Happy International Women’s Day tall and glorious ladies. This year more than ever it seems incredibly important to appreciate and reflect on the accomplishments of fellow women. We are often so caught up in the everyday that sometimes it takes ‘International Days’ like IWD to draw our attention away from hectic mornings at work and pinging WhatsApp group messages, to consider the bigger picture.
According to British historian Bettany Hughes, women occupy 0.5% of recorded history. Seeing as we are 50% of the population this is a fact in desperate need of some attention. It got me thinking about the women in history, ancient and recent, who I have developed enormous crushes on. From looking at their portraits to reading their biographies it is impossible not to fall for these historic heroines. So to mark IWD I would like to tell you about five women who as well as being pioneering in their accomplishments, also happen to belong to our tribe of tall women.
Queen of the Celtic Iceni, warrior
Died 60 AD
Boudicca was married to Prasutagus, ruler of the Iceni people of East Anglia. When they were conquered by the Romans, Boudicca was flogged and her daughters were raped. These actions caused widespread resentment towards the Romans. In 60 AD Boudicca led a rebellion against the Romans; defeating their Ninth Legion and destroying parts of Roman Britain and London.
Described by Tacitus, Boudicca was said to be ‘tall, with tawny hair hanging down to below her waist, a harsh voice and a piercing glare.’ She was perfect warrior material. Although Boudicca went on to be defeated by the Romans her story inspired women over the coming centuries.
Both Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria referenced Boudicca as proof of the strength of warrior queens and a warning that they were not to be messed with.
Artist, poet, supermodel
Image: self portrait – preraphaelitesisterhood.com
Described by William Rossetti as ‘tall, finely-formed with a lofty neck and regular yet somewhat uncommon features’, it is clear that Lizzie Siddal was an unconventional beauty who’s long red hair and graceful stance attracted the attention of many of the leading artists of her time. These included; William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and most notably her husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Starting out as a shopgirl in a milliners, her links with the Pre-Raphaelites elevated her status from a working class background to artist’s muse and later on allowed her to focus on her own art and poetry. Yet today she is most remembered as the supermodel of the Pre-Raphaelite years, the Lizzie Siddal her admirers captured on canvas continues to be the iconic definition of this era of art.
Madam C J Walker
Civil rights activist, philanthropist, entrepreneur
Although C J Walker was born in a cotton plantation in Louisiana in 1867, she went on to be the first American woman to be a self-made millionaire. When she was 14 she worked as a washerwoman to send her daughter to public school and in her evenings she attending night school. C J Walker developed a skin disorder that caused her to lose much of her hair. So she started to experiment in making remedies to ease her condition. Through her experiments she came to the attention of a product entrepreneur who helped her to advertise her products to other African American women in the area.
Her products were a hit! She soon started travelling across America promoting her hair and skin products and in 1908 she opened up a factory to meet the demand of her business.C J Walker travelled extensively promoting her brand, and her daughter was also keenly involved in the business and charity work her mother was now able to do. When she died in 1919 her personal fortune was estimated at $600,000 which, by today’s standards, would have made her a multi millionaire.
Dame Cicely Saunders
Founder of the modern hospice movement
Cicely Saunders was a pivotal force in establishing the discipline and the culture of palliative care today. As well as setting up St Christopher’s Hospice, she introduced effective pain management and insisted that dying people needed dignity, compassion, and respect.
Cicely was a visionary in her field of work. She took on the challenge of raising £480,000 to build St Christopher’s hospice. Gaining support from a wide spectrum of society; the hospice had a great many volunteers and support in kind from local people.
When Cicely was a young girl she often felt like an outsider because she was taller than other girls and she suffered from a crooked spine. She was driven by kindness and empathy for others; she would often be found reading to patients and generously giving her free time to those in need of care. Her work was commended and she was made a Dame in 1975.
The ever controversial Germaine Greer has been on the front line of feminism for the past thirty years and has had an enormous impact on how women are viewed and how we view themselves. She wrote The Female Eunuch in 1970 and became an international household name.
In the thirty years since she has worked tirelessly, deconstructing the ideas of womanhood and femininity. Fighting for women’s liberation and rights and paving the way for modern day feminists like Caitlin Moran and Laura Bates. Another aspect that makes me proud of Germaine is that she has never been apologetic or afraid to flaunt her height. She is proudly 6ft tall, wears mini skirts and stands up for what she believes in.
Get involved in International Women’s Day
Head to the IWD website or follow the hashtags #IWD2017 #BeBoldForChange