1918-2018: 100 years of Inspirational Women
February 2018 marked 100 years of (some) women in the UK being allowed to vote. The introduction of the People’s Representation Act on February 6, 1918 granted women over 30, who owned a house, the right to vote, or women over 30, who were married to a man that owned a house.
Today in Britain, this feels like a basic human right, obviously, but you’ll find out in a few minutes, the true battle that women had to essentially fight for this right.
In 1913, it was decided to transfer IWD to March 8, and it has been celebrated on that day ever since. The day was only recognised by the United Nations in 1975, but ever since it has created a theme each year for the celebration.
The theme for IWD 2018 is #PressforProgress the aim of the theme is to encourage people to continue the vocal fight for equality.
In 2011, former US President Barack Obama proclaimed March to be ‘Women’s History Month’. So… Happy Women’s Month!
According to a 2017 report by the World Economic Forum, it could still take another 100 years or so before the global equality gap between men and women disappears entirely. Let’s see who’ll top the list in the next 100 years.
Did you know? Women are also paid less than half than men at some of Britain's major companies, according to recent gender pay gap figures. In 2017, women effectively worked "for free" for 51 days of the year because of the gender pay gap. WOW! Absolutely shocking.
Let’s start the throwback to a century ago! Shall we?
1. Emmeline Pankhurst – she dedicated her life to the absolute promotion of women’s rights. She covered all aspects of protest including public demonstrations and hunger strikes. She died in 1928, 3 weeks before the law to give all women over 21 the right to vote came into action.
2. Queen Elizabeth ii – to be honest, she should really be at the top of the list! She ascended to the throne at the age of just 25, she is the longest reigning British Monarch. She has literally endured almost every life event or symbolic event that ever comes to mind (and those that you have to research deep into) She’s been a key figure for the last (almost) Century!
3. Gertrude Ederle – she was the first woman ever to swim the English Channel despite her partner being afraid and not going ahead with it. Oh, and she did it wearing motorcycle goggles… pretty epic, right?
4. Helen Keller – she lost her sight and hearing at a young age, but she challenged expectations to achieve a bachelor’s degree and inspired generations to come, as an activist for disability rights.
5. Bessie Coleman – she was prevented from gaining a pilot’s licence in the US, due to the fact that she was both black and a woman, despite this, she moved to France and became the first woman of African-American and Native American descent to earn an aviation pilot’s licence. Ha, in your face!
6. Josephine Baker – she was an American triple-threat, to say the least, she found fame away from racial prejudice in France, but returned to her homeland to fight racism with the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
7. Mary Pickford – she was not only the Queen of the Movies in the 1920s, she also co-founded two Hollywood studios along with her husband. Impressive, right?
8. Marie Curie – she was a pioneering, two-time Nobel prize winning scientist, whose research into radioactivity saved countless lives. Despite, being unable to attend University in Poland (because she was a woman) she decided to move to Paris, just to continue her education. See, perseverance is key.
Emily Murphy – she was the first woman magistrate in the British Empire. In 1927 she joined forces with four other Canadian women who sought to challenge an old Canadian law that said, “women should not be counted as persons.”
9. Millicent Fawcett – she was a leading suffragist and campaigner for equal rights for women. She led Britain’s biggest suffrage organisation, the non-violent (NUWSS) and played a key role in gaining women the vote. She also helped found Newnham College, Cambridge.
10. Edith Wharton – she was awarded the famous Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1921 for her novel The Age of Innocence.
11. Amelia Earhart – she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in an airplane, making her voyage in 1928 after fellow pilot Amy Phipps Guest decided it was "too dangerous" for her to undertake. If you want to do something, just go for it!
12. Mother Teresa – a personal favourite of mine, in all honesty, I really love her. I am told that I am the reincarnated version of her – who knows? Anywho, Mother Teresa was an Albanian nun and charity worker. She devoted her life to the service of the poor and dispossessed, she became a global icon for selfless service to others. Through her Missionary of Charities organisation, she personally cared for thousands of sick and dying people in Calcutta. She was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1979.
13. Anna Freud – she was a celebrated psychoanalyst and founded a nursery in London to look after babies and children who had been separated from their families during the Second World War. She had a very difficult childhood, where she was forced to flee Vienna and the Nazis and suffered mental health issues, but this did not prevent her from flourishing later in life, of course.
14. Hattie McDaniel – Good ol’ Hattie, she was the first African-American actor to break the colour barrier and receive an Oscar for her portrayal of ‘Mammy’ in Gone With The Wind (despite this, the hotel where the ceremony was held had a ‘No Blacks’ rule). Who run the world? Girls.
15. Mary McLeod Bethune – she was a civil rights campaigner who sought better educational opportunities for young African-American girls.
She is often known as the ‘First Lady of the Struggle’, she never rested in her fight for civil rights even when it seemed like the whole country was against her. That’s the way to go!
16. Elizabeth Cowell – In 1936, Elizabeth Cowell became the first woman television announcer for the BBC. Yesss!
17. Jane Addams – she was known as the ‘Mother of social work’, she was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her advancement of the cause of pacifism and was infamously described as a ‘threat to national security’ due to her opposition of US involvement in World War I. She served as president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom until 1929 and then as honorary president for the rest of her life.
18. Maria Montessori – she was the creator of a new system of education which focused on the science of child development, her work with disabled children and the slum children of Rome set her apart from your average educator. She believed that children deserve choice, liberty and the best education possible, regardless of their backgrounds or the advantages life has given them… and we couldn’t agree more!
19. Lilian Wyles – she was a pioneer in the inclusion of women in the Met Police and for the more sensitive treatment of female victims of sexual assaults, for example by making sure that female police officers took their statements. Way to go, girl!
20. Hedy Lamarr – she was an actress and scientist, her work on a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes during World War Two contributed to the development of modern Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology. Thank you, Hedy! What would we do without Wi-Fi?
21. Katharine Hepburn – she was an American actress. She was also an iconic figure of twentieth Century film, Katharine Hepburn won four Oscars and received over twelve Oscar nominations. Her lifestyle was unconventional for the time and through her acting and life, she helped redefine traditional views of women’s roles in society.
22. Hanna Reitsch – she set over forty aviation altitude and endurance records during her career in the 1930s and 40s - and was the first woman ever to fly a helicopter, a rocket plane, and a jet fighter. Pretty cool, right?
23. Dorothy Hodgkin – she was a British chemist. She was awarded the Nobel prize for her work on critical discoveries of the structure of both penicillin and later insulin. These discoveries led to significant improvements in health care. I guess we could call her the Antibiotic queen?
24. Anne Frank – she was a Dutch Jewish author. Anne Frank’s diary is one of the most widely read books in the world, and for a very good reason. It reveals the thoughts of a young, yet surprisingly mature 13-year-old girl, refuged to a secret hiding place. She said “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” Awww, she was so brave!
25. Noor Inayat Khan – she was the first Muslim female war hero, she was an undercover operative in France (shhh, don’t tell anyone) who was betrayed by her colleagues, she was tortured and executed but never gave away any Allied secrets. That is true bravery and strength, we salute you!
26. Irena Sendler – she is sometimes known as the female Schindler, this Polish nurse smuggled out thousands of Jewish children of the Warsaw Ghetto throughout the early 1940s. She has shown us that we must always do what’s right – Sendler’s actions risked her own life, as well as that of her family and friends, and yet she knew what she had to do.
27. Judy Garland – she was the youngest recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in the film industry, Garland shone on stage and screen despite her tragic life off-camera, which was dominated by heartbreak and addiction issues.
28. Gwendolyn Brooks – not only was she was a poet and teacher, she was also the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry Annie Allen, which narrated the youth of an African-American girl. She once said: “Truth tellers are not always Palatable.”
29. Helena Rubinstein – she was an American businesswoman. She formed one of the world’s first cosmetic companies. Her business enterprise proved hugely successful and, later in life, she used her enormous wealth to support charitable enterprises in the field of education, art and health. Look how many cosmetic companies we have now.
30. Coco Chanel – she was a French fashion designer. One of the most innovative fashion designers, to be precise, Coco Chanel was very active in defining feminine style and dress during the 20th Century. Her ideas were revolutionary; in particular she often took traditionally male clothes and redesigned them for the benefit of women. Haha, that’s how it should be!
31. Eva Peron – she was hugely loved by the ordinary people of Argentina. She campaigned tirelessly for both the poor and for the extension of women’s rights. She died aged only 32 in 1952. R.I.P beautiful soul!
32. Edith Summerskill – she was an MP who campaigned for the equal rights of all women, regardless of their marital status. Through her ‘Letters to my daughter’, she made us question the status of gender roles – her views on how many women have managed to achieve despite the limitations put upon them by society were way ahead of their time.
33. Rosa Parks – we all know the famous Rosa Parks. She was a true legend, a American civil rights activist. Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama, led to some of the most significant civil rights legislations of American history. She planned to play down her role in the civil rights struggle but for her peaceful and dignified campaigning she became one of the most well respected figures in the civil rights movements.
34. Marilyn Monroe – iconic beauty queen, Marilyn. She was the Master of reinvention, her strong combination of beauty and business know-how made her unforgettable.
35. Rosalind Franklin – she was largely overlooked by members of her team who discovered the double-helix structure of DNA. Not cool!
36. Grace Lee Boggs – she was a hugely respected civil rights and labour rights activist, particularly focusing her work in the US auto-mobile hub of Detroit.
37. Ella Fitzgerald – she had a traumatic childhood, despite this though, she become the first African-American woman to win a Grammy award in 1959.
38. Rose Heilbron QC – she was one of the first two women to be appointed King’s Counsel and first woman to lead in an English murder trial.
39. Jacqueline Cochran – she was the first woman to break the sound barrier in flight on May 18, 1953, in a Canadair Sabre jet.
40. Indira Gandhi – she Gandhi was the only female Prime Minister of India, and forged the historic 1972 Simla agreement to end war between India and Pakistan. She once said: “Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave” couldn’t have said it better myself, to be honest.
41. Audrey Hepburn – there was actually nothing that she couldn’t do: she was a humanitarian, dancer, actress and member of the Dutch Resistance. My favorite quote from her: “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible!’” I agree!
42. Yoko Ono – she was a radical performance artist and collaborator with John Lennon – one of her earlier works involved her dressed in her best suit, kneeling on a stage with a pair of scissors in front of her, after which she instructed audience members to join her on stage and cut her clothing off. Well… that’s one way to start a show.
43. Maya Angelou – she was the author of the autobiography ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ she was also a civil rights activist. She said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” True that, sister!
44. Helen Bamber – she was a prominent anti-torture campaigner, who worked with Holocaust survivors in the 1940s and was the first president of Amnesty International in Britain.
45. Valentina Tereshkova – she was a textile worker, her enthusiasm for parachuting and the fact that she was the first woman to go into space makes her just that much more awesome.
46. Dame Judi Dench – she confirmed national treasure, she has acted consistently for over 60 years and, contrary to popular belief, originated the role of Sally Bowles in Cabaret.
47. Coretta Scott-King – she was a civil rights leader in the 50s and 60s and the worthy partner of the architect of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. Not bad, eh?
48. Billie Jean King – she was an American tennis player. She was one of the greatest female tennis champions, who also battled for equal pay for women. She won 67 professional titles including 20 titles at Wimbledon. Beat that!
49. Sirimavo Bandaranaike – she was the world's first female head of government, serving as Prime Minister of Ceylon and Sri Lanka three times, 1960–65, 1970–77 and 1994–2000, and a long-time leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
50. Muriel “Mickie” Siebert – she was known as the "First Lady of Finance", and was the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1967, and the first woman to head one of its member firms.
51. Wangari Maathai – she was a Kenyan-born environmentalist, pro-democracy activist and women’s rights campaigner. She was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for efforts to prevent conflict through protection of scarce resources.
52. Betty Williams – she campaigned to bring an end to the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. They founded the Community for Peace and were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977
53. Margaret Thatcher – The first British female prime minister. She was also known as ‘The Iron Lady’ because of her refusal to back down during the Miners’ Strikes or in the Falklands conflict.
54. Jayaben Desai – she was the leader of the strikes in the Grunwick factory dispute, where groups of workers of predominately South Asian heritage went on strike to protest unfair working conditions.
55. Pam Grier – she did many of her own stunts whilst starring in the groundbreaking films of the 70s and is a huge philanthropist, with causes close to her heart including animal rights and HIV/AIDs charities
56. Gilda Radner – she was on the Saturday Night Live’s original line-up, her tragic death from ovarian cancer raised awareness of the disease and prevented many other women from suffering the same fate.
57. Katharine Graham – she First ever-female CEO of a Fortune 500 company and editor of the Washington Post – Meryl Streep is currently portraying her in blockbuster The Post. She said: “To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?” I totally agree!
58. Joan Bakewell – she was labelled the "thinking man's crumpet" when she was the only female journalist and TV presenter on BBC2's Late Night Line Up– a discussion programme which ran until 1972. She has championed gay rights and, in 2008, was appointed by the Government to act as the voice for older people.
59. Junko Tabei – she became the first woman to climb Mount Everest on May 16,1975.
60. Diana, Princess of Wales – although her life was tragically cut short, her inspiring work with AIDs sufferers and anti-landmine campaigns means that Diana truly was ‘The People’s Princess.’
61. Madonna – she is the queen of pop of reinvention, best selling female recording artist of all time and responsible for bringing voguing to the mainstream.
62. Julie Bindel – she was a radical feminist and co-founder of the law-reform group Justice for Women, which supports victims of domestic violence.
63. Wangaari Mathaai – she was the first African woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, which was for ‘contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.’
64. Diane Abbott – she is a British Labour Party politician and the first black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons when elected as an MP in 1987.
65. Vigdis Finnbogadottir – she was the world’s first democratically directly elected female president, and the longest serving female head of state.
66. Alison Bechdel – she created the Bechdel test, this exposed the inequality on screen between men and women.
67. Jane Fonda – she was an anti-Vietnam war activist and later in life inspired a generation of women to get active with her fitness videos.
68. Martina Navratilova – she has been one of the most unrivalled queens of the court for almost 40 years and is an outspoken supporter of LGBT rights.
69. Brenda Yule – she became the first woman to complete a demanding quadrathlon - involving swimming, kayaking, cycling and running.
70. Kay Cottee – she was the first female sailor to perform a single-handed, non-stop circumnavigation of the world. It took 189 days.
71. Tegla Loroupe – she is a Kenyan athlete. She held the women’s marathon world record and won many prestigious marathons. Since retiring from running, she has devoted herself to various initiatives promoting peace, education and women’s rights. In Kenya, her Peace Race and Peace Foundation have been widely praised for helping to end tribal conflict.
72. J.K.Rowling – she brought the magic of reading to a new generation and now has the best-selling series of books of ALL time.
73. Oprah Winfrey – she is the ultimate media mogul: she is a talk show host, motivational speaker and philanthropist amongst tens of other careers. She is the perfect example that women can be successful (although with her estimated net worth at $2.8 billion, it’s safe to say that Oprah is slightly more than just successful – don’t you agree?).
74. Benazir Bhutto – she was the first female prime minister of a Muslim country. She helped to move Pakistan from a dictatorship to democracy, becoming Prime Minister in 1988. She sought to implement social reforms, in particular helping women and the poor. She was sadly assassinated in 2007.
75. Ruth Bader Ginsburg – she is an associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.
76. Marilyn Vos Savant – she used her record-breaking IQ to handle a maths problem and its aftermath made her a feminist (and intellectual) icon.
77. Susan Solomon – she is an atmospheric chemist, along with her team, Solomon was the first to attribute the hole in the ozone layer to CFCs, such as those used in aerosols and refrigerants.
78. Doreen Lawrence – she is the mother of Stephen Lawrence, the London teenager killed in a 1993 racist attack, she has become a prominent campaigner against racial violence, she is a member of the House of Lords and is said to be Sadiq Khan’s most inspirational female Londoner.
79. Helena Morrissey – she is a high-flying female executive and former CEO, who also established the 30% Club, to campaign for greater female representation on company boards.
80. Michelle Obama – she is Graduate of Princeton and Harvard, intellectual property lawyer and devoted mother, and she is the previous first lady of America, is there anything Michelle Obama cannot do?
81. Shirin Ebadi – she is an Iranian lawyer, she has fought for human rights in Iran, representing political dissidents and founding initiatives to promote democracy and human rights. she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.
82. Beyonce – she is the 22-time Grammy award winning artist, Beyoncé Knowles is responsible for some of the best pop songs of the last 20 years.
83. Pink – she is a three-time Grammy Award winner, Pink’s no bull* attitude was anathema to the hypersexualisation of noughties popstars.
84. Dame Fiona Kendrick – she is the chairman and chief executive of Nestlé UK & Ireland.
85. Emma Watson – she is best known as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films (it’s hard to picture her as anything else, am I right?), she has become an outspoken voice in the fight for global women’s rights and how men should be more involved in feminism.
86. Karren Brady – she is one of the most high-profile businesswomen in the UK and is famously dedicated – she was answering emails 24 hours after emergency brain surgery. WOW! She is the 'first lady of football’, is chief executive of Birmingham City, vice-chairman of West Ham, a board member of Sir Philip Green’s company Arcadia (owner of Topshop and other chains) and now a judge on The Apprentice. 'I always say, “Women have brains and uteruses, and are able to use both.” Is there anything that she cannot do?
87. Kathryn Bigelow – she made history when she became the first woman to receive the Academy Award for Best Director in 2009
88. Danica Patrick – she won in the 2008 Indy Japan 300, she became the first women American auto racing driver to win an IndyCar race.
89. Kylie Jenner – love her or hate her, you have to admit she is a true bad-ass leader! At the age of 20, she has created a solid empire.
90. Malala Yousefzai – we all know Malala, she survived a Taliban assassination attempt as retaliation for her activism for girls’ education and then became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
91. Angelina Jolie – she is continuously involved in helping to resolve humanitarian issues, from refugee rights to child immigration, and her work on behalf of victims of rape and assault. She works for women's rights across the globe. As she said, the goal is for “the empowerment of women to be the highest priority for the finest minds, in the best academic institutions.”
92. Megan Markle – she has won the hearts of many! She is the first black female to enter the royal family. From civil rights activist, to prime-time actress to future British princess, there is nothing she can’t do.
93. Laverne Cox – her role in Orange Is The New Black was a true window, if you will, into the struggles that trans-women face and made the prejudice that they face an issue for discussion.
94. Serena Williams – she is also known as the greatest female tennis player of all time, Serena Williams is a 23-time grand slam winner and won the 2017 Australian Open whilst two months pregnant (beat that?!)
95. Sheryl Sandberg – she is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and the founder of the Lean In Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers women ‘the ongoing inspiration and support to help them achieve their goals.’
96. Jacinda Ardern – she is the NZ Prime Minister, she also supports Maori rights, feminism and same-sex marriage. When she was elected as the leader of the New Zealand Labour party, the party was flooded with donations!
97. Valeria Amos – she was Former chief executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission, she was made a life peer in 1997 and a year later became a minister under Tony Blair. In May 2003, she succeeded Clare Short as International Development Secretary, becoming the first female black Cabinet minister. Remained in Cabinet for four years.
98. Christine Lagarde – she was made managing director of the international Monetary Fund in 2011. She is the first woman, ever, to hold this position! She was also the first woman, ever, to become the minister of Economic Affairs of a G8 Economy!
99. Melinda Gates – she is an American philanthropist, former Microsoft employee, and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
100. Dolly Parton – she is an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, actress, author, businesswoman, and philanthropist, known primarily for her work in country music. She is the most honoured female country performer of all time.