Dr. Ruth and Geraldine Ferraro – Two Last Big Gig Stars!

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to learn more about the lives of two incredible women, Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Geraldine Ferraro.  As is possible in New York City, I spent the afternoon at the theater, seeing Debra Jo Rupp (of The 70’s Show) portray the famous sex therapist in Becoming Dr. Ruth.  And, later that day, I attended a showing of a documentary on Geraldine Ferraro’s life produced by her daughter, Donna Zaccaro. While both women achieved amazing fame and success, I was most struck by the curving path that each took to their ultimate last big gigs.

Becoming Dr. Ruth is a play based on her life that reveals how an orthodox Jewish girl, Karola Siegel, born in pre-WWII Germany grew up to become a world famous sex therapist.  Dr. Ruth’s journey moved from living in Switzerland during WWII as a Jewish orphan, to becoming a sniper in Palestine in the 1940’s and to teaching kindergarten while attaining a psychology degree in Paris – all before she was 30 years old.   And while she didn’t become a famous sex therapist until she reached her 50’s, her life reveals the characteristics that let her reinvent herself through out her life, until finally designing her Last Big Gig as Dr. Ruth.   Despite incredible hardship and challenge, Dr. Ruth’s commitment to “smile” through as much as possible, to take life as it came and her driving desire to use education as a way for people to improve their lives enabled her to ultimately craft the life that she wanted and for which she was perfectly designed.

Interestingly, Geraldine Ferraro’s life was full of many of the same challenges as
Dr. Ruth’s, and like Dr. Ruth, she fashioned a distinctive, impactful life based on continuing to seek opportunities to help women move into political power and leadership successfully.  But it took time and several twists in her professional and personal journey, including becoming a traditional stay at home wife and mother for several years, before she became a NYC District Attorney, ran for Congress and began her path toward becoming the first woman nominated for US Vice President by a major political party at the age of 49.  And, while this was not her last big gig, it set the stage for her life’s work to raise the profile and aspiration for women in US politics.  Like Dr. Ruth, Geraldine Farraro’s used education and life experience to discover her dream and to put it into action.

Thinking about these women and their journeys, I am both inspired to keep pushing to design my most amazing last big gig.  A couple of things that I plan to include in my own journey:

  • Use education – formal and informal – to create the opportunities for which I am  uniquely designed.  Whether it is going back to school or just taking advantage of all the online opportunities to learn new skills and content – push myself to always seek new skills, capabilities, understanding and ideas.
  • See my life as a set of experiences and steps toward crafting an amazing last big gig.  Recognize that my unique path creates opportunities that I am specifically trained for and capable of creating for the world.
  • Be open and excited by serendipity and possibilities I can’t imagine.  Dr. Ruth became a radio star because of one small speaking gig, and Geraldine Ferraro never thought about becoming the first woman Vice Presidential candidate when she joined Congress.  Rather, they each pursued their dreams, but were open and willing to seize unimagined possibilities when they appeared.
  • Determine my driving truth and unique gifts to contribute and pursue opportunities defined by them.  Dr. Ruth believed that education could significantly change people’s lives in positive ways, and Geraldine Ferraro believed in women’s rights to participate fully in the political system.  Their last big gigs grew from these driving truths and gifts.

Most importantly, these women’s lives assure me that designing an amazing last big gig is possible and attainable for anyone who drives from their personal truths and gifts while be open to enjoying the impossible.

Marigold signatureMary Wallace Jaensch


  • Jack

    Reply Reply January 2, 2014

    What if you LBG makes all prior gigs appear inconsequential?
    Isn’t there a psychological principle that states that the human psyche must begin a grief process to deal with the perceived disparity between old and new? It’s called regression- in- service- to- the- ego, something like that.
    How many women- or men for that matter- hold off on their last big gig due to an unconscious belief they cannot afford the time or deal with the emotion required to get there, dismissing each idea as “silly” or “unattainable”.
    Perhaps we should devote some space here to airing these sadnesses/fears for the purpose of getting more Last Big Gigs launched!

    • Mary

      Reply Reply January 17, 2014

      There is the possibility that the LBG will make all others inconsequential, but I believe that we all carry our true purpose throughout our lives. Based on the personal and professional choices that we make, sometimes we are more aligned or less aligned with these innate purposes. So for me, the LBG is the opportunity to work toward being more closely aligned, and therefore even more effective and satisfied. I believe that most people don’t work toward their LBG because they have lost touch with their emotions and their deeper knowing of their mission and purpose. They have let their conscious mind create a reality that is logical, but often very unsatisfying and not fulfilling.

      In the end, it doesn’t really matter why many people find it so hard to start this journey. It is just important to give them the confidence, the nudge, the path so that it is a bit easier to take the first step.

      Thank you for so much sharing your thoughts – it is so important to get this conversation going so that more people become aware of the possibilities.

  • Mary

    Reply Reply January 31, 2014

    Thanks so much for letting me know – look forward to future comments.

  • WilliamLor

    Reply Reply February 3, 2014

    Aw, this was a very nice post. In idea I wish to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and precise effort to make an excellent article… however what can I say… I procrastinate alot and certainly not appear to get one thing done.

  • Mary

    Reply Reply March 3, 2014

    Thank you – hope that you come back and share your thoughts.

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