Christmas Shorts - Women of Steel

It was everything I hoped it would be!

For as long as I can remember I have tuned in to watch Julie Andrews sing her way through the film “Mary Poppins” every Christmas and today I saw Emily Blunt take on this role. She was absolutely fabulous, and although this might be sacrilegious, I need to confess that I preferred this film to the original (ducks and hides from all the traditionalists). Blunt’s interpretation felt more in keeping with the Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers originally intended. I’ve watched “Saving Mr. Banks” numerous times and seen how disappointed the creator was in Walt Disney’s version of her beloved nanny. I’ve also watched an excellent documentary with Victoria Coren-Mitchell and listened to a recording where Travers repeatedly berates the Disney writers about the misrepresentation of her leading lady. Despite all my knowledge about the subject, I realised something today...

I have never read the books!

Through all my years teaching in primary schools and despite the many children’s books I have read, I have never got to the end of the original Mary Poppins books. I knew I had a copy of the complete works on my shelf and so this evening I snuggled up with my gorgeous girl and read the first chapter to her. We have agreed that we are going to read it together and I can’t wait to find out more about the real nanny behind the Disney magic.

Mary Poppins is the ultimate woman of steel. Unflappable, disciplined, full of integrity, intelligent and “practically perfect in every way”. My problem is that this perception of her is second hand, seen through the filter of Tinkerbell’s fairy-dust and a hefty dose of 2D animation. She is merely a representation, rather than an original.

Our women of steel have fallen foul of the same issues as Mary Poppins; their rough edges removed, performances polished and elements of their original character erased altogether. In their diluted form, Elizabeth is reduced to the stuff of a channel 5 documentary, Mary wears blue, and Anna is overlooked entirely. Over this Christmas period, I hope you have discovered more about these women of steel and taken the time to see them through the eyes of their creator.

After reading my words on Elizabeth, a good friend of mine sent me her response. With permission, I have slightly adapted her words, and they will bring these Christmas Shorts to a close.

I hope you have been blessed as you have explored the lives of Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna.

“The world has enough ‘tough’ women; be tender.

The world has enough ‘self-reliant’ women; be reliant on God.

The world has enough ‘powerful’ leaders; lead by example.

The world has enough women who have ‘got it all together’; be real.

The world has enough women who ‘speak their mind’; pause and speak with wisdom.

Be full of grace.

Be honest.

Be full of humility.

Be a woman of steel.”

Rebecca Elliott


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