Helen Reddy

Helen Reddy (b. 1941) is an Australian activist, actress, and singer.

"Reddy's anthemic 'I Am Woman' reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts 9 December 1972. The song's defiant trope— 'I am strong…I am invincible…I am woman" was taken to heart by the army of everyday housewives who made it a hit. After seeing Reddy perform the song on afternoon TV talk  shows, women started calling up radio stations requesting it. Radio couldn't ignore it any longer. 'Television forced radio to play it,' said Reddy, who described the 'typical DJ reaction: 'I can't stand this record! I hate this song! But you know, it's a funny thing, my wife loves it.'' At the Grammys, Reddy came up with an unforgettable moment that was daring and funny in equal measure. After winning Best Female Performance, she began her acceptance speech by thanking the record company and her husband/manager Jeff Wald. Then came the zinger: 'I want to thank God…because She makes all things possible.' Feminists laughed in delight; fundamentalists took a quite different view, writing angry letters condemning Reddy to everlasting hellfire. Reddy wrote the 'I Am Woman' lyrics; an Australian musician friend put her words to music. 'I couldn't find any songs that said what I thought being a woman was about,' Reddy said in a 2003 interview. 'I thought about all these strong women in my family who had gotten through the Depression and world wars and drunken, abusive husbands. But there was nothing in music that reflected that. The only songs were 'I Feel Pretty' or that dreadful song 'Born A Woman' (the 1966 hit by Sandy Posey noted that being female meant 'you're born to be stepped on, lied to, cheated on and treated like dirt. I'm glad it happened that way'). These are not exactly empowering lyrics. I certainly never thought of myself as a songwriter, but it came down to having to do it.' Reddy said the song had supernatural inspiration. 'I remember lying in bed one night and the words, 'I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman,' kept going over and over in my head. That part I consider to be divinely inspired....' At first, the song looked like a flop. It entered the Hot 100 on 24 June 1972 at number 99. Three weeks later it slipped off. But it wouldn't die. By mid-September, it had re-entered the chart at number 87 and began to rise like Posh Spice's hemlines. 'The biggest thing about 'I Am Woman' is that I've had a chance to raise consciousness among American women en masse, she told Newsweek. 'I get a special feeling when I sing it. It's a chest-beating song of pride. And it pleases me....' So what made the song so powerful? 'Its joyfulness,' said Betty Friedan, National Organization for Women founder. A gala entertainment night in Washington D. C., marking NOW's 10th anniversary closed with the playing of 'I Am Woman,' Friedan wrote in 1973. 'Suddenly, women got out of their seats and started dancing around the hotel ballroom and joining hands in a circle that got larger and larger until maybe a thousand of us were dancing and singing, 'I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.' It was a spontaneous, beautiful expression of the exhilaration we all felt in those years, women really moving as women.' The song made Reddy's career, paving the way for a succession of hit singles. Yet being strong and invincible didn’t bring happiness. Reddy made loads of money, which she and her husband flaunted with a gaudy lifestyle—mansions, limos, jewelry and speedboats. In her tell-all Hollywood book, You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, Julia Phillips claimed that when the couple's bitter divorce was finalized in 1982, most of the $40 million they made was gone. Feminists cringed when Reddy performed the song at the 1981 Miss World contest, but she wasn't about to apologize. 'Let them step forward and pay my rent and I'll stay home,' Reddy snapped. 'What I'm doing is advertising a product I wouldn't use.'"

—Bruce Ward, "The 'Roar' Heard around the Kitchen: Helen Reddy's Chest- Beating 'I Am Woman' Helped Liberate a Generation of Stay-at-Home Moms 34 Years Ago," Ottawa Citizen, 17 Dec. 2006.

I Am Woman