Policy Press: Women who inspire us #WD2015

International Women's Day in Egypt Credit:Al_Jazeera_English_(102)

International Women’s Day in Egypt Credit: Al Jazeera English

In the spirit of celebration for International Women’s Day we’ve been chatting in the Policy Press office about the women who have inspired us. Read on to find out who the women are we admire most and why…

Director Alison Shaw says that many women have influenced her at different times in her life, including too many feminist writers to even begin to list. She says:

“As for many people, my mum, Pat Shaw, and my grandmother, May Bottomley, were the first women to influence and inspire – both remarkably gentle, caring, selfless like so many women of their generations – yet mum was extraordinarily stoical when faced with cancer at 50 and showed amazing resolve and fortitude, characteristics that had always been there yet never given full expression until facing a true life challenge.

An inspiring political figure for me is Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, founding member and chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and now UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Change.

Her record on trying to make a real and lasting difference to gender equality, women’s participation in peace building and human rights internationally is amazing and her continuing work as one of The Elders inspiring.”

Crazy dreams

Editorial Assistant Rebecca Tomlinson is equally challenged by the notion of picking just one inspirational woman in her life! The two women she settles on from a long list of possibles are author J.K. Rowling and her ‘lovely’ mum. She says:

“I am very lucky in that I come from a family full of intelligent, strong and amazing women. Growing up, I was always encouraged to follow my passions and (often crazy) dreams, sometimes even if it was at the detriment of school or work.

I remember once telling my Mum that I was going to drop out of University, move to London and become a DJ. She just smiled and said “whatever makes you happy”. She has always actively encouraged my love of reading and writing and without that I probably wouldn’t have the passion for books that I do today.

In my opinion J.K. Rowling is also a great role model and inspiration to both women and men. A single mum who struggled with depression, she managed to write Harry Potter whilst living on state benefits and has forged an incredibly successful career doing what she loves.”

Overcoming obstacles

Rebecca isn’t alone in her appreciation of J.K.Rowling. Production and Publishing assistant Ruth Harrison also names the Harry Potter author as her number one inspirational person. Ruth says:

“JK Rowling overcame many obstacles including the poverty she experienced as a single mother. She now supports a number of charities including Lumos, a children’s charity, and uses her success to help make the world a better place. Plus, my 12-year-old self will always be a Harry Potter fan.”

Writers have always had the ability to leave their mark on us as readers as was the case with Marketing Manager Kathryn King’s inspirational woman, Vera Brittain. Kathryn says:

“..she was doing it in an era when it was much harder for women”

“I read all 3 of her Testament books around the time I decided to do my degree. She really inspired me to make that step as she was doing it in an era when it was much harder for women.

Then, having fought to get to Oxford, she gave up her place to go and nurse in France so that she could understand what the war was like for those involved. That experience politicised her and she dedicated her life to pacifism.”

Marketing Executive Jessica Miles’ choice is decidedly political. Her inspirational woman is Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the suffragette movement. Jessica says:

“At a time when so many people are disillusioned by politics, I think we should remember how hard Pankhurst and the other women in the movement fought to get women the vote. For this reason alone we should vote, even if it’s a case of choosing the ‘best of the worst’.

“Pankhurt’s approach of protest and direct action is inspiring”

I think Pankhurt’s approach of protest and direct action is inspiring. It’s easy to sit back and moan about the world, but much more challenging to be proactive and get involved in making change happen. We should take these women as our lead.”

Courage and selflessness

A woman who was prepared to go to extreme places for the benefit of others inspired Journals Executive Kim Eggleton. Kim says she was about 10 when she first came across the story of a lady called Gladys Aylward:

Gladys Aylward

Gladys Aylward

“We watched a film at school called The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, about a woman from London who wanted to go to China as a missionary. I’ve been inspired by that woman ever since.

Gladys Aylward was turned down as a missionary because of her poor academic background and lack of Chinese language skills, but she spent her life-savings on a ticket and went anyway – completely alone on the Trans-Siberian Express.

Initially she worked for the government as a foot inspector, enforcing the law against foot-binding before later founding an orphanage. In 1938 Aylward led over 100 orphaned children across the mountains to safety from advancing Japanese forces. I find her courage and selflessness completely inspiring, what an incredible woman!”

History, both public and personal, is where Production Editor Jo Morton draws her inspiration from.  What connects the choices of Queen Elizabeth I and her nan, Alice Daniels, is the way both women defied the pressures of social convention. Jo says:

“I’ve always admired Elizabeth I’s determination to reign in her own right, in an era when women were expected to yield to male authority. She was not coerced (like Mary her sister) into contracting a marriage in order to appease her male councillers and secure the succession.

“…quietly but firmly stood her ground against social and family conventions”

Alice Daniels, 1940s

Alice Daniels, 1940s

On a personal level I would say my nan, Alice Louisa Daniels, was a real inspiration for me. She ran the family shop (during wartime when stocks were hard to maintain) while my grandad had a full time job elsewhere. She quietly but firmly stood her ground against social and family conventions that demanded she give up her job to take on the care of my grandad’s brother when his mother died. She knew that his challenging mental and physical health problems could be better cared for elsewhere. She was also a source of traditional wisdom – folklore, herbal remedies, proverbs, wise words – a connection with a disappearing world.”

Intelligence and expertise

Marketing Executive Susannah Emery takes her inspiration from a more contemporary figure, scholar Mary Beard, who received abuse for her opinions on immigrant workers in the UK. She says:

“I love her because she coped with the terrible social media barrage against her and, I think, came out of it acting as a of a role model for women being taken seriously for their intelligence and expertise rather than looks.”

The same spirit of standing ground on matters of social consciousness inspired Executive Assistant Sophie Osborne’s choice of singer-songwriter Patti Smith. Sophie says:

“It all began with Patti’s tribute to Kurt Cobain ‘About a boy’ and from that point forward I made it my point to be a little bit Patti. Beyond her breathtaking music and poetry Patti’s pursuit of social justice, her rebellious attitude and pure sassiness are something I hope to carry throughout my life.”

We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the women that have inspired some of us at Policy Press. If you feel inspired to tell us about amazing women in your life we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

#makeithappen #WD2015 #internationalwomensday #womensday

1 Response to “Policy Press: Women who inspire us #WD2015”


  1. 1 Gordon March 11, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    I’m surprised there is no mention of Malala Yousafza


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