As promised in my previous post about International Women’s Day, I want to share with you a list of 5 inspiring and influential female figures who I find particularly impressive.
Malala Yousafzai – 1997
In 2014, Malala became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at only 17 years old. She was an advocate for girls’ education from a young age, having been directly affected by the limitations enforced on girls in Pakistan. She bravely defied the Taliban, continuing to demand that girls be allowed an education, and in 2012 survived being shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. Incredibly, this close encounter with death did not deter Malala, who persisted in her fight for female education and shook the world with her emotional and passionate speeches. She says that her fears died that day, and she came out of the horrific experience stronger than ever.
“Extremists have shown what frightens them most: a girl with a book”
Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech:
Malala on Ellen:
Rosa Parks: 1913-2005
Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist who fought against racial injustice and sparked the 381-day boycott of public buses in Montgomery (America’s first mass demonstration against segregation), after she refused to give up her seat for a white man. The boycott resulted in the Sepreme Court ruling it unlawful for public buses to be racially segregated in Alabama.
“Rosa Parks tells us there’s always something we can do… she tells us that we all have responsibilities, to ourselves and to one another.” `
– President Obama
I think Rosa Parks is incredibly inspiring as her one courageous act of defiance against an unjust law brought about such an enormous change, which goes to show that we must fight against injustice and not passively succumb to immoral laws, because it is important to stand up for oneself and what is right.
“As I sat there, I tried not to think about what might happen. I knew that anything was possible. I could be manhandled or beaten. I could be arrested.”
Marie Stopes: 1880-1958
Marie Stopes is best known as a campaigner for women’s rights and an advocate for contraception. She founded the first birth control clinic in Britain, then referred to as ‘family planning’, and gathered data on contraception. As a keen writer, Stopes published a sex manual, which brought the topic of birth control into public discussion; alongside her explicit advise in the newsletter of which she was the editor.
J K Rowling: 1965
J K Rowing rose from living off benefits to a multi millionaire status in less than 5 years thanks to her Harry Potter book series. She is now world famous with one of the most popular book and film franchises in history. In 2010, Rowling was declared ‘The Most Influential Woman in Britain’.
One of my favourite things about Rowling is the heart-warming story of how she helped Evanna Lynch to beat her eating disorder. Evanna Lynch battled with anorexia from the age of 11, and was admitted to hospital where she would read Harry Potter and write to Rowling from her hospital bed, talking of her admiration for the character Luna Lovegood. Rowling wrote back words of encouragement, and told Lynch that she needed to overcome her illness in order to audition for the films. This motivated her to fully recover and land herself the role of Luna, which she claims would not have been possible without Rowling’s support throughout her time in hospital.
If inspiring millions of kids across the globe to read, write and use their imaginations isn’t impressive enough, Rowling has also supported multiple charities such as Comic Relief, Multiple Scierosis and One Parent Families. She also founded her own charity, Lumos, which works to support 8 million children in institutions across the world and replace institutions with community services in an attempt to restore the right to family to children who are institutionalised for being poor, disabled or from an ethnic minority.
Click here to learn more about JK Rowling’s charity and watch this moving video:
Dorothea Lange: 1895-1965
As she is one of my favourite photojournalists, I chose to focus one of my art projects on Lange as part of my Art GCSE after being struck by her powerful images that humanised the effects of the Great Depression.
I was particularly drawn to her photograph called ‘Migrant Mother’ (1936).
“I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.”
Lange shared her photographs with a newspaper editor to be published, which led to the government providing aid to the camp to help and feed the suffering migrants.