Eagerly, I read the news about the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing: throughout developing and transitional societies, poor women use the money they earn to buy food and education for their children. Most men spend on other things. But indigent women invest in their daughters and sons--motivated by knowledge that the present is not good enough.

Books, uniforms, shoes, notebooks and pencils, and bus fare to and from school are almost out of reach for indigent women, even if tuition is free. Many are illiterate and their access to resources is limited; yet their energy, ingenuity and commitment make it possible for them to earn the necessary funds, often by juggling four or five income-generating projects at a time.

I wanted to meet these micro-entrepreneurial heroines. What were their dreams and disappointments, their triumphs and pleasures, their accomplishments and predicaments? How did earning money affect their lives and relationships? Did they have anything in common with the women in American corporations whom I worked with and taught?

I invited my friend and former colleague Toby Tuttle to share in the project and she agreed without hesitation. The women in this book became our friends and teachers. From them we learned about creating an artistic, social and economic legacy. And we learned that the world is smaller-and women's spirits are larger-than we had ever imagined.

Buy In Her Hands