239: The Self-Empowered Woman: Gretchen Carlson

Dear Followers,

For the last blog of 2016, I have chosen to write about a controversial—but newsworthy—accomplished woman. Gretchen Carlson first became a household name back in 1989, when she became Miss America. She grew up in  Anoka, Minnesota, where her grandfather was the Pastor of what was then the second- largest Lutheran Church in the U.S. As an adult, Carlson has been a dedicated Sunday School teacher  (3: Belief In The Unbelievable).

As a youngster, Carlson was an accomplished violinist who won numerous local and national music competitions. As an eighth grader, she was the concertmistress for the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony. To further her music career, she spent five summers studying at the prestigious Aspen Music Festival and School in Aspen, Colorado (9: Music).

Carlson has always had a tendency towards perfectionism and hard work. In 1984, she was valedictorian of her high school graduation class (10: The Critic Within). She attended Stanford University, and spent her study-abroad year at Oxford University, where she studied the works of Virginia Woolf.   According to her husband of 20 years, sports agent Casey Close, “She has the ability to multi-task like no other woman I’ve ever met.”

When she competed in the 1988 Miss America contest, she became the third woman from Minnesota to win the title. For the talent competition, she played Zigeunerweisen, the violin composition of Sarasate. At only 5 ft. 3 in., she was considered by many to be too short to win. And pageant consultants felt that she needed four years to prepare for the competition in order to win. But only one year after winning her local pageant, she was part of the national competition.  One judge even labeled her “Miss Piggy,” but she proved him incorrect. ( 13: More Than Meets The Eye).

As everyone learned earlier this year, Carlson has always had her critics. She once commented, “After I became Miss America, I found out overnight that people just automatically don’t like you. It’s like your resume just falls into oblivion and everything you’ve accomplished in your life has been erased” (5: Life Is Not A Popularity Contest).

After working for local network affiliate stations, Carlson joined CBS News as a correspondent in 2000. Five years later, she moved to Fox News Channel, where she worked until July 6, 2016. On that day, she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company’s chairman Roger Ailes. Although it was a bold move, six other female Fox employees immediately announced that they had also been sexual harassed by him. The upshot is that after a great deal of publicity, Ailes resigned two weeks after Carlson’s lawsuit was filed, and her settlement was $20 million ( 8: Turning No Into Yes).

Carlson’s story goes to show that Self-Empowered Women come in (and from) all sizes, shapes, backgrounds, and career stories. Her 2015 autobiography is title Getting Real, and tells readers a great deal about both her personal and professional lives.



About Marilyn Murray Willison

The author of six non-fiction books, Willison worked as Health and Fitness Editor at the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, and wrote book reviews, health, beauty, fashion, and travel articles on a regular basis for the Los Angeles Times. Her byline has appeared in a wide variety of American newspapers and magazines.