In the words of Jon Snow “Winter is coming”, and the idea of spending days under our duvets is becoming more and more tempting. But instead of binging on the latest TV shows (Utopia, The Honourable Woman, Orange is the New Black, we’re looking at you…), try being inspired by the lives of some of these kickass women from history. This week we celebrated National Women’s Equality Day and this inspired us to put together a list of some of the often forgotten women who changed the world. Get reading and have a go at making the most of whatever YOU are talented at whilst closeted indoors this fall/winter.
Queen Isabella of Spain (1451–1504): Although she lived in an era that was hardly known for female empowerment, this lady’s patronage of Christopher Columbus made his trips to discover America possible. She helped to enforce measures to reduce crime and took an active role in reforming Spain’s finances which led to funding Columbus’ voyage. Have a go at building up your own network through mentoring programs such as the UK-based Timebank, mentoring in business from Aspire, or the international mentor programs at the Cherie Blair foundation or the Women for Women organization.
Pearl S Buck (1892–1973): The first woman to win a Nobel Prize, her works helped to breach the cultural gap between the East and West, and sought to dissolve the negative view of the Chinese held by many post-colonialists. She was a truly original literary voice. Follow her lead and get onto such websites as Wattpadd, which has led to women having considerable success in publishing their novels. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is coming up in November if you need some support to get writing, or try Writegirl.org. If you’ve written a book but don’t know what to do with it, ask experts to take a look through such programs as Girls Write Now, the Australian Writers Programme, or Womentoring if you’re in the UK.
Dolores Huerta (1930–): Ever feel unhappy with how things are for women in your local community? Take a leaf out of Dolores’ book. A lifelong community activist, she began by helping farm workers improve their economic conditions and then moved into civil rights activism. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 for her tireless campaigning for equality for female farmers. Consider using your social media feeds to spread awareness about things you believe in, as is now happening with the ALS Ice-bucket Challenge. You could also attend rallies, write letters with Amnesty International, or get involved within your local community in the USA here and here if you’re looking for a more global scope.
Alexandra Kollontai (1872–1952): If you’re into travel and languages, Alexandra could be your new heroine! She was the first female Ambassador in the world, and was posted to Norway in 1923 as she was fluent in several languages. Alexandra began the Russian feminist movement in 1905, which continues until today with Pussy Riot. Consider contributing your skills to the world of politics through internships in various political organizations worldwide, or even by joining the youth wing of your political party of choice. The world’s your (political) oyster!
Others: Shirin Ebadi,the Iranian human-rights lawyer who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003; Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped draft the UN bill of human rights; and Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés (1945-): If you’re into lots of different things, there’s no reason to focus on just one. Become a polymath by taking an active part in many disciplines like Dr Estés does. She is a world-renowned Jungian psychoanalyst, poet, traditional storyteller, and deals with resolving PTSD after major events, including 9-11 and the Columbian High School Massacre. Get in touch with your creative side and read her classic feminist work Women who run with the wolves, which explores feminine archetypes. Take a look at the competitions and links at Resurgence to get involved with the wider world of creative women. And generally, take a leap and get down the library to learn more about whatever you’re into. There’s no reason intelligent women should limit themselves to one thing.
Virginia Hall (1906–1982): So conventional careers might not be your thing. Forge your own path like Virginia Hall aka The Limping Lady. She struck terror into the hearts of Nazis during World War II and worked for British intelligence during the first part of the war after she was turned down by American forces. She hiked across the Pyrenees to escape France when it became too dangerous, all despite her false leg (nicknamed “Cuthbert”). Whilst not all of us are cut out for a life of espionage, we can all take on a bit of her fighting spirit and keep on with life no matter what challenges we face.
Others: Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space.