Wonder Women – Women’s History Month

16 Mar

For this blog, we’re going for a slight departure from the norm………. unusually for Purple Grape this blog won’t be about food……..it won’t be about events………….it won’t even be about a venue. Today we want to celebrate! March is Women’s history month, recognising the contributions and achievements of women throughout history. Hopefully one day we won’t need a women’s history month any more than we need a ‘men’s history month’ but for now we’ll take the opportunity to shout about the amazing contributions women make that deserve to be celebrated, from the everyday to the extraordinary.

I thought that this blog would be really easy to write – there are so many inspirational women through history how could it possibly be difficult? But then I realised….the difficulty is that there are so many inspirational women through history! How on Earth was I going to whittle down the huge list and all that information and awesomeness into one blog post? Then I realised, we’re an office of pretty awesome women ourselves, so I decided to ask the Purple Grape office: Who is your inspirational woman?

Of course, these names are by no means exclusive to us – one of the first to come up was Malala Yousafzai, who appears on lists of inspirational women around the world! The thing is, Malala was just eleven when she gave her first speech denouncing the Taliban’s attempts to prevent girls from receiving an education and at twelve she began blogging for the BBC about the military action in her area and her fears that her school would be attacked. How could someone so determined that no one would deny her the right to an education and a future not be an inspiration? In the UK, thankfully, we don’t have to fight any more for a girl’s right to education, but in Pakistan Malala had to and even after being shot on her way home from school she has continued that fight, becoming a global advocate for female education. In 2014, Malala became the youngest person ever to receive a Nobel Peace Prize at only 17. If that’s not inspiring I don’t know what is!

Another incredibly young woman mentioned was Nadia Comaneci, the first gymnast ever to score a perfect 10 at the Olympics…..aged 14. Comaneci is a great example of sheer determination to succeed, aged 6 she began training 2-3 hours each day and entered her first competition at 7………….finishing in thirteenth place. Not to be put off, Comaneci returned the following year and won the competition. By 12 she was training 8 hours a day, 6 days a week – if you think about it, that’s more than a lot of adult’s full time jobs, pretty intense! As @PGJulieW says:

“As a fairly average gymnast from 7-15, I trained on average 6 hours per week around school.  I watched a biopic about Nadia which made me realise the dedication, innate talent and strength of character it takes to become a sporting great.  Every time I watch that bar routine – I well up with emotion and upmost respect.”

I have to admit, until this conversation I’d never actually watched the footage of the routine but now that I’ve seen it I know exactly what Julie means! If you haven’t seen it you really should check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m2YT-PIkEc

Now, tell me you’re not inspired to go out and go after your goals with everything you’ve got?

With us all being foodies, it would be very strange if there were no chefs mentioned so, let’s talk about the powerhouse that was Julia Child. Unlike our previous picks, Child didn’t begin her inspiring career until she was well into her thirties – in fact, it has been said that before she met her husband, Paul Child, she showed no interest at all in cooking, making do with frozen food! But Paul’s posting to Paris in 1948 changed all of that, Julia enrolled in the prestigious Cordon Bleu cooking school and the rest, as they say, is history.

Whilst appearing on television to promote her book Mastering the art of French Cooking Julia whipped up an omelette on air and a star was born! The audience loved her straightforward, down to earth approach and, coupled with her belief that cooking was for everyone and a hearty sense of humour, this ensured that she became a household name for years to come. If you’ve never seen any of Julia’s appearances, take a look at this compilation of funny and friendly moments from The French Chef: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9AITdJBTnQ

The fashion designer and icon Dame Vivienne Westwood is @PGSteph’s choice, and it’s easy to see why – with a career spanning five decades and an attitude that is very much take me or leave me (she was a punk before the world knew what punk was!) Westwood is already pretty impressive. Add to that the fact that she now uses her public popularity and fame to raise issues such as climate change and challenge modern ‘throw-away’ consumerism and you have a definitely inspiring woman. From dressing the Sex pistols in 1974 (with her then partner and their manager Malcom McClaren) to being named Britain’s Greatest Fashion Designer in 2011, Westwood shows no sign of slowing down, using her recent collections to highlight the causes she is passionate about – see her Spring/Summer 2016 shoot ‘Mirror the World’ which is about saving Venice from the damage inflicted by mass tourism and climate change amongst other problems.

Finally, for me (and, as it turns out, @PGEmily too) this blog post wouldn’t have been complete without mentioning the phenomenal woman herself, Maya Angelou. Angelou took her difficult childhood spent in Arkansas (including the experiences of racial prejudice and discrimination, as well as sexual abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend, his resulting murder by her uncles and years of mutism as a result of the trauma) and turned it into possibly her most recognised work, her memoir I know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This work became the first non-fiction best-seller by an African American woman.  Writing was not, however, Angelou’s only interest – she was also a talented dancer, actor, director, songwriter, producer, singer and poet (she was nominated for a Tony, an Emmy and the Pulitzer prize and won a Grammy award – best spoken word album – for the audio recording of her poem On the Pulse of Morning which she recited at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration)!

As if all of that wasn’t enough reason to be inspired by this amazing woman, Angelou was also a life-long activist, from the civil rights struggles of the 50s and 60s to personally lobbying legislators in support of marriage equality reminding them:

“To love someone takes a lot of courage, so how much more is one challenged when the love is of the same sex and the laws say, ‘I forbid you from loving this person’?”

She was friends with both Martin Luther King and Malcom X, she knew Nelson Mandela, marched with Gloria Steinem and was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honour in the US) by President Obama in 2010. This woman was not messing around!

Thinking about Maya Angelou, and all of these amazing women reminds me just how much we all have to offer and what we can achieve if we just put our minds to it…………….and this is only a tiny selection of the inspirational women out there! Who inspires you? Why? If you’re not sure – go and find out! And when you do, let us know in the comments, we may have made our list but there’s always room on it, there will always be room for phenomenal women….



Featured Image: Karen Arnold via www.publicdomainpictures.net
Web links: www.malala.org