Wednesday of this week was International Women’s Day. As a proud feminist and #HeForShe advocate, I thought I would some of my feminist role models on the blog this week!
The former Harry Potter star has shown how brave, intelligent and focused she is as she has taken on the role of UN Goodwill Ambassador to promote gender equality. Her passionate, often personal, and powerful speech to launch the HeForShe campaign vocalised everything that I believe to be important about gender equality and she continues to campaign today. Hermione would be proud!
Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of the Romantic poet Lord Byron. Born in 1815, she worked with Charles Babbage on his new proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. She realised, before he did, that the theoretical machine could do more than just calculations – it could follow sets of logical instructions, or algorithms, to solve problems by itself. Lovelace wrote the first algorithms for Babbage’s Analytical Engine and, in doing so, became the world’s first computer programmer.
All of the Brontë sisters were amazing women, living on the moors of Yorkshire and writing wild romantic poetry and fiction. They published their work under pseudonyms because they “had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.” I actually prefer Wuthering Heights by younger sister Emily to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, but Charlotte wins my admiration for one particular museum exhibit: the mourning shoes she wore after her two sisters had died. When the shoes became damaged by long walks over the moors, she repaired them, stitching a sprig of heather into the fabric of the shoes to symbolise her solitude, using her dead sisters’ hair as thread. That’s pretty impressive needlework.
Katherine Johnson featured in my assembly earlier this year. She overcame prejudice against her race and her gender to work on NASA’s space programme, calculating by hand the launch and orbit trajectories for the first manned missions beyond our atmosphere and onwards to the moon.
Carol Ann Duffy
Duffy is one of my favourite poets. She fulfilled the role of Poet Laureate with real skill, most notably with her Olympic poem Translating the British and her bleak 12 Days of Christmas (2009). Her unflinching honesty and her mix of horror and humour make her books a gripping read, and her trademark final-line twists mean than her poems stay with me long after I’ve put the book down. Her re-imagining of female characters from fiction and non-fiction forms the backbone of the fantastic collection The World’s Wife, providing voices for the voiceless and identity to the invisible. She continues this mission of exploration and examination of female identity in Feminine Gospels. English Literature is so often male-dominated, that it makes me proud to read and teach in a time when female voices are as influential, passionate and powerful as Duffy’s.
I am well-known for my admiration of Taylor Swift, whose complete stranglehold on the music industry is something to behold. She is a great songwriter and performer, of course, but actually an even more impressive businesswoman. She has taken on the likes of Spotify and Apple Music for not offering fair payments to musicians, and won in both cases – most spectacularly with Apple Music, who reversed their policy of not offering royalties to artists because Taylor Swift threatened to take her music off their service. All this, whilst sending Christmas presents to her devoted fans and even visiting them at home! No wonder my “I ❤ Taylor Swift” mug is one of my most prized possessions.
This Girl Can
I love the “This Girl Can” campaign – it says everything that needs to be said right there in the video!
Like A Girl
I also think that this Always campaign, from 2014, is worth revisiting.
Happy International Women’s Day!