Getting better with age
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Getting better with age

Prill Boyle says she is a "classic late bloomer." She dropped out of college, married young, and spent her ‘0s raising children and working as a secretary. Today, the 51-year-old is writing her second book and is a frequent guest on radio and television programs all over the country.

"I also give speeches," adds Boyle, who delivered a talk at the United Nations on "Women of Vision."


Author Prill Boyle gives hope to "late bloomers."

Boyle will speak about her experiences — and those of the 1′ other women chronicled in "Defying Gravity: A Celebration of Late-Blooming Women" — at a meeting of the National Council of Jewish Women on Tuesday, April ‘5, at Temple Emeth in Teaneck.

The author, who became a high school and community college teacher after graduating from Georgetown University at the age of 38, told The Jewish Standard that her life changed in January ‘000, when she was 46.

"I read an article in The New York Times about a 65-year-old woman, Wini Yunker, who worked in a Kentucky lock factory and had been waiting 39 years to join the Peace Corps. It said she was leaving that day for Ukraine," said Boyle. The picture in the newspaper, Boyle added, showed Yunker smiling broadly.

"I was inspired," she said. "I believed Yunker’s story could also inspire my community college students, many of whom were juggling school with jobs and family."

At 47, she left her job to become a full-time writer, determined to seek out and record the experiences of people like Yunker.

"I sat on the idea for a year, then finally put an ad in the International Women’s Writing Guild newsletter, looking for anyone who could point me to women who didn’t give up on their dreams," said Boyle. One hundred people answered the ad.

She also "shamelessly discussed this everywhere I went," she said. Ultimately, she had hundreds of names to choose from and narrowed the field through phone and e-mail interviews.

Boyle said she "set out to find [people] who may have taken a long time doing it, but ultimately surmounted obstacles to achieving their dream."

In choosing women to profile, "I was looking for diversity — geographic, ethnic, vocational — but I also wanted women who were ‘jazzed’ and were getting a lot of joy" out of their new lives, she said.

"I wasn’t [looking for] people who had ‘changed tracks’ but were not really happy," she added.

The author keeps in touch with 10 out of the 1′ women profiled in her book. One, Jean Karotkin, told Boyle that her life began "’the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer.’" Deciding at that point to take a closer look at her life and what she really wanted, Karotkin realized that she wanted to become a photographer. She started taking classes in her late 40s and by her mid-50s had exhibitions at prestigious galleries, said Boyle.

Boyle also discusses a 50-year-old woman who "became a medical doctor at the same time as she was going through menopause" and a woman who, at 5′, "became the first female to run an auto franchise in Detroit." Yet another subject is a woman from Durham, N.C., who became a flight attendant at 71, retiring at 78 only because she needed a pacemaker and was no longer permitted to fly.

Boyle’s original plan was to feature men as well as women, but, she said, "I realized that, as a woman in my late 40s, I needed role models." Late bloomers such as author Judith Kranz and cosmetics mogul Mary Kay were featured widely in the media, said Boyle, but "the stories of ordinary women were simply not there."

According to Boyle, men and women differ in their approach to significant life changes. "Men’s sense of themselves comes from work, money, and their ability to provide for their families," she said, adding that "it’s very hard for them to make life changes before retirement."

Boyle laughingly calls herself a "defying gravity expert," which she defines as "overcoming the weight of social expectations, of age, gender, or family history."

"We also have to defy our ideas of ourselves," she said.

Boyle feels that her message resonates with women of all ages. She recently participated in a panel discussion on "achieving your dreams" at a local high school. Afterward, she said, she got numerous e-mails from students "who were having trouble figuring out what they want to do or lacked the courage to do what they wanted."

She tells women, "It’s not too late, as long as you’ve got breath in your body. Turn a deaf ear to self-doubt. Keep on going. Don’t give up on your dreams too soon."

For information on Boyle’s presentation, call the NCJW office at (’01) 385-4847.

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