Loretta Lynn: Celebrating an American Icon on July 4th

Today, FF2 Media begins a new tradition. In honor of July 4th—America’s Independence Day—we are naming our first “American Icon,” FF2’s annual tribute to an extraordinary woman artist who passed into history in the year preceding. Our first American Icon is Country Music Superstar Loretta Lynn shown above with President Barack Obama on the day she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (our nation’s highest civilian honor).

As Founding Mother Abigail Adams told her husband John (America’s first Vice President & second President) in 1776: “Remember the Ladies!” At FF2, we do, and we always will.

Loretta Lynn’s Uncompromising Playbook

Guest Post by Lisa Siegrist

Loretta Lynn, the superstar country singer-songwriter who died in 2022 at age 90, did not hold back her views on women’s issues and sexism.  Such outspokenness is hardly surprising when one considers that she grew up in a two-room log cabin in eastern Kentucky (one of the poorest places in the country), married at 15, had six children and still managed to become a legend in country music.  The woman had spunk.

That drive would propel her to achieve the heights of country music stardom. Throughout her 60 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, she garnered a dizzying number of awards, including multiple Grammys; the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year Award in 1967, 1972, and 1973; the Academy of Country Music’s Artist of the Decade Award in 1979; induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988; and recognition as a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2003. In 1972, she was named CMA Entertainer of the Year, the first woman in history to be chosen for the award.  And, in 2013, President Obama gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom (America’s highest civilian honor).

Loretta’s compelling autobiography-turned-Oscar-winning film, Coal Miner’s Daughter, left little doubt that she was quintessentially country. She would tell her story to audiences again and again as though it was for the first time.

Beneath her country girl persona was a sharp, confident, and outspoken businesswoman intent on controlling her own career.

By melding her rural Kentucky backstory with her authenticity as a female country singer-songwriter, Loretta masterfully reshaped the male-dominated country music scene in her own image. Beneath her country girl persona was a sharp, confident, and outspoken businesswoman intent on controlling her own career.

At the time of her death, many writers lauded her as a feminist, a label she disavowed, perhaps to avoid alienating the more conservative side of the country-music industry and her listeners. Virtually no female country singers have called or do call themselves feminists, even today.

Some writers also speculated that Loretta’s rural roots made it hard for her to relate to urban East Coast feminists. This theory may well have gained credence when Loretta notoriously appeared to fall asleep in her chair when Feminist Mystique author Betty Friedan was holding forth on a 1971 episode of The David Frost Show.

Yet Loretta fearlessly spoke and sang about the gender imbalance she saw in marriage, sex, and social power, clearly drawing from her own often-troubled marriage. “I didn’t write for men. I wrote for us women,” she once said.

Using unapologetically frank and often amusing lyrics, Loretta documented the realities of life for working-class women in rural Appalachia and beyond.

Using unapologetically frank and often amusing lyrics, Loretta sought to document women’s struggles with such issues as infidelity, sexual coercion, divorce, and birth control – especially as those realities affected the working-class women of rural Appalachia.

Starting with “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” in 1967, the women in Loretta’s songs became more empowered and confrontational. Women in the audience loved the song’s unsparing honesty and sent it soaring to become Loretta’s first number-one country hit. It was also the first top country song written and recorded by the same woman.

However, the country music industry, where women artists were regarded as a liability, didn’t love it so much. But industry bigwigs had to face the fact that women were now an audience to be taken seriously. Loretta would break many Music Row taboos, prompting country radio stations to ban 14 of her songs.

Loretta’s most controversial song, “The Pill” (1975), in which a married woman jubilantly celebrates her newfound freedom from constant pregnancy, reflected her own point of view. By the time Loretta was 20, she had given birth to four of her six children. “If I’d had the pill back when I was havin’ babies I’d have taken ‘em like popcorn. The pill is good for people,” she told People magazine.

“The Pill” was akin to an earthquake on the country music scene. Dozens of country radio stations refused to play it. Record executives considered it too controversial to release after Loretta recorded it, so they sat on it three years. But like her other songs, it struck a chord with her female listeners, becoming her highest-charting solo hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

In a 1975 Playgirl interview, Loretta said that a rural doctor once told her that “The Pill” reached “more people out in the country and done more than all the government programs put together” in advocating birth control.

Despite the furor it caused, Loretta refused to drop “The Pill” from her repertoire.

Despite the furor it caused, Loretta wasn’t about to drop it from her repertoire. She threatened to leave the Grand Ole Opry if she wasn’t allowed to sing the song there. By then she was a national icon, and knew she could call the shots.

Loretta was especially outspoken in her autobiography Coal Miner’s Daughter. She defended abortion rights, supported her lesbian fans, and advocated for more freedom and opportunities in all spheres.

In the same book, however, she also wrote: “I’m not a big fan of Women’s Liberation.” Hers was not a simplistic brand of feminism. As daring as the song “The Pill” was (many country radio stations still refuse to play it today), Loretta never intended her lyrics to sanction sexual freedom outside of bonds of marriage.

Loretta wasn’t the first woman to sing about women’s issues. Cindy Walker and Jean Shepard are among those who preceded her. But many regard Loretta as coming the closest to how a strong woman is seen in the genre. In an industry that continues to marginalize women, she pushed against its strictures and opened doors to new female artists—all the while projecting the persona of an unadulterated country girl.

For all these reasons, celebrating Loretta Lynn’s life and legacy was deemed a critical component of NYC’s 15th Annual SWAN Day program. Therefore, as the crowd gathered at the School of the Visual Arts on March 25, 2023, Loretta Lynn’s voice was flowing through all the hallways, and photos of her also appeared in all the lightboxes leading to the auditorium.

Brava, Loretta Lynn: Your life was certainly a life well-lived!

© Lisa Siegrist (7/4/23) – Special for FF2 Media


Watch FF2’s tribute to Loretta Lynn on YouTube.

Read Lisa Siegrist’s Mother’s Day Tribute to Loretta Lynn.

Read Abigail Adams’s letter to her husband: “I long to hear that you have declared an independency — and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”


Featured Photo: Loretta Lynn receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom—our nation’s highest civilian honor—from President Barack Obama. Photo Credit: Kevin Dietsch/UPI (11/19/13) Alamy W0H9HD All Rights Reserved.

Bottom Photo: Loretta Lynn receives her star on the Music City Walk of Fame. Click HERE for additional photos from this 6/4/15 event in Nashville (TN). Photo Credit: Ann Richardson of Richardson Studios, LLC. Used with permission. All Rights Reserved.


Lisa Siegrist is the former managing editor of American Art (a scholarly journal produced by the Smithsonian American Art Museum).

She has written several articles on women artists, and has edited numerous exhibition catalogues for art museums in Washington, DC.

This is Lisa’s third guest post for FF2. In addition to Lisa’s Mother’s Day Tribute to Loretta Lynn, follow link to read her fascinating first post “Judy Meschel’s Deep Dive into the Life & Work of Alma Thomas” here.

Tags: Abigail Adams, Ann Richardson, Barack Obama, Betty Friedan, Billboard Hot 100, Coal Miner’s Daughter, FF2's American Icons, Founding Mother, Grammy Awards, Grand Ole Opry, International SWAN Day!, Kennedy Center Honors, Lisa Siegrist, Loretta Lynn, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Remember the Ladies, SVA

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FF2 Media welcomes Guest Posts from writers who self-identify as women. Do you have a passion that you want to write about? Send us a pitch: witaswan@msn.com. We pay experienced writers $100 for each post (of approximately 1,000 words per post). We also need interns for administrative back-up. Compensation for interns begins at $15 per hour.
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