A measure of success

McClure to speak about
women’s history in March

Her new book offers
accounts of her heroics feats

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(March 2009) – She rowed across the Atlantic for 81 days and 3,333 miles. To say the very least, Tori Murden McClure is an extremely determined woman. Since March is recognized nationally as Women’s History Month, it is fitting that this inspiring woman should be a featured speaker at the Oldham County History Center.
She’s best known for being the first woman to row solo, and the first American to row, across the Atlantic Ocean. She has also skied across 750 miles to the South Pole, climbed on several continents and was the first woman to climb Lewis Nunatuck Summit in Antarctica.

Tori Murden McClure

Photo provided

Tori Murden McClure was the first
woman and the first American to row
solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

But there is much more to McClure than her superhuman athletic skills. McClure has recently penned her memoirs, “A Pearl in the Storm.”
“This is my first book,” said McClure, 45, who was born in Florida but resides in Louisville. “Writing it was just something that I had to do.”
On the surface, the book is the story of her row across the ocean. But there is an underlying story “that enters as snippets of memoir intermingled with the rowing adventure,” she said. “Writing the book was more difficult than rowing across the ocean.”
McClure will be the featured speaker for a reception to honor Oldham County’s women achievers at noon Saturday, March 21, at the Oldham County History Center. Tickets are free but must be obtained in advance.
“Tori Murden McClure is a historic figure because she was the first successful person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean,” said Nancy Theiss, executive director of the Oldham County History Center. “She inspires others with her amazing abilities and talents in many ways.”
The History Center is also recognizing those in the community at this reception who have “often worked against obstacles and were committed to making their community a better place to live in spite of those obstacles – they broke gender barriers that make it easier for women to work in today’s culture,” said Theiss.
Due to the efforts of staff member Jan Jasper, the History Center received a $1,200 grant from the Kentucky Oral History Commission to collect oral histories of local women who had achieved “firsts” in Oldham County. The list includes first woman judge Julia Fields, first All-American softball player Crystal Lewellen, and first woman magistrate Nancy Doty.
The grant is a companion to the Women’s Work quilt exhibit by artist Rebekka Seigel. Seigel’s quilts highlight pioneering women of the 21st century, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Buck and Eleanor Roosevelt. The oral histories will be a featured part of this exhibit.
Theiss said McClure is a great role model for women and men. During her solo journey, McClure said she realized “that as a human being I will always be confronted with things that I cannot change. As a human being I will always have limitations. The only thing that makes the limitations of my humanity bearable is love.”
McClure has received many accolades in her lifetime. She was the first woman to receive the Peter Byrd Trophy, was recognized in Paris alongside Lance Armstrong for significant sporting achievement, and had a French documentary, “Beyond Limits – Tori Murden” made about her. Shown at the Moscow International Festival of Mountaineering and Adventure Films, McClure was awarded a Russian chalice for extraordinary achievements.
Professionally, her life has been just as successful. She is a former chaplain for Boston City Hospital, executive director of a shelter for homeless women, and has worked as a public policy assistant for the Mayor of Louisville. She worked closely with Muhammad Ali in creating the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville.
“Success takes endurance, resourcefulness and perseverance,” she said. McClure needed all of these qualities in her attempt to row across the ocean a second time. The first time she became discouraged, having nearly died in a violent storm and had to return home. The year was 1998 and on record as the worst hurricane season in the North Atlantic.
It was after this that she took a job working with Ali. And it was Ali who “convinced me that I didn’t want to be the woman who almost rowed across the ocean,” said McClure.
Rick Barney, Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Spalding University, said, “In her presentation, you will hear about the many reasons she has been driven in some unique ways. You will be inspired to make your community a better place.”
Barney said McClure is often asked to speak to audiences around the country. “Her message is always similar, and actually has very little to do with her accomplishments; rather, she inspires her listeners to seek new challenges in themselves and to encourage others. The most important thing is what the participants will learn about themselves in the process.”
Success to McClure “isn’t about rowing across oceans, or skiing across continents,” she said. It is in accomplishing the “pick and shovel work.”
Always extending a helping hand, McClure’s current project revolves around refinishing a four person rowing shell for the Pink Pearls Rowing Team. The team will race in support of breast cancer.

• For more information about the event, call the Oldham County History Center at (502) 222-0826.

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