Spot the Charm

Defining A Woman

By Rachel Stallard
Published September 23, 2013

Women are complicated creatures. Nobody knows that better than women themselves. So when country singer/songwriter Mary Sue Englund attempted to capture the essence of womanhood in a song (51 lines to be exact), her efforts were applauded in both music and publishing. "I Am A Woman" is the opening song on Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis’ new CD, Dos Divas, which was released earlier this summer, It will also be their next radio single, following the current, “I Know What You Did Last Night,” according to Tillis.

“I Am A Woman” is beautiful in its lyrical study of the many facets of womanhood, but I was just as impressed with the photo book it birthed. Englund wrote the song with musician Thom Shepherd, but then the project took on a life of its own. “I had the song for a while. But then the more I played it for people, the more they were affected by it; and we decided we needed more,” she says. With the encouragement (and a foreword) from her bandmate, Tillis, as well as an endorsement from country legend Dolly Parton, “it just made sense to make it into a book,” Englund says.  

Next she sought out Patricia Condon McDonald to help with the project. Not only is McDonald an acclaimed author and publisher, she’s also Englund’s mom. “She’s the one who really started me on it. First, we got the lyrics and pictures together. Then the quotes.” Englund’s own spark came when she saw the photo of Wilma Rudolph running past the Olympic Torch on her way to her record-setting gold medal victories in Rome in 1960. “A Whisper by the Fire- that’s what started (the book) for me.” 

Pairing the song with classic black-and-white photographs of iconic women of our time turns this book into a visual Who's Who of Influential Women. I even stumbled upon a few surprises - which, as a self-proclaimed female historian, was very refreshing.

A few other surprises include the cover art, created by Tillis’ sister, Carrie; and a special  photo of Englund and her three friends dubbed, “The Women Behind the Women.” The foursome is credited for its rich contributions to female music.

“Sometimes you just want more layers of something — like perfume,” Tillis says. “We were asking, ‘What else can we do with this (song)? How can we keep it going?’” 

I enjoyed the layers found in the book itself. Each time I’ve opened its pages, I’ve discovered inspiration from a different source. Like any great find, this book is meant to be shared. I highly recommend ordering it now before they disappear. It’s $25, but shipping (along with an author's autograph if requested) is free on Englund's site. For more information, visit 

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