Who Shaped the World we live in?

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English: Israeli foreign minister Golda Meir v...
English: Israeli foreign minister Golda Meir visiting President Kennedy עברית: ראה”מ גולדה מאיר עם הנשיא קנדי בעת ביקורה בארצות הברית (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our lives have been changed dramatically by women who have contributed to the way we live. The modern female lifestyle imperative known as ‘having it all’ has become a cursed nuisance for most women; and those who appear to juggle a full-time job, childcare, most (nearly all in most cases) of the housework and a social life, while looking blissfully relaxed, tend to be viewed with suspicion rather than admiration. but it is more than fair to say that women have and will continue to have a massively dramatic influence over how we live.

So… who were the movers and shakers of the last century?

Emmeline Pankhurst

Co-founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst was a British political activist and leader of the suffragette movement, alongside her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. In 1929, after decades of protests, women over the age of 21 were granted the right to vote. Her methods… persuasion, argument, protest and direct action (including if she felt necessary violence). We have much to thank her for.

Edith Summerskill

In 1964, progressive social reformer and qualified doctor Edith Summerskill sought a private member’s bill to enhance The Married Women’s Property Act, which entitled a woman to keep half of any savings she had made from the allowance she is given by her husband. As part of her campaigning to assure the equal rights of housewives and of divorced women, Summerskill also helped pass the Matrimonial Homes Act in 1967, which gave rights to wives to remain in their own homes after family breakdown.
Dr Marie Stopes

Scottish-born doctor and birth control pioneer Marie Carmichael Stopes (1880 – 1958), was best known for her campaigns to raise awareness about birth control and family planning. She founded the first birth control clinic in Britain and later focused on the needs of the developing world. Some might not hold with her views, and I’m thinking Roman Catholic Pope here but family planning in modern developed countries is central to government planning for spending and investment.
Barbara Castle

One of the first of women to breakthrough into mainstream British politics, from 1945 Barbara Castle spent her career passionately campaigning for change. Her achievement include the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1970, radically reforming pensions and bringing in child benefit as a payment to mothers rather than through the father’s pay packet.
Equal pay for equal work; still a dream in some parts of the world and remains something of a struggle in some developed nations, the UK included.

Australian feminist writer Germaine Greer transformed conversations about women’s rights, from equality to liberation. Her bestselling non-fiction book The Female Eunuch, published in 1970, sparked a debate about female sexual repression and the commodification of women’s bodies in modern society, which continues today. I have to admit that whenever I notice she’s appearing on some sort of a debate show I’ll invariably try to make sure I watch it. She’s a gem for sharp, to the point comment.

Conservative MP Margaret Thatcher became the first British female prime minister in 1979. Thatcher held her role as PM for 11 years. I do include her because she has influenced our lives but I do not feel it was in any way positive. What she did do though was achieve on her own merits but honestly give me Golda Meir any time. She was probably the first woman PM who wasn’t in position as a result of family death.
Oprah Winfrey

As the richest black woman in America and one of the most influential women in the world, Oprah Winfrey is an inspirational figure. Born to a single teenager mother, she raised herself out of poverty, and went on become a trusted voice on American television. Her confessional style of broadcasting, which encourages honesty and self-love, has helped her create a media empire, which has been invested in a multi-million dollar charitable foundation. Again not one of my personal favorites but influential nonetheless.

Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (1991) and pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi has spent years under house arrest in her native home of Burma, as she fought against the country’s military junta. She was eventually released in 2010 and able to deliver her Nobel acceptance speech at Oslo’s City Hall in 2012. More inspiration than action at the moment but I think she will deliver on a massive scale.
Doreen Lawrence

Described by Ed Milliband as “a hero of modern Britain” Lawrence led a long campaign to find out what happened to her son, who was killed in a racially aggravated attack in 1993. Her campaign to find out the truth led to the exposure of institutional racism within the Metropolitan Police. She has now joined the House of Lords as a Labour Peer. One of my personal favorites who we could all learn from in so many ways.

In 1998, British Labour politician Mo Mowlam oversaw the signing of the Good Friday Peace Agreement, after nearly two years of talks and 30 years of conflict. Tenacity personified. there are countless places on the planet that could learn from her methods. I have formed the impression that Mo Mowlam, like Golda Meir simple forced through what she wanted by sheer force of character.
We all of us men, women and children live our lives in the light (or shadow in some cases) of these influential women.
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