The power of girls: ‘Let me be myself’

Daughter Lydia, age 11 in Tanzania

When my daughter Lydia was 11, we spent a year living abroad in Tanzania as a family. Here is a picture of Lydia that year. On our way home, we stopped for some days in Amsterdam where we visited the Anne Frank museum.

As adults, and even as mothers, we occasionally fall into seeing the girls in our lives as problematic and perhaps shallow as they transition to adolescence. Culturally, we regard them as difficult people.

I honor Anne Frank this Women’s History Month because hearing her voice speak across the decades through her house-turned-museum woke me up to the power of girls. My experience in those upstairs rooms made me see not only the world in new ways, but also my daughter and all girls in new ways.

Anne Frank’s diary

Anne was given this diary at age 13, and while in hiding from Nazi soldiers with a few friends and family in an upstairs apartment in Amsterdam, she began to write.

“Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing.”

That line makes me smile. I love diaries. I too journal nearly daily, in a beautiful blank book. Writing helps me surface my thoughts and find my way home to my better self. 

Anne died at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after spending time in Auschwitz. Her diary was found by her father, who survived, and was published in 1947. It has been translated into around 70 languages. The “musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl” matter more than she could imagine. 

She wrote through fear and social isolation, as she was separated from her sister and friends who had already been taken to Nazi labor camps. Her voice is honest about those realities, yet also full of joy, beauty and courage. She wrote:

Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!

Anne Frank, 1940

I honor Anne Frank because she taught me to never underestimate a girl. And especially, not a girl who writes and knows herself. In Anne’s words:

I know what I want, I have a goal, an opinion, I have a religion and love. Let me be myself and then I am satisfied. I know that I’m a woman, a woman with inward strength and plenty of courage.

Rebecca Stoltzfus


Source:, Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl.