bridges at 8:23 AM on August 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Stefi Cohen is a powerlifter who set a world record with a successful deadlift quadruple her body weight. She's 5'0" and can outlift many men.
posted by Fuego at 8:10 PM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is late, I know, but I think you would appreciate the song Hunter by Björk very much! (She is frequently described as pixie-like or dimunitive in the press). Wanderlust is another good song for bold inspiration.
posted by rollick at 7:51 AM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


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