The number one 1972 pop song, ‘I Am Woman’ is still an empowering anthem for women worldwide. It became Helen Reddy’s signature song and launched a second wave of postwar feminism. The first verse goes like this;
Appreciate the full lyrics and their uplifting, empowering words at I Am Woman:
I am woman, hear me roar.
In numbers too big to ignore.
And I know too much to go back and pretend,
cause I’ve heard it all before.
And I’ve been down there on the floor.
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again.
Helen Reddy wrote ‘I Am Woman‘
With the help of Ray Burton, Helen penned the words to this iconic feminist song. She was not the first feminist, but her mantra of empowerment attracted a following of like-minded women demanding equality.
Helen did not write the song with such a vision in mind. She just wanted a song to protest about the objectification of women in the entertainment industry. But its message is applicable to all arenas in society.
When she accepted the Grammy award for the song, she thanked God because ‘She’ made everything possible. Attributing feminine gender to God was a daring statement. Helen had her fair share of detractors in what was really ‘a man’s world at the time.’
Queen of the Pops
As Queen of the Pops and Feminism’s sister, Helen lived the words, ‘You can bend but never break me, cause it only serves to make me more determined to achieve my final goal.’ She powered ahead in her musical and Broadway career through the 1970s and early 80s.
Her other songs are memorable ‘Delta Dawn’, ‘Ruby Red Dress’, ‘Ain’t No way to Treat a Lady’. Powerful songs about women, but none as stirring as her anthem “I Am Woman.” She used her voice for good to empower women.
Helen was Olivia’s Friend
Helen was a fellow Australian and friend of Olivia Newton-John. Both women won talent contests in Australia and received overseas trips as prizes, Olivia to UK and Helen to New York. The young women both took their overseas trips in 1966, hopeful for a big break. Both succeeded.
When Olivia came to America, Helen supported the younger woman’s dreams and encouraged her to stay in America to build her career. Which Olivia did.
It was a chance meeting between Allan Carr and Olivia at one of Helen’s parties that landed Olivia the role of Sandy in the Grease musical. Allan changed the original role to suit Olivia, making Sandy an Australian girl on holidays in America.
I Am Woman in Film
Both women adopted America as their home and forged successful careers in music and film. Helen scored 15 singles on the top 40, six of which made the top ten and three reached number one.
‘I Am Woman’ became one of the songs on the soundtrack of the 1972 feminist comedy, ‘Stand Up and Be Counted’ starring Jacqueline Bisset. Helen had to write another verse to make the song longer.
In 2019, a film ‘I am Woman‘ was made to showcase Helen Reddy’s life.
A Diverse Career
Like Olivia, Helen had other interests and advocacies. She raised funds for The Democrats, worked in film and on stage and became a motivational speaker. Later in life, she studied hypnotherapy and practiced this rather than touring and singing.
Helen, like Olivia and Peter Allen “Still called Australia Home“. She returned to Australia in 2002, where she completed her hypnotherapy studies. When her half sister Toni Lamond asked her to sing at her birthday party, Helen felt compelled to return to singing for a few years before her death in 2020.
Helen Reddy’s beautiful voice is silenced forever, but her legacy, her songs live on. She like Olivia, used her voice for good. We all have a unique voice we can use for the good of others. ‘I Am Woman’ would be a great theme song for Japan’s womanomics. A reminder that women do not need to be defined by their limitations.
Joni Scott is an Australian author with two published novels: Whispers through Time and The last Hotel. She co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.