Friday 8th March is International Women’s Day. To mark it we are asking YOU to tell us about some of the women who inspire you, from historical figures to present-day icons. Each day we will be focusing on a different theme - keep an eye out for more information in the London Center Reception and on social media. We will have daily polls where you can vote for the women who inspire you most, culminating in a final vote on Friday, so make sure you take part! Our themes will be:
Monday 4th - Women in Film and TV
Tuesday 5th - Literature
Wednesday 6th - Politics
Thursday 7th - Music
To get us started, some of our staff have chosen some films, books, musicians and political figures to explore further:
"A fascinating, but quite challenging film is the documentary "Banaz: A Love Story" by the Norwegian film-maker and campaigner, Deeyah Khan. It chronicles the life and tragic death of Banaz Mahmod, a young girl of Kurdish heritage who was murdered by members of her own family in South London in 2006. I should be clear, it is a harrowing tale. Many are affected by it but also tremendously moved, not least by the solidarity of women and activists of all cultures to seek justice for women and girls facing violence and sexual violence in the face patriarchal systems in many cultures."
"My music nomination would be Joan Baez, because as well as being an incredible singer she has been a tireless activist, campaigner and protester for over 60 years! During the 60s she was a prominent campaigner for civil rights and in the 1970s was involved in setting up the US section of Amnesty International. She is often unfairly overshadowed by Bob Dylan, despite the fact SHE arguably made HIM famous and not the other way around, and she can sing a lot better than him!
I'd be hard-pushed to choose my favourite track, but Diamonds and Rust is one of the most beautiful (even though it's about Dylan), What Have They Done to the Rain? is a chilling protest song and We Shall Overcome is arguably the song that brought her to prominence."
"In terms of films I put forward 'A League of Their Own' which is about the 1940's women’s professional baseball league that was formed because so many US men were at World War II. For those who have not seen it, it’s done in a light-hearted way and depicts the teams struggle to be taken seriously so should be student friendly. It stars Madonna (yes her) and Geena Davis who is the strong female lead."
"Andrea Levy, who sadly died this year, was born in London of Jamaican-Jewish ancestry. Her background and experience of growing up in the UK as a black woman in a predominantly white country gave her a unique perspective on life. She has often been dubbed “The Chronicler of the Windrush Generation”, with her work taking on a poignant significance in light of the Windrush scandal, and an adaptation of her novel “Small Island” will be showing at the National Theatre from April."
"Joan Littlewood was a formidable theatre-maker and has been known as the Mother of Modern Theatre. She is especially known for the satirical musical “Oh, What a Lovely War!”"
"It would be wrong to forget about Ariana Grande, who not only has managed to release two incredible albums in the past 6 months, but just won a Grammy for Sweetener. Grande is the first solo artist in history to occupy the top three spots on the Billboard Hot 100, and the overall second artist to do so since The Beatles did in 1964. She’s only 25, but what a woman!"
"A little over a century ago, on 15 January 1919, the German state executed a 47-year-old revolutionary, Rosa Luxemburg, without trial. She was tortured by government-sponsored paramilitaries, knocked down with the butt of a rifle, and shot in the head; her body was then thrown into the Landwehr Canal in Berlin. On Monday evening, a commemorative plaque to Luxemburg on the Landwehr was vandalised with right wing graffiti. If Rosa Luxemburg was dangerous in 1919, then, she remains so right now. Why?
One of her most famous publications was an 1899 pamphlet, Social Reform or Revolution?, which savaged some of the prevailing ideas of the German left. Luxemburg made explicit the limits of reformism, saying that it amounted to 'the suppression of the abuses of capitalism instead of suppression of capitalism itself'. We note that the author of this extraordinary work was not just a young woman but also Jewish, disabled (she walked with a limp her whole life), and a Polish immigrant.
To read Rosa Luxemburg now, a hundred years on from her murder, is to prepare oneself for the fight for a better world."
"Sylvia Pankhurst was a militant suffragette, a lifelong campaigner for democracy, a writer, an artist and a newspaper editor. Unlike her more famous mother, Emmeline Pankhurst, and older sister, Christabel Pankhurst, who were also leading suffragettes, Sylvia never made peace with the British establishment. A Foreign Office official wrote about Sylvia Pankhurst to the British consul-general in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: “We agree wholeheartedly with you in your evident wish that this horrid old harridan should be choked to death with her own pamphlets.”
As a militant suffragette, using direct action and civil disobedience to draw attention to the cause of women’s suffrage which had been ignored and ridiculed by parliamentarians for over 50 years, Pankhurst was imprisoned on numerous occasions. Unlike Emmeline and Christabel, Sylvia insisted that the struggle for women’s political rights had to involve the vast majority of women, who were working-class, and had to be connected to the social and economic changes they wanted to see. Hated and ridiculed all her life by the British establishment, Sylvia Pankhurst, I think, remains an inspiration to everyone who wants to create a more democratic society free from oppression and exploitation."
Which women inspire you? Every day next week we’ll be promoting a different theme so we can appreciate different women who have made a difference - so make sure you stay tuned on all of our social media!