PUBLISHED: 12:19 PM on Wednesday, August 17, 2005
"Ordinary Women"

  "Ordinary Women"

by Sue Carter

c.2005, Michigan State University Press

$29.95 • 202 pages

Has anyone ever told you that you couldn't do something because of who you are? If you hear that kind of thing often, eventually you kind of get a little annoyed. Hear it too much, and you get mad enough to go into an "I'll show YOU" mode.

When Sue Carter was a little girl, a neighborhood boy told her that she couldn't be a fireman because girls didn't do that. Sue remembered that statement for the rest of her life, and in her new book "Ordinary Women", she and eleven other women showed the world that they could do anything they set their minds to.

It sounded like quite an adventure when, in 1993, Sue Carter heard of an Arctic trip. A woman in Minnesota was supposedly putting together an all-woman Arctic ski adventure. Sue called that woman, only to learn that the rumor was a little premature. There was going to be no group and no trip. Resigned and disappointed, Sue went back to work at her University of Michigan job.

For several years, Sue ruminated about the possibility of doing an Arctic trip. Skiing across the frozen Arctic Ocean to the North Pole had never been done before by an all-woman group. It could be done. But how?

Many people tried to discourage her, but Sue persisted. Eventually, she found Arctic expeditioner Richard Weber, who would give her advice. He also offered to train his wife, Josee Auclair, so that she could captain the women to the top of the world. The adventure was on!

Initially, the trip was planned for April, 2000, but it was postponed for a year. Over that year, several women expressed interest. Team members signed on; others dropped out. The expedition was dangerously close to being scrapped. Eventually, ten other women rose to accept the challenge.

From the Russian side of the planet to the North Pole, the women endured exhaustion, far-below-zero temperatures, frostbite, and hypothermia. There were near-dangerous moments and edgy tempers. They slept, stuffed in sleeping bags, huddled in flimsy tents while wind howled around them. In the end, they made history. So why did twelve ordinary women choose to become quite extraordinary by skiing eighty miles over the Arctic Ocean?

Author Sue Carter answers that in a sort of roundabout way. Because she was concerned about self-esteem and empowerment for girls, Carter, at age fifty, organized the trip to show what women are capable of doing. That's not the best part of this book, though. Carter's honesty in mentioning the failures and frailties of herself and her teammates is refreshing. These were not Wonder Women; they truly were pretty ordinary, and I liked that sort of candidness. It brings this story a little closer for readers.

"Ordinary Women" is an armchair adventurer's dream book, and its lack of hard-core technical terms makes it easy to understand for non-skiers. This is also a good book to give to any girl over the age of 10.

She'll read it because she can.