Celebrating Women: Dolly Parton’s biggest accomplishment

Hidden History

Dolly Parton’s career has spanned more than 50 years, taking her on the stage and the big screen, but she says her songs and movies are not what she considers her biggest accomplishment.

Dolly says, I’m just always on the job. You can’t pull back for a year or so and expect people to remember you. I have never left the scene. I try to think I am relevant because I work hard all the time.

Dolly, who is from east Tennessee, is showing no signs of slowing down. Her career is already spanning more than 5 decades, earning her more than 47 Grammy nominations, more than 25 #1 songs, and countless other movie and music accolades. 

While most people know her for her performance and her looks, it’s a reading program, called Imagination Library, that has delivered more than a million free books to children across the world. That stands out to her as one of her greatest accomplishments.

As you know, it started with my love for my dad and a lot of my relatives that didn’t get to go to school because they were country people and had to work the fields, says Dolly.

But, as we all know, being one of 12 children, growing up in one-bedroom country home near the Great Smoky Mountains never stopped Dolly. In fact, it has often been the inspiration of some of her greatest moments, like the hit song Coat of Many Colors.

Today, Dolly’s wardrobe is quite different, often filled with sequins and bright colors, which is something Dolly has always said is quite intentional.

She explains, I think it is whatever suits you, and what you are comfortable with, is what you should reach out and do. Not everyone wants to look like me. I am so overdone, but it seems to work for me.
You might say going for it is exactly what Dolly did when she was approached about her first movie 9 to 5. Not only was it a box office hit, but it was a movie designed to shine a light on an important issue for women.

Jane Fonda, who co-produced that movie, she is the one who came up with the idea. She got in touch with Pat Resnick, who wrote the script, and it really was a way to empower women and put them in the spotlight, and say, Hey, we know what we are doing here. We are good at what we do, and we deserve to paid for what we do, and be respected for what we do, says Dolly.

Despite her fame and fortune, she has never wavered from her mission to give back and bring honor to her family.

And, even while we recognize Dolly, she has some advice for all of us women as well: Keep at it. Believe in yourself. Respect each other. Respect yourself. And just do what you know you can do, and don’t take no bull from nobody.

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