International Women’s Day: Which women inspire you?
For International Women’s Day, mooks share just a few of the wonderful women who have inspired them. Who would you pick?
International Women’s Day is a chance to take time to remember the many courageous women who have worked and fought for a more just world. It’s a time to consider the struggles we still have to overcome. Mookychick community members have shared just a few of the women they are personally inspired by below. With countless inspiring women from so many walks of life to choose from, who would you pick?
Malala Yousafzai, activist and campaigner
“I’m always impressed by Malala Yousafzai. I think she’s been remarkably brave in the first place to campaign so hard for access to a school education and parity in education for herself, her female peers, and her mother in spite of threats to her life; and I think given that she narrowly escaped death doing so she’s remarkably brave to continue to campaign for girls’ education and use her platform to confront international leaders on the subject of international conflict and human rights (all while doing normal young woman stuff like sitting her exams and playing with her brothers). She’s fantastic and I really hope she’s able to continue her activism safely and be taken seriously on a global scale.”
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, first qualified woman doctor in the UK
“As a woman medical student, I’m fascinated by the women who have gone before me in medicine, science and healthcare. Despite the fact that more women graduate medical school than men and it’s been like that for several years, medicine – and even more so surgery – often feels like a boys’ club. Men in medicine progress more swiftly and further in their careers than women, are often paid more (the gender pay gap in the NHS is astonishing, and even worse in the US). For these reasons, to be a woman who practices medicine you have to wear your gender as a badge of honour, and own it.
The epitome of this? Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman doctor to qualify as a doctor in the UK. Staunch feminist and eminent badass, Elizabeth applied to study medicine after working as a surgical nurse for several years, and was only accepted because the college had no rules banning women explicitly from entry. This was reviewed immediately after her admission, barring other women following in her footsteps. She went on to get the highest exam scores in her year, founded the first hospital staffed by women, was the only woman doctor under the BMA for 19 YEARS, and set up a medical school to train women doctors. She was fucking awesome.”
Harnaam Kaur, activist and campaigner
Magda Knight (Mookychick co-founder) says:
“There are so many wonderful women doing great work today. I love the spirit and tireless energy of Harnaam Kaur. She has polycystic ovary syndrome, which can cause additional hair growth, and as a Sikh she has not cut her hair since she was 16. As an active campaigner she has done so much to inspire people to feel trust in themselves and acceptance of others. She comes across as unbelievably generous and has the most incredible levels of love for herself. I met her at an exhibition and am not ashamed to admit I totally fangirled.”
Audre Lorde, poet, author and activist
Jane Bradley (For Books’ Sake founder) says:
“I have a long, long list of ultimate dream babes, but in the number one spot at the moment is Audre Lorde, the iconic self-defined ‘black lesbian feminist mother warrior poet.’ A fiercely passionate and prolific author and activist, she was an absolutely incredible woman; brave and brilliant and a true trailblazer. Her autobiography Zami: A New Spelling of My Name is one of my favourite books, and to see her legacy flourishing so beautifully in the annual Audre Lorde Award and the Audre Lorde Project, a Brooklyn-based charity for queer people of colour, is an absolute testament to her enduring importance and influence.”
Hildegard of Bingen, medieval medical influencer
“Another woman I am majorly inspired by is Hildegard of Bingen. She was a medieval abbess who composed music, was an influential leader in medical thought, applied feminism to faith through her focus on Sophia (Wisdom) in the Bible, and successfully fought for independence for herself and her nuns. One reason why I love her is because normally it was men who benefitted from positions of privilege to have the time and energy to explore the boundaries of thought and science. She was totally unstoppable and we still talk about her and her science and strength today. Love, love her.”
Lauren Oliver, author
Miss Chris says:
“There’s still just not enough women in the media with enough power to create the same automatic mega-reach that men get. I’ve dreamed of being an author since I was a little girl, and I have so many fears and confidence issues about ny writing… But when I look at legends like JK Rowling, I feel much more confident. Lauren Oliver, my favourite woman author, wrote her first book on the train to work by emailing drafts to herself on her Blackberry. She’d no formal training in literature at the time, and no time or energy to sit down and write. But she did, and so did JK Rowling. They both came out of nowhere with nothing at all but passion, determination, and a story – then they went and knocked our socks off. I aspire to do like they did. They did it and so can I (I hope)!”
George Eliot, author
“I have lots of feelings about amazing women in history, especially the literary ones since that’s my cup of tea. One of my all time heroines was George Eliot. She’s pretty recognisable to most people as the writer of Middlemarch and The Mill on the Floss, but she was also a total badass for her time. She was born Marian Evans into a rural family in 1819 and was allowed an education by her father because she wasn’t considered pretty enough to marry off. She worked really hard to educate herself by reading voraciously and kept house for her father while making friends with the Radical Literary community in Coventry.
Anyway, when her father died she went on holiday to Europe with some friends, moved to London, and took up a post as one of the first woman newspaper editors ever for a national left-wing arts journal. When she was 31 she met a fellow prominent writer and critic, G.H.Lewes, and they quite radically decided to openly live together as an unmarried couple until his death. At the age of 37 she made a career change from journalism to novel writing. She wrote and lived her life, unafraid to get what she wanted, and did remarkably well for it. Especially at a time when most middle class women were supposed to be decorative and she wasn’t considered pretty. She gave no shits and had a wonderfully fulfilling literary career and romantic life. One of my favourite accounts of her was when the American novelist and critic Henry James met her and proclaimed, ‘Yes, behold me in love with this great horse-faced bluestocking.'”
Thérèse Casgrain, activist and politician
“I’m really inspired by Thérèse Casgrain, a feminist, activist and politician born in Montreal in 1896. Her most important achievement was to lead the women’s suffrage movement in Quebec, prior to World War II. She campaigned for women’s right to vote in Quebec elections, a right that was not won until 1940. It’s disturbing because this right was granted in Canada in 1918 and in most Canadian provinces between 1916 and 1925. For a long time, Quebec was a very religious and very traditional province. Thank God there were women like Thérèse Casgrain to make some changes!
I also have to mention that in the 1942 federal election, she stood as an “Independent Liberal” candidate and became the first woman to be elected as the leader of a political party in Canada. She had a long politic career and fought against social, economic and political injustices affecting both women and men. She also became a campaigner against nuclear weapons in the 60’s. She’s definitely an inspiration for many women in Quebec.
In 1982 the government of Pierre Trudeau created an award inspired by her: the Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award. It rewarded Canadian activists whose social commitment and persistent efforts have contributed to the well-being of others. Sadly, our last government (who was in my opinion the worst government in Canada history) removed the award in 2010. Hopefully it may come back since our new prime minister is the son of Pierre Trudeau.”
Tamora Pierce, author
“After much thought… a key woman who inspires me is Tamora Pierce. In addition to kick-ass female protagonists who actually menstruate and occasionally have to think about things like birth control, the fact that Tamora Pierce is still so cool and confident and independent even though she’s “old” has really been inspiring. Before I saw Tamora speak in 2013 at the National Book Festival in DC, I had no older female role-models, fictional or real. She’s shown me that women can get old and still be themselves and kick ass.”
NEXT: Try our feminist book quiz! How many can you get?
Main photo: K Kendall