On twitter at the moment, there’s a wonderful thing going round encouraging women to tag 10 inspirational women. Taking part, I was thinking about the women who either as friends, mentors or inspirations from afar have influenced me. Whether they’ve established new and exciting ways of working, supported me personally or enacted change and creativity with others, I’ve been really lucky to know these amazing women in different ways.
But of course, there’s plenty missing. Twitter is only the twitter sphere, a wee bubble, and depending on my mood either an anxiety machine, or a place to connect and share. In my work, I talk a lot about how we’re not work robots and what we learn in the training room isn’t just for our jobs; it’s for our communities, our families and our institutions.
We all know instinctively that despite our individualised lives, we are not separate from each other, we are deeply connected. What inspires us in one place, shapes us in all our spaces. So my inspirational women include not only my family, my mum, my sister, my aunts, they also include those I’ve worked with, connected with, those who are committed, kind and compassionate.
My Nan was one of the greatest influences on me. She was a powerhouse. Her early life was incredibly hard, the daughter of a single mother during the war, surviving in whatever way she could, there was little she didn’t hear or know by the time she was a teenager. Pregnant at 15, she and my grandad built a wonderful, strong, family with four children, a café then a pub, the yearly cruise and the famous open house Christmas party. And open house was exactly what it was, divorces, step-grandchildren, friends of the family whose connections were lost in the mists of time, everyone was welcome. She loved family. She was bold, hilarious and kind. She had a filthy laugh and strong temper. She was fantastic. I’m so proud to be her granddaughter, and when she died she left a huge gap in all our lives. There are literally a gazzilion of us now, all over the UK and we have both a busy whataspp group and a yearly trip to the Isle of Sheppey to remember her and my Grandad, her legacy in all of us, remains in our shared commitment to family and community.
There a millions of women like my grandmother who would never be on twitter, let alone have the recognition they deserve. Her background wasn’t one that would be celebrated, a teenage parent, a café cook, a mum, and she certainly wouldn’t show up in any history books about strong women who changed the world. But she did. She changed all our worlds; her strength, her outspokenness, her warmth, her complexity. Her legacy isn’t just our shared loved of a good party, but it’s how all of us, cousins, second cousins, aunts, uncles continue to fight for what we believe in. Even if we don’t always agree, we’re more than happy to share exactly what we’re thinking. And that is her gift to me; to be bold, to be kind, to “keep stirring the pot” (as she told me when I was involved in slutwalk), I’m so very grateful to have had her in my life, and I am continuously inspired by her memory.
When we're thinking about how we are inspired, shaped, driven, let's also acknowledge the lives we've seen behind the scenes, the strength in the ordinary. The everyday acts of courage and kindness that shape who we are. Here's to all the inspirational women that we don't know.