[Editor’s Note: The following post is part of American Masters’ #InspiringWomanPBS campaign, which highlights the powerful, creative, and innovative women in our lives. Visit the Inspiring Woman page to join the campaign and submit the story of a woman who inspires you.]
Despite being known for songs like “You’re Stronger Than Me,” and “I Fall to Pieces,” Patsy Cline was a true powerhouse – a trailblazer for women. She was one of the most successful and iconic women in the country music movement coming out of Nashville in the 1950s and ’60s. She pioneered a way for women as lead singers and was just hitting her professional stride when she died in a tragic plane crash at the age of 30. Here are some interesting things that you may not have known about her incredible life and career:
1) She was a self-made woman:
Born Virginia Patterson Hensley, “Ginny” or “Patsy” had to drop out of high school at 16. Between the ages of 16 and 20, Cline worked in a meat packing plant, a Greyhound bus station, and a pharmacy in order to help her family make ends meet. Despite long hours and hard work, Cline would spend her evenings performing with local bands and competing in talent shows.
2) She defied gender norms:
Cline defined a new type of woman – she wore bright red lipstick, but donned men’s Dungarees and cowboy boots. She was the first woman to wear pants on stage at the Grand Ole Opry. She did not shy away from hard work, and she seemed to completely reject the idea of choosing between her family and her career. Despite grueling tour schedules and weeks on the road, Cline would come home and dive right back in to homemaking and parenting full-time.
3) She redefined her genre:
The “Nashville Sound” was originated by Cline. Although initially uncomfortable in a studio setting, Cline’s smooth, contralto voice became iconic in the ’50s and ’60s. She was one of the first country artists to be commercially accepted, and successfully bridged the (then large) gap between country and pop music. Willie Nelson originally wrote “Crazy,” but Cline’s unforgettable performance of the song made it forever hers.
4) She was tough as nails:
At 29 years old, Cline was involved in a head-on car collision that nearly killed her. She didn’t miss a beat. A mere six weeks later she was back on the road performing. She recorded “Crazy” in one take while still on crutches.
5) She refused to put her career on hold:
Cline would not sacrifice her career or professional growth, no matter the issue. When Cline’s first marriage became rocky because her then-husband, Gerald Edward Cline, wanted her to stay at home as a housewife, the couple parted ways. She worked tirelessly, and in 10 years became a prolific singer, songwriter and performer. Her final album, “Sweet Dreams,” was released a month after her untimely death, and she was the first solo female artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.