In honour of International Women’s Day , we asked our staff to choose famous women who inspire or have inspired them . There was quite a mix of entries. Don’t forget to scroll down to view our vocabulary & definitions!
I love Grace as she is stunning, androgynous, fearless, seriously stylish and made some of my favourite music of the 1980s.
Rita Levi Montalcini
Levi-Montalcini was born on 22 April 1909 in Turin, to a wealthy Sephardi Jewish family. During World War II she set up a laboratory in her bedroom and studied the growth of nerve fibers in chicken embryos, which laid the groundwork for much of her later research.
When the Germans invaded Italy in 1943 her family fled south to Florence, where she set up a second laboratory in her living space. During this time she also volunteered her medical expertise for the Allied health service. She seemed able to face with equal equanimity the rigours of fascist cruelty and suppression that she was dealt as a Jew; the problems of practising underground medicine in wartime; the difficulties posed by prejudice and discrimination against women; and the near isolation and challenges of those working at the cutting edge of science.
In 1952, she did her most important work: isolating nerve growth factor (NGF) from observations of certain cancerous tissues that cause extremely rapid growth of nerve cells.
This suggested to Montalcini that the tumor itself was releasing a substance that was stimulating the growth of nerves. She was made a full professor in 1958.
From 1961 to 1969 she directed the Research Center of Neurobiology of the CNR (Rome), and from 1969 to 1978 the Laboratory of Cellular Biology.
Rita Levi Montalcini promoted Italian science and women scientists wherever she went
By the 70s, Levi-Montalcini was already deeply involved in cultural and social affairs, and had become increasingly vocal on the problems faced by female scientists. She lectured widely but did not preach. Her own research showed that, even by the 1980s, the proportion of senior research and academic posts held by women remained small. By the 90s, however, she acknowledged that things were changing. “After centuries of dormancy,” she wrote, “young women … can now look toward a future moulded by their own hands.”In 1986, Levi-Montalcini and collaborator Stanley Cohen received the Nobel price in Medicine. Perhaps because of her earlier experiences, Levi-Montalcini felt strongly about supporting women in her own lab and work. She firmly believed that women could do the work if given the opportunity. Her well-groomed, elegant appearance couple with her warm, caring personality made her a sought-after mentor and role model.
In 1987, she received the National Medal of Science, the highest American scientific honor.
When asked to write about a woman who inspired me for this blog post on International Woman’s day , I was left befuddled because so many women are doing inspiring things around the world ! Just yesterday while watching Amy Goodman’s informative (& inspiring) programme – Democracy Now, I was in awe of the Turkish women who defied a ban to rally for gender equality in Turkey recently or The Honduran Indigenous Leader & the Goldman Environmental Prize winner Berta Cáceres who was recently assassinated in her own home after of years of fighting for indigenous land rights. How about this woman Jenny Beavan who won Best costume designer at the Oscars and was lambasted by the media for her choice of outfit!
Oh … please I say!
These women are fighting the good fight in my opinion ! It’s so hard to pick just one but to lighten the mood a bit how about a pop icon of the 80s? Janet Jackson! Here’s my theory – In 1989, Janet was talking about how we were apart of a rhythm nation - united as humans across this big old world and not divided by race or creed ..
Just read her lyrics..
With music by our side
To break the color lines
Let’s work together
To improve our way of life
How many modern pop icons are singing about these topics today?
In the 80s, Janet was teaching us to stay in school and not be ignorant fools! Just read her lyrics from her song “Knowledge” from that same album .
Listen it’s up to everyone
If we’re gonna change the way the world is run
The way to start is to rid the children of
Prejudice & ignorance
We’ve gotta teach our kids to read and write
That’s the only way to win this fight for life
Education is the goal so
If you wanna be in the know
Get the knowledge
It’s the one thing we all need in life
Janet sang these lyrics while popping and locking before Britney ever did and she was a force to be reckoned . Plus she had the best hair !
For more information on Janet . Check out her Wiki profile here -
Mini Glossary –
befuddled -cause to become unable to think clearly.
lambasted – criticise (someone or something) harshly.
Women have been inspired by and admired by other women since the birth of time. There have been hundreds of women, famous and friends, who, at different moments in my life I have looked to for support, advice or inspiration, and for a few years now, I have noticed one woman in particular who has been storming through the ranks of women as a bit of a modern day heroine: Victoria Beckham.So, what is it about her? VB was born into an ordinary Essex household, no privilege or leg up in the world, just a normal girl with what everyone supposed to be a normal life ahead of her. Like most of us! But Victoria was destined for far more than life working in an Essex hair salon. After a successful stage audition, she went on to be in the most famous all-girl band of all time, The Spice Girls. Following this, a solo career, TV show cameos, best-selling books, and finally found her creative niche by establishing her own fashion house.
All this achieved wearing a pair of killer heels and her signature pout. But it’s not just fame, style and elegance that makes Victoria admiration-worthy. She is an incredible business woman and creative, not only is her fashion label well-respected by longstanding fashion houses such as Chanel, but she also has a social and environmental conscience; she is famous for championing faux fur, is a patron of Elton John’s AIDS Foundation and has made vast contributions to the Save the Children Fund. Speaking of children, she is also a devoted wife and mother of four. The perfect example of female success.You might think all this power, influence and life in the celebrity fast lane might make a person arrogant and egotistical, and it’s true, VB can come across as moody and cold as she is rarely photographed with a smile on her face, but by all accounts, she has a wicked sense of humour, is known as a practical joker, and doesn’t take herself too seriously.So, for me, VB is a truly inspiring person; self-made, intelligent, beautiful, stylish, empathetic, and did I mention she has a super hot husband?
(give somebody) a leg up (noun) – helping someone to improve their situation
killer heels (collocation) – very high heeled and stylish shoes
pout (noun) – Pushing your lips forward as an expression of annoyance or to look sexually attractive
to champion (verb) – A person who supports or defends a person or cause
life in the fast lane (expression) – An exciting and eventful lifestyle, especially one bringing wealth and success
by all accounts – According to what has been heard or read
wicked sense of humour (collocation) – Playfully mischievous
take (somebody) seriously – Think of someone or something as important and worthy of attention
self-made (adjective) – Having become successful or rich by one’s own efforts
Recently I have been following the BBC’s Facebook campaign called 100 Women. The aim of this project is
to get more women in the news. Thanks to this, I read about inspirational women on a daily basis. Some of the women featured are part of big news stories such as Adele and JK Rowling. Other stories focus on women’s rights and issues for example abortion laws around the world and the impact they have on women’s lives, paid maternity leave and cancer. There are also plenty light hearted articles too! Some of the other stories feature unknown women with stories that are just as important to read about but rarely get a voice in the mainstream media.One of the articles that really struck a chord with me was about Balkissa Chaibou
from Niger who was told at the age of 12 that she would have to marry her cousin, in what is known as a forced marriage. Chaibou had dreams of becoming a doctor and was not prepared to give up those dreams even if it meant bringing shame on her family. Niger has a the highest rate of child marriage in the world and it is a tradition that is deeply rooted in the culture of the country. Chaibou asked her mother for help and although he mother was sympathetic to her cause being a women she didn’t haver the power to help her. Chaibou finally turned to her school Principal to help her and he referred her to a NGO which was able to take civil action against her father and uncle for forcing her into a marriage she didn’t want. Her uncle denied the accusations and the case was dropped but he then threatened to kill her. Chaibou was able to seek refuge in a womens shelter and eventually was able to return to school and her studies. She now campaigns for other girls to follow her example and reject forced marriage and has even spoken at an UN summit! What an inspirational young lady!
Find out more about Chaibou and other inspiration women through www.facebook.com/BBC100women