The eldest of four daughters in a family full of writers, Nora began her career as a journalist at the New York Post. In 1976 she married journalist Carl Bernstein who is well-known for two things. First, he was one of the journalists who broke the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. Second, he had a well-publicized extramarital affair with British politician, Margaret Jay, while he was married to Ephron. Nora used her divorce as the material for her 1983 book Heartburn. The book was turned into a film starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson in 1986. Ephron and Streep worked together on numerous projects over the years, and of Streep's role in Heartburn, Ephron famously noted "I highly recommend having Meryl Streep play you. If your husband is cheating on you with a carhop, get Meryl to play you. You will feel much better." I think it took a lot of courage to turn her personal misfortune into a book and film. It allowed her to take something terrible in her life and turn it into something wonderful.
Ephron continued writing books and screenplays throughout the rest of her life, but there are a few specific ones that will always hold a special place in American pop culture history. In 1989 she wrote and co-produced When Harry Met Sally. The partnership between Ephron and director Rob Reiner created one of the most memorable and beloved romantic comedies ever made. This also marked the first time Ephron worked with America's Sweetheart of the 1990's - Meg Ryan. Ryan went on to star in two more of Ephron's biggest films, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail. Working consistently throughout the 1990s and the early part of the 21st century, Ephron's last film was 2009's Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.
While her legacy may be mostly rooted in American film and literature, that's not the basis of my girl crush on Nora Ephron. As a graduate of Wellesley College, she was invited back to her alma mater to give the commencement address to the class of 1996. You can find a copy of the address on the Wellesley College website. In my opinion, it is magnificent. If I ever have daughters, I will read this to them. It is a reminder of how far women have come in the last 50 years and also a reminder of how far we still have to go. Despite the fact that this speech was delivered 17 years ago, so much of it still resonates with me, a (relatively) young woman trying to make my way in the world.
There is one specific line in the commencement speech that speaks to me above the others. Looking out on the graduating class of 1996, Nora Ephron said to the women of Weselley College, "Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim." I like that line so much that I decided I wanted to hang it on my wall. I made an extremely simple design of it in four different colors. This way I can hang whichever best matches my mood!
I want to pass this sentiment along to every woman in the world. It's a reminder that you should be the protagonist of your own life story. In the spirit of sharing this reminder, you can download the image as a jpeg or pdf here. The image is designed to print on 11x17 paper.