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Lady Gaga: love her sound. That's about it. (Photo license from PRPhotos.com)

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.  Within that long strand, there must have been dozens of possibilities for a stage name. Why, for pity sake, did Lady Gaga have to rob two time-honored mantles for the sake of show business? Thanks to her, there’s a potential identity crisis looming for two broad classes of women, not to mention a lot of confused kids who call their grandmother “GaGa.” And for those of us who aspire to actually BE ladies, well…let’s just say the name seems a little sullied now that we must share it with Stefani.

What does it mean to be a lady in the contemporary sense of the word? Borrowing from The Art and Power of Being A Lady, by Noelle Cleary and Dini Von Mueffling, we discovered an exhaustive definition that’s hard to top. A lady is someone with grace, dignity, consideration, independence, confidence, courage, self-awareness, humor, respect, compassion, social awareness, and style.

Here’s a partial portrait of what that looks like, according to the authors. A lady smoothes over disagreements between two people, controls herself even with the most frustrating people and circumstances, and retains the courage of her convictions. She’s not a doormat and she’s not perfect, but she always tries to be appropriate for the situation. When in doubt, she errs on the side of respect for the people who are hosting.  When it comes to dress, a lady inspires admiration—not ogling. She has the good sense to play up her assets rather than following trends that don’t suit her.

It’s tempting to think only of famous ladies that manifest these traits, but aren’t we all surrounded by ladies in our daily life? In honor of Women’s History Month, today we’re starting the 2011 Contemporary Ladies Honor Roll—a comprehensive list of everyday ladies who continually inspire us (you and me) to live up to the mantle.

We would hate to miss someone important, so our own additions will stem from weekly experiences with ladies starting today.  We’ll add a brief description of why they stand out and sometimes a picture. You can do the same! Let’s merge our collection of contemporary ladies and see how long the list grows.  Share the name of someone who personifies the modern definition of a lady at crystal@dressedherdaysvintage.com! We’ll publish them once a week and file them alphabetically by last name in one big post so you can always find them here.