History is full of tales of high drama and incredible achievements but far too often, it’s centred just on the stories of men. The clue’s in the name, after all – His story. In fact, alongside the history-making men of years gone by, there were always many brave and innovative people of all genders doing brilliant things.
Just because women’s stories haven’t been recorded in as much detail as men’s tales that doesn’t mean they aren’t there to be found. In fact, there’s an abundance.
To mark International Women’s Day
We have compiled a list of the most inspirational women from history. From successful suffragettes to empowering quotes: ladies, prepare for a healthy dose of #inspo.
Let’s start with Virginia Woolf. She inspires us by writing Mrs Dalloway, where she skewered the role of ‘the perfect housewife’ and sowed the seeds for the feminist movement of the 1970s. She taught us to speak our truth and you could inspire generations of writers.
Marie Curie on the other hand was a pioneering, two-time Nobel prize-winning scientist, whose research into radioactivity saved countless lives. She taught us perseverance. Curie was unable to attend University in Poland (because she was a woman) so decided to up sticks and move to Paris, just to continue her education.
Queen of the air Amelia Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She taught us to do everything in our power to achieve our dream, from little things such as sleeping in your leather jacket to make it seem ‘worn’ to daring to fly across oceans solo.
Elizabeth Cowell was the first female announcer on British television and her voice reached millions across the country. She taught us how to succeed in a male-dominated industry (and how to do it with THE most cut-glass accent).
Eleanor Roosevelt wasn’t your average First Lady due to her vocal support of the rights of African-Americans and women’s rights – much to the chagrin of many at the time. She said once: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
After a lucrative career as a child actress, Shirley Temple’s role as a breast cancer awareness pioneer in later life may have saved thousands of lives. She taught us to speak up about the issues that affect us: you’ll probably find out that you are not alone and may save a life in the meantime.
Master of reinvention Marilyn Monroe’s combination of beauty and business know-how made her unforgettable. She taught us how to be a cultural icon 101 (and how to make Happy Birthday To You the sexiest song in the world).
Ascending to the throne aged just 25, Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning British monarch and female head of state. She taught us to always move with the times – HRH has endured almost every life event thinkable during her tenure on the throne and remained adored by the British public.
Ingénue, Hitchcock favourite and later Princess of Monaco: Grace Kelly. She taught us quite simply, life really can sometimes be a fairytale.
Here was nothing Audrey Hepburn couldn’t do: she was a humanitarian, dancer, actress and member of the Dutch Resistance. She taught us endless optimism: “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible!’’
Kate Bush’s debut single Wuthering Heights was the UK’s first No.1 single written by a woman and hit the top spot when Bush was just 19. She taught us to take charge of our careers and own our decisions – Bush had to push hard to get Wuthering Heights to be the lead single. The rest, as they say, is history.
Katherine Graham was the first-ever female CEO of a Fortune 500 company and editor of the Washington Post. Meryl Streep portrayed her in the blockbuster The Post. She taught us to love what we do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?
The ultimate media mogul Oprah Winfrey! She is a Talk Show host, motivational speaker and philanthropist amongst tens of other careers. She taught us women can be successful impresarios (although with her estimated net worth at $2.8 billion, we’d say Oprah is slightly more than just successful).
Jane Fonda was an anti-Vietnam war activist and later in life inspired a generation of women to get active with her fitness videos. She taught us that reinvention is possible at any age: “It’s never too late – never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.”
Princess Diana’s life was tragically cut short, but her inspiring work with AIDs sufferers and anti-landmine campaigns means that Diana truly was “The People’s Princess”. She taught us that everyone in the society deserves to have a voice.
Five British girls with unusual nicknames managed to revolutionise the global pop music scene and took no prisoners whilst they were at it. Yes, we’re talking about The Spice Girls. They taught us quite simply, GIRL POWER!
Best known as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, Emma Watson has become an outspoken voice in the fight for global women’s rights and how men should be more involved in feminism. She taught us that both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.
Malala Yousafzai survived a Taliban assassination attempt as retaliation for her activism for girls’ education and went on to be the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She taught us at the age of 20, we can change the world through our words and our work.
Graduate of Princeton and Harvard, intellectual property lawyer and devoted mother, we’re not sure that there’s anything Michelle Obama cannot do. Obama is an inspiration to young girls everywhere, who she encourages to ‘spread your wings and soar’.
Often regarded as the greatest female tennis player of all time, Serena Williams is a 23-time grand slam winner and won 2017 Australian Open whilst two months pregnant! She taught us body positivity: in her own words, “I’m really exciting. I smile a lot, I win a lot and I’m really sexy.”
Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and the founder of the Lean In Foundation, a non-profit organisation offering women the ongoing inspiration and support to help them achieve their goals. She taught us to be fearless: as she puts it: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
Greta Thunberg created the global movement, School Strike for Climate Change, and went on to be named Time‘s 2019 Person of the Year. She taught us that as a schoolchild, no matter your age or your size, you can make a difference.
They all took a leap, to chase their dreams and managed to find a way to make them come true. Let these inspiring women light a fire in you to finally take a leap and dive wholeheartedly into chasing your dreams.
Being a Woman In Today’s World
Being a woman in today’s world means being a warrior for change. Being a woman today means using your voice to empower others to create positive change. Women today realize that helping other women achieve their aspirations is just as important as achieving their own. The best ally we have is in each other. And if we want to see the change so that more and more women break the glass ceiling, have the same opportunities as men, and receive equal pay, it must begin with us helping each other.
We stand on the shoulders of the brilliant women who went before us. Every day we try to always be aware of what they have afforded us and we are grateful for everything. On International Women’s Day, we will not just celebrate those women - we will call for all women to use whatever privilege we have, that was hard-won, to speak up, shout out and forge forward.