Inspirational women of our time

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: AOC is the youngest woman ever to serve in the US Congress, taking office at the age of just 29. She stands for Medicare for All, tuition-free public college, a Green New Deal, and abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Asmaa Mahfouz: Asmaa Mahfouz is a modern-day revolutionary who is credited with sparking the January 2011 uprising in Egypt through a video blog post calling for Egyptians to protest peacefully for freedom, dignity and human rights. The video went viral, the protest amounted to hundreds of thousands of people occupying Tahrir Square and, finally, ruler Mubarak relinquished power on 11 February 2011.

Greta Thunberg: A Swedish environmental activist who has become a household name for taking action on climate change after she began the School strikes for climate in 2018. Thunberg gained attention for her youth and her direct appeals to world leaders to act following their failure to so far take sufficient action to address the climate crisis.

Jacinda Ardern: Labour Party Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern led New Zealand through a terrorist attack, a volcanic eruption and most recently Covid-19, for which she has been globally commended.

Rachel Skinner: A British civil engineer who is current President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Rachel Skinner is only the second woman to have held that position stretching back to 1820.

Siân James: During the 1984 Miners’ Strike, she helped to feed over 1,000 families a week. Following the strike she went on to take her A-Levels and attended Swansea University, before becoming a Welsh Labour Party politician in 2005. She is famously depicted in the 2014 film Pride.

Simone Biles: Biles is not only one of the world’s most decorated gymnasts, she also had the courage to speak out against physician Larry Nassar over sexual assault and against USA Gymnastics for allowing the abuse. She was only one of many survivors.

Zarah Sultana: She is a British Labour Party MP who was elected during the 2019 General Election and has championed issues of inequality, social justice and climate emergency. Zarah hails from an ethnic minority background and was aged just 25 when she was voted into Parliament, serving as an inspiration to many.

Kathleen Neal Cleaver: Kathleen Neal Cleaver is an American professor of law, but is best known for her role as a member of the Black Panther Party, and for being the first female member of the Party’s decision-making body. She and other women made up around two-thirds of the Party at one point, challenging the popular notion that the Black Panther Party was overwhelmingly masculine.

Inspirational historic women

Angela (1906 – 1994) and Joan Tuckett (1895 – 1957): The first and second ever women solicitors in the city of Bristol, the Tuckett sisters achieved extraordinary things. Descendants of the anti-slavery Quaker family, they were active trade unionists and were involved in the national unemployment workers movement. Angela was in the Bristol University Socialist Society, which is still going today, and helped to found the Committee for Defence of Spanish Democracy, raising awareness of the fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War.

Blanca Canales (1906 – 1996): A Puerto Rican Nationalist who helped organise the Daughters of Freedom, the women’s branch of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. She was one of the few women in history to have led a revolt against the United States, known as the Jayuya Uprising.

Barbara Castle (1910 – 2002): Labour MP for Blackburn and one of the most important female politicians the labour movement has produced. She served in several cabinet posts during the Harold Wilson governments. As Secretary of State for Employment she successfully intervened in the strike by Ford sewing machinists against pay discrimination. She also introduced the Equal Pay Act 1970 which was a watershed moment in the fight for gender equality.

Marie Curie (1867 – 1934): A physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity, Marie Curie is best known for her huge contributions to finding treatments for cancer. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize across two scientific fields.

Celia Sanchez (1920 – 1980): Most people know Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, but few people have heard of Celia Sanchez, the woman at the heart of the Cuban Revolution. She was a founder of the 26th of July Movement and led combat squads throughout the revolution.

Constance Markievicz (1868 – 1927): Constance Markievicz was an Irish politician, revolutionary, nationalist, socialist and suffragette. She also played a leadership role in the Easter Rising of 1916. Constance was one of the first women in the world to hold a cabinet position (Minister for Labour of the Irish Republic, 1919 – 1922), and she was also the first woman elected to the British House of Commons, a position which she then rejected due to the Sinn Féin abstentionist policy.

Greenham Common Women: Women opposed to the siting of cruise missiles at an RAF base at Greenham Common set up a peace camp in 1981. Their commitment to non-violence and non-alignment gave the protest an authority that was difficult to dismiss, and their protest shook the globe. The Women’s Peace Camp was instrumental in securing the removal of the cruise missiles from Greenham Common.

Jayaben Desai (1933 – 2010): In 1978, Jayaben Desai led one hundred mainly South Asian women in a dispute against the Grunwick photo processing factory in North London. The strikers fought against poor working conditions, pay inequality and institutionalised racism within the company. Jayaben said: “We have shown that workers like us, new to these shores, will never accept being treated without dignity or respect”.

Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005): Rosa Parks was an American civil rights activist who is best known for the Montgomery bus boycott which sparked widespread resistance to racial segregation. Now recognised by the US Congress as “the mother of the freedom movement”, she remains an international icon of resistance to apartheid and racial injustice.

Jo Richardson (1923 – 1994): was Labour MP for Barking and a prominent campaigner for women’s rights. She was the first MP to raise issues such as violence against women and FGM in the Commons, and she was the first person to be appointed Shadow Minister for Women – a post she persuaded Labour leader Neil Kinnock to create even though there was no such Minister for Women within the government itself.

Lakshmi Sehgal (1914 – 2012): Lakshmi Sahgal was a revolutionary of the Indian independence movement, an officer of the Indian National Army, and later, the Minister of Women’s Affairs in the Azad Hind government. In the 1940s, she commanded the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, an all-women regiment that aimed to overthrow the British Raj in colonial India. The regiment was one of the very few all-female combat regiments of WWII on any side.

Mary Seacole (1805 – 1881): A nurse in a time of crisis, Mary Seacole helped wounded soldiers in the Crimean war and dealt with outbreaks of cholera in the Caribbean and Central America. In 2004 she was voted the greatest black Briton of all time.

Mo Mowlem (1949 – 2005): Mo was Labour MP for Redcar and played an integral role to achieving peace as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. In particular, her inclusion of women was imperative to the peace process; she knew that without inclusion of the women in each community, there would be no progress.

Nwanyeruwa: Nwanyeruwa, an Igbo woman in Nigeria, sparked a short war that is deemed to represent the first major challenge to British authority in West Africa during the colonial period. In late 1929, she challenged being asked to “count her goats, sheep and people”, understanding this to mean she would be taxed (traditionally, women were not charged taxes). This ignited the Women’s War; about 25,000 women all over the region were involved, and in the end women’s position were greatly improved.

Petra Herrera (1887 – 1917): During the Mexican Revolution, female soldiers known as soldaderas went into combat along with the men, although they often faced abuse. Petra Herrera was one of the most well-known of the soldaderas; she disguised her gender and went by the name “Pedro Herrera”. As Pedro, she established her reputation by demonstrating exemplary leadership (and blowing up bridges). She participated in the second battle of Torreón on May 30, 1914 along with around 400 other women, and was thought by many as deserving full credit for the battle.

Rosa Luxemburg (1871 – 1919): Rosa Luxemburg was a prominent Marxist, philosopher, economist, anti-war activist and revolutionary socialist. A bastion of the left during the early twentieth century period, Luxemburg’s ideas have proved central to the development of several Marxist theories and she remains a martyr to the socialist cause.

Rosalind Franklin (1920 – 1958): She was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work was central to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite.

Sophie Scholl (1921 – 1943): German revolutionary Sophie Scholl was a founding member of the non-violent anti-Nazi resistance group The White Rose, which advocated active resistance to Nazism through an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign. In February 1943, she and other members were arrested for distributing leaflets and sentenced to death by guillotine. She has since been commemorated extensively for her anti-Nazi activities.

Sylvia Pankhurst (1882 – 1960): She was an English campaigner for the suffrage and suffragette movement, a socialist and later a prominent left communist and activist in the cause of anti-fascism. She spent much of her later life campaigning on behalf of Ethiopia, where she eventually moved.

Inspirational Bath women

Caroline Herschel (1750 – 1848): was a German astronomer who lived with her brother in New King Street, Bath. Her most significant contributions to astronomy were the discoveries of several comets, but she was also the first woman in England to hold a government position.

Carroty Kate: “Carroty Kate, the Bath gang leader whose story reads like an episode of Peaky Blinders” reports SomersetLive. She was a local gang leader in the nineteenth century, leading indeed perhaps one of the most ‘brutish and criminal mobs in all of England’, yet described as a female Hercules and Queen of the Slum. A reminder of a different time and a different side of Bath.

Harmonie-Rose Allen: In 2020, six-year-old Harmonie-Rose Allen became the first junior ambassador of the charity Meningitis Now, following losing both her limbs as a result of the disease. Brave Harmonie-Rose contracted meningococcal septicaemia as a baby and was given a 10 percent chance of survival, serving as an inspiration to many.

Jamie Chadwick: Jamie Chadwick is a racing car driver and was crowned the first W Series Champion in 2019, earning herself a role as test and reserve driver for Williams F1 Team. This year she goes for the first Extreme E title while defending her W Series Title.

Mary Blathwayt (1879 – 1961): was a British feminist, suffragette and social reformer. Mary was active in the Women’s Social and Political Union and campaigned locally with Annie Kenney for women’s suffrage. She lived at Eagle House in Batheaston, which became known as the “Suffragette’s Rest” because it provided a place for recuperation for women who had been imprisoned for their activities.

Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851): Mary Shelley was an English novelist who in 1818 wrote the Gothic novel Frankenstein. Born in 1797, she enjoyed an informal education by her father and also edited a lot of her husband’s work. Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein just opened in Bath, but you can also go on a walking tour to follow in her footsteps.

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