Tough Broads – Emma Gatewood

In effort to practice my portrait skills, I have been working lately on a series of inspiring women and sharing them on Instagram.  Along the way though, the project has become about so much more to me than I ever imagined.

Learning these women’s stories, joys and struggles, defeats and triumphs… Paying close attention to the lines on their faces, and knowing both the smiles and the tears that traced them… They really move me. They are all just so damn beautiful. So strong. So absolutely themselves, whatever may come.

Wether or not I ever get any better at doing their beauty some justice, wether or not my drawings ever mean a single thing to a single soul, it is enough, more than enough, that each day I find new evidence that human beings can be such luminous things. Even when it seems that the darkness is overtaking us, there are glowing, immutable, incandescent souls inside all those fragile bones and scarred skins that you pass by each day, each of them fighting their battles and carrying on. Notice. Be kind. Take heart. There is light all around us.

I’ve decided to take photos as I draw, so that if you would like to follow along, you can see the drawings take shape as the stories unfold. I hope you enjoy them!


Emma Gatewood left her family’s farm at 19 to marry. For the next 30 years she endured life with a hard man who frequently beat her, until the night that he finally brought her near death with cracked ribs and broken teeth.


When the police were called it was she who was arrested. The mayor, however, stepped in to release her and she was given a, then rare, divorce. After raising the three of her eleven children who remained at home, she embarked on an adventure, as she said “because I could.”


With only a knapsack, ordinary sneakers, a blanket, plastic shower curtain, a few tins of Vienna sausages and boxes of raisins, she set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. With no compass, no map, and no hiking experience, she became, in 1955, the first woman to ever hike those 2,050 miles of terrain all alone. She was 67.


Two years later, she became the first person, male or female, to hike that trail twice.


Let nothing stop you!

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