Cynthia Young is a New Mexico based oil painter. In her latest, oh-so-WYSKy series – “Women Who Have Guided Us On Our Path” – she honors inspiring women who have “shown tremendous courage and strength in the times that they lived”. They are women everyone should know, whose stories are often untold and whose contributions “to the collective history of humanity” have been largely overlooked.

In speaking about her series with WYSK, Cynthia shared, “It depicts women who’ve exhibited exceptional bravery in standing up for their countries and families. They are women who have influenced the course of history with their strength and leadership.” She added, “I paint women who are not generally known to the public so that their stories are heard, especially by younger women and girls, and can inspire us all.”

While Cynthia has many more “Women Who Have Guided Us On Our Path” paintings planned, her completed pieces include Las Soldaderas, Erika Szeles, Vera McGinnis, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, and Pretty Nose. You can get to know all of these women below each work.

Pretty Nose, Arapaho War Chief

Cynthia Young Pretty Nose
Pretty Nose by Cynthia Young. Pretty Nose, an Arapaho war chief who fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn to protect her tribe from extinction by General George Custer. Oil and Paper Mixed Media.

Erika Szeles

Cynthia Young Erika Szeles
Erika Szeles by Cynthia Young. Erika was a 15-year-old girl who took up arms in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against Soviet rule. The revolution failed and she was killed in the conflict. Oil and Paper Mixed Media.

Las Soldaderas, Women in the Mexican Revolution

Cynthia Young Las Soldaderas
Las Soldaderas, Women in the Mexican Revolution by Cynthia Young. Legends of the Soldaderas are revered by many Mexicans today as symbols of womens’ strength and solidarity in their struggle for independence. Oil and Paper Mixed Media.

Vera McGinnis

Cynthia Young Vera McGinnis
Vera McGinnis by Cynthia Young. Vera was a Champion Rodeo Star and Trick Rider. Born in 1892, Vera broke many riding records and after competing in her corset, decided to design her own clothing for comfort and effectiveness and influenced cowgirl attire forever after. Oil and Paper Mixed Media.

Marie-Madeleine Fourcade

Cynthia Young Marie Madeleine Fourcade
Marie-Madeleine Fourcade by Cynthia Young. Marie was the only woman to run and organize a network of over 1,000 French Resistance agents during WWII and collaborated with the British to win the war against Nazi Germany. Captured twice by the Gestapo, she survived the war and devoted the rest of her life to provide financial support for the families of the agents who were killed in the war. Oil and Paper Mixed Media.

“Our strength lies in our capacity to be tough and soft, kind and outspoken, intelligent and nurturing – dualities of high expectations, but women have a unique ability to deliver them,” Cynthia told WYSK. “I hope my series inspires women to be proud of who they are and embrace the many facets that make up their character.”

You can view Cynthia’s art on her site 

What You Should Know About Cynthia Young… Her Story, Her Words

I started painting many years ago after always desiring to learn to paint in oil. It took a while to get up the courage, but when my oldest son was two, I went to an oil painting class once a week with a friend’s encouragement. Immediately, I knew that it was something I would do for the rest of my life. 

But life got in the way – children, work, divorce, remarriage – including stepchildren, moving across the country several times, all the day to day tasks that keep us from doing the things we really want, like painting. I’ve been a waitress, secretary, airline reservation agent, business owner, real estate broker, and financial advisor. Throughout all the years, though, I tried to always have a painting on my easel. 

My first style was sort of a mix between pointillism and impressionism. Of course, landscapes were what I thought I only wanted to do, but that was really a general fear of painting people. I have a BFA in Art History, but the studio classes I took were everything but painting – drawing, calligraphy, photography and interior design. 

A few years before I retired, I started to be drawn to images of people. We lived in Kentucky on a farm at the time. Although it was gorgeous, everything was so green. Perhaps landscape artists would have reveled in the scenery, but it was a little overwhelming for me. I began to scour the web for photos, especially from the depression era, that exposed the rawness and beauty of humanity. I couldn’t get enough of those images, so I began to practice painting people and tried to capture the essence of what made them radiate their strengths and vulnerabilities. And, I loved the challenge of it. I truly admire landscape artists because I love the magic of light illuminating a scene. I am deeply moved by the beauty of the earth around us, but it’s people that I am drawn to. I’m curious about their thoughts, lives, and what we can learn from each other. So, I guess my years of living have molded my style and focus to be primarily centered on depicting people in life. 

The best thing about painting is the place that it transports you to. Even after a few minutes, I end up in an entirely different place. Everything that’s been on my mind disappears. I know most artists experience the zone. What a wonderful gift. I can’t think of anything else that I’ve done in life that gives me the same kind of separateness and satisfaction. Obviously, the results aren’t always what you want. But, no matter how hard it is to achieve a piece that you’re pretty happy with, the work that it takes to get there is the easiest “hard” work I’ve ever done. It takes work, hours and hours of it and years and years to improve, but so gratifying. I also love how painting encourages you to think about and see things differently. It opens your eyes to the world around you in a very personal way.

Cynthia Young

All images of “Women Who Have Guided Us On Our Path” paintings are courtesy of Cynthia Young, and published on Women You Should Know with her express permission.