But, right off the top of my head:
Lucille Ball She is known to just about all the world as Lucy Ricardo, but Lucille Ball was more than (as in more roles, not "only") a stay home wife and mother, she was a star in her own right. She met obstacles head on, and knocked them down. Her career almost didn't start, because she was a brunette in a blond world. Her response wasn't to dye her hair blond, but to go red. It was a gamble, but one that paid off. Later in life, she was the older woman who fell in love with not just a younger man, but a younger man that was considered not to be of her race. Yes, we're talking about the Cuban Desi Arnaz. Though not honest about how exactly much older than she was than Desi, she bulldozed that hurtle. A prejudiced Hollywood refused to move Lucy from radio to tv if she insisted on Desi being her onscreen husband. Hollywood argued that America just wasn't ready for something so outrageous. In the vernacular of the time, Lucy (and Desi too, but this is woman's month) said "Nutz to you!" and went on to finance the show on their own, thus creating "I Love Lucy," a wildly successful show. Lastly, after Desi and Lucy divorced, she acquired DesiLu from Desi, becoming the first woman to run a Hollywood studio, and then sold it for millions.
So how did Lucy influence my life? I like the way she never took "no" as the final answer. Don't want a brunette, how about a redhead? Don't want a mixed race couple, I'll do it myself. Society frowns on women marrying younger than themselves, then you don't do it, I will. Moxy, and confidence in herself, even when she wasn't feeling all that confident.
Dorothea Lange is most known for a picture of a migrant mother and her children during the Dust Bowl / Great Depression Era. She was a child abandoned by her father, a gutsy woman who moved to the opposite coast (California) to open a photo studio, but those aren't the things that make her influential in my life. It is her gritty pictures. It made me realize that pictures don't always have to be "pretty." That a moment frozen in time often has more interest in it than the pretty portrait of a family taken in a studio.
Jessica Fletcher is a fictional character played by Angela Landsbury in the long running television series (12 seasons) Murder She Wrote. Angela Landsbury has had a very interesting life, but today, it's Jessica Beatrice MacGill Fletcher that I honor. Jessica had been happily married for many years before she wrote her first book at the age of 60 something. When her husband Frank died unexpectedly, she decided to change things in her life. The first thing was to retire from teaching high school English, and then she began to write her first mystery, for fun. Jessica has encouraged me that being a middle aged woman doesn't mean that life, or dreams are over. That you can still be active, you can still be attractive (without dressing or trying to look like you're 20 years younger), and writing success can come at any age or stage in life. In other words, there is still hope for me!