Celebrate a Woman Wednesday:Helen “Penny” Tweedy Chenery – the true hero behind the success of Secretariat
I ran off to the movies tonight because I wanted to see Diane Lane play the role of what appeared to be a true and honest real-life heroine. And she did. I was very pleased with the movie, the horse, and this remarkable woman behind the horse.
Penny Tweedy Chenery is introduced to us as a stay-at-home-mom in the early seventies with four kids and a lawyer husband who sits in his chair at the breakfast table reading the paper while she is trying to prepare breakfast for him and their four children AND taking his orders for clean shirts and Riesling wine she has to buy for one of his clients. You can’t judge him. It was the time — how women and men were in those days, although I do argue that some things haven’t changed.
Brought back to her father’s farm by her mother’s death, her love for horses, her father, and the business of the farm and horses that he taught her as a child come rushing back. She is a business-minded woman, having given up her own personal ambitions and career in order to raise her family. Diane Lane presents her character as a graceful and committed woman, who has no qualms about standing up for herself and her decisions. During the entire movie, she is confronted, attacked, ridiculed, and threatened by men; this includes her husband, her brother, other horse owners and racers, and so on. But she stands her ground, ridicules back, and lets her determination and intelligence speak for her. In her champion horse, Secretariat, she sees herself: she is running for her life, running to win the race that motherhood and familial obligations deterred her from competing in. She saves her father’s farm, races a champion, faces the adversity that came with patriarchal notions of her time regarding women, and she accomplishes the unimaginable: she made millions of money by racing a horse everyone bet against, competing against the big rich boys of her time — and proving herself a valuable business woman.
Here’s to a real life hero – Penny Tweedy, for her willingness to race against the grain and prescribed notions of patriarchy that labeled her a homely and simple housewife. She sure proved them wrong!
I highly recommend this movie — but not for kids. It’s a woman’s movie – with a deeply threaded and empowering mother-daughter message.
Copyright© 2010 by Marina DelVecchio. All Rights Reserved.