Today, August 26th, is Women’s Equality Day in the USA. It marks the anniversary of the day when women secured the right to vote back in 1920 – two years after Great Britain allowed women over the age of 30 the same rights.
Society has come a long way since then. Almost every single country worldwide allows women to vote in some form or another (the exceptions being Saudi Arabia* and Vatican City), and, in the western world, women are becoming more and more prominent in politics. Whilst total equality is still a dream for many places, it is important to recognise some of the women who have managed to triumph and inspire others in an often male-dominated world.
In light of this, I asked a few friends and fellow bloggers to write a few words on a woman whom they considered to be a good role model. Here’s what we came up with:
Kelly Sue DeConnick
“As someone who can barely move for stack of comic books piled up in her room, I’d be remiss not to talk about Kelly Sue DeConnick, a wonderfully feminist comic book writer who’s taking the world of comics by storm, and teaching women worldwide that they can do the same if they want to. She’s perhaps best known for the 2012 relaunched Captain Marvel series, but she writes a hugely diverse amount of stuff including the wonderful Pretty Deadly and Bitch Planet books.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes from her, from a recent Vanity Fair interview: ‘Being a woman in a male-dominated industry sort of sucks, but it doesn’t suck any more than being a woman in the world. My advice? Be terrifying.‘” – Cassie, cassieparkes.tumblr.com
“Tracey Spicer, if you haven’t heard of her, Google…now. She is my Australian idol; a woman unabashed, disillusioned by the picture perfect world of Taylor Swift (who I also heart by the way), but let’s get real. This gal is unafraid of what people have to say, likes to rip away that perfectly manicured façade. She is a woman who will bare all, literally (again… Google it), and say, ‘This is me, who are you? We are women, we are not perfect but you are allowed to fake it, as long as you know it’s just that’.” – Jo, theclearlyinane.com
“Born to a wealthy Jewish family in 1909, Rita Levi-Montalcini’s early life was comfortable and saw her pursue interests in many fields. However, the death of a family friend from stomach cancer piqued an interest in medicine and physiology. Like many other notable female scientists at the time, she faced professional and personal sexism in her field, made worse by Mussolini’s anti-semetic rulings. Rita, ever resilient to life’s challenges, and accompanied by her mentor, Giuseppe Levi, set up her own personal lab in her bedroom, and one in a cottage owned by Levi. Her work in these abysmal settings saw her discover Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). One of the most important discoveries in science, this protein is associated with everything from embryo formation, to multiple sclerosis, and even depression. For her work she won the 1986 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. To date she remains the only Nobel Prize recipient to live past 100, dying on December 30th, 2012, aged 103. Her love for science was clear to all, and her determination to continue the pursuit of knowledge in the face of adversity makes her an unsung hero, regardless of her discoveries. The line which best sums this amazing woman up was her response when asked why she never married. She simply replied, ‘I am married to science’.” – George
“For me, an inspirational woman comes in the form of American singer/songwriter, Stevie Nicks. At 67, with a kaleidoscopic career behind her, she’s achieved so much with Fleetwood Mac (her song “Dreams” was Fleetwood Mac’s first and only U.S. number-one hit) and her extensive solo career.
Her ethereal legacy stems from the way she expresses herself through honest, poetic, lyrical stories, painting her life experiences, hopes and love affairs as mystical, magical worlds of their own. What’s more, she’s a woman who followed her heart and voice, always demonstrating resilience in seasons of difficulty, from working long waitressing hours when Fleetwood Mac first started out, to her struggles with drug addiction, self-esteem, heartbreak, rejection, and media pressure. She always pulled through, inspiring her dedicated fans to learn from her own mistakes, but also to follow their dreams, no matter what people say or how daunting they seem. She is a strong, talented, ambitious woman, who never took ‘no’ for an answer.” – Lauren, lvhurrell.blogspot.co.uk
And, one of my heroes – Sandi Toksvig OBE
I have adored Sandi Toksvig for many years now. Not only is she a fantastic writer and comedian, she’s also partially responsible for the formation of the Women’s Equality Party. Over the past few decades she has appeared on dozens of TV shows (both acting and as herself), written plays, published several books and, perhaps most famously, was the host of the radio 4 show The News Quiz for 9 years. She’s so talented and versatile that it’s difficult to say what I admire most about her – I think I’m torn between her sharp wit and her commitment to her political agenda. Her confidence, intelligence and diligence make her somebody that I will always look up to, and I hope she continues to be a role model for many others in the years to come.
When I see the achievements of these fantastic women, and hear about the millions of other ladies who have made a positive impact on the world, it’s almost impossible to comprehend how the world ever saw us as being less capable than men. Obviously, this is just a handful of women who have made a difference. Just in the last few months, we’ve heard about Malala Yousafzai opening a school for Syrian refugees; the YPJ, a group of women who are fighting again ISIS; and Mhairi Black, who became an MP at the age of 20. All these women have accomplished astounding things – and yet, they wouldn’t have been able to vote in Britain a little less than a century ago.
Equality for women still isn’t a worldwide reality, and so it’s important that we recognise the women who have broken the mould.
*Saudi Arabia has let women vote for the first time in the last few days