Happy International Women’s Day!
I’ve felt compelled to write this list for a while now. The women in this post, some you know, some you don’t, have shaped my journey in one form or another. And I suppose I just want to offer a simple word of thanks.
Obviously, there are so many more I could include. However, this list features women who represent certain periods in my life when I’ve needed a little extra inspiration to keep me going.
10 Women Who Inspire Me
This list starts with a cliche. The person who takes position number 1 has to be my Mum. Jenny left school at 14 with no qualifications and no career aspirations to speak of. Yet Mum went on to be the financial controller for a multi-national corporation and is a 100% independent woman, now happily retired with a beautiful home near the Sussex coast. She achieved everything with hard work and commitment – she’s part of a generation who just ‘got on with it’.
Mum is really quite humble about her achievements saying she did what she had to do for her family. I’ve got a multitude of qualifications including 2 degrees and don’t feel I’ve achieved half of what Mum has. So Mum please accept you’re an inspiration!
Audrey Hepburn represents, in my opinion, the epitome ‘woman’. Feminine yet strong-willed, with an independent and fiercely loyal heart. I was first introduced to the Golden Age of Hollywood watching her in My Fair Lady. This era was to become a lifetime obsession to me.
Yet for all of the beauty she represents, Audrey didn’t have an easy upbringing. She witnessed horrendous crimes against humanity under Nazi occupation in Holland when she was a child. In later life, Audrey went on to become a Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF and was posthumously awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her contribution to humanity. A beautiful woman both inside and out.
Mae West was way ahead of her time. Known for her sharp wit and sexual confidence, she was very happy to make fun of the puritanical society she found herself in. In 1926 she was even arrested and ended up in prison for 10 days on obscenity charges for her play ‘Sex’. To me, Mae is the original icon of ‘girl power’. She is also the author of my favourite quote
When I’m good I’m very, very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better
It wasn’t until I was studying for my MA in 2009 that I became aware of Ada Lovelace. I was researching wearable technology for my dissertation at the time and discovered this brilliant lady’s work. She was working with Charles Babbage on the Analytical engine and was the first to recognise that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation. She published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine and is now regarded as the first computer programmer.
I feel really sad it took me until my mid 30’s to know about her work. Perhaps more female role models like this would have encouraged my younger self to pursue other interests?
Suzi Grant aka Alternative Aging. If you haven’t been following Suzi on social media or watching her on YouTube you are missing out! Suzi is a 68 nutritionist with a passion for fashion and fellow Brighton dweller, so obviously that makes her doubly cool 😉 She has such a fantastic, warm personality and proves that age has no barriers. She’s my fashion and health hero and deservedly getting recognition for her hard work in the area of age, health and fabulous fashion.
I read the Vagina Monologue’s by Eve Ensler when it burst onto the bookshelves in 1996. It made me laugh, cry, despair, feel incredible hope and importantly embrace the word VAGINA. Following on from the book, Eve went onto create V-Day and a global movement committed to fighting violence towards women and girls. A cause I fear we will be fighting for more time to come.
The beautiful paintings by Georgia O’Keefe were my first art crush. Georgia was an artist who managed to thrive in the very male-dominated and elitist art world. I was lucky enough to see the exhibition of her work at Tate Modern in 2016. I’d only seen 1 or 2 of her paintings before but this exhibition was stunning. I took Daisy who obediently fell asleep in her buggy when we entered the exhibition, leaving me to enjoy the works. They were simply beautiful. I could have literally dived into their light and shadow.
Men put me down as the best woman painter…
…I think I’m one of the best painters.
Jenny Murray and the Woman’s Hour team have seen me through two decades and I’m still an avid listener. The programme isn’t afraid to tackle hard subjects as well as some lighter ones of course – I still don’t get the cooking episodes on radio!? Importantly when I was suffering depression and post-natal depression, listening to other women’s stories kept me going. This was especially important because my darkest moments were at a time when social media and the internet isn’t what it is today, so resources were few. Plus depression and anxiety was more of a social taboo.
Rosa Parks dared to defy the establishment. She asked the simple question ‘What if I don’t move to the back of the bus?’. This non-violent moment when she challenged the harsh segregation laws of 1955 America, became one of the defining moments of the civil rights movement. She was a quiet, unassuming seamstress but dared to ask questions. She proved that no matter what your ‘status’, you have the power to challenge and change injustice.
I feel this final lady deserves a mention in today’s list. That lady is my husbands Nan. She’ll turn 90 this August but you really wouldn’t know. She’s as a bright as a button and as fit as a fiddle! Nan is a fantastic example of how an active, healthy lifestyle works wonders for both body and mind. Like my Mum, she has that ‘get on with it’ attitude. Something I feel we could all do with in our modern, rather self- absorbed world.
Looking at this list, it’s pretty clear, I’m inspired by many of these women because they have thrived in often male-dominated environments yet maintained a sense of their own identities and talents. Through dogged determination and hard work.
Once again thanks to all of them.
Please let’s give a thought to all of the female nurses, doctors, firefighters and policewomen. The carers, single mums and grandmothers. The unsung heroes who work tirelessly for us, who have challenges of their own but keep on going. I thank you.
And to all of the women who are still enslaved, beaten, tortured and wronged. I live in hope that one day you will have your freedom and right to live without fear.
Here’s to a more equal and just world. #pressforprogress.
Which women have inspired you throughout your life? I’d love to hear more about them.
Have an inspired International Women’s Day.
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