That women are remarkably underrepresented in almost every sector of life is a sobering fact yet to be addressed in any country across the world. Film, television, banking, politics; the push against poor gender representation has been both public and provocative. You probably know about these issues, and you'll also probably know that women are grossly underrepresented in the literary world, too.

From George Eliot in the 19th century to JK Rowling in the 1990s, women have resorted to masculinising their names in order to be taken seriously by critics before, and since the offset of printing began. Female authors review less, are reviewed less, and find it harder to get published. These figures are even more staggeringly disheartening for women of colour.

Still, there are some aspects of gender disparity that don't receive nearly as much attention as they deserve. The business of translating novels from around the world is growing year by year, yet women represent less than 30% of novels, short stories and poems translated into English. This is where 'Women in Translation Month' comes in.

Kicked off by Blogger Meytal Radzinski in 2014, and celebrated annually every August, #WITmonth honours female authors from all across the globe by encouraging readers to support women in translation. Wondering what you can do to help? Get yourself over to your local bookstore, and make the next novel you walk out with one by a translated woman. Stuck for ideas? Here are seven worldly female authors that should be on every book lover's TBR list.

1. The Tale of Genji


Chances are, if you were to ask the general population when the first modern novel was written, and by whom, the vast majority would be able to recall a certain iconic book by Spanish author Miguel De Cervantes, published in 1605. They would be around 600 years and 6,000 miles away from the right answer.

Outdating Don Quixote by a large number of centuries was Hikaru Genji, the son of an ancient Japanese Emperor and the invention of Japanese Lady-in-Waiting, Murasaki Shikibu. Despite the world's first ever novel being written by a Japanese woman, today female authors from Japan represent just 28% of the country's translations.

2. The House of the Spirits


This debut novel from the now-prolific author Isabel Allende, Chile, was an instant best seller in most Spanish-speaking countries, and remains a classic to this day, having been translated into over 37 different languages. The novel began as a letter to Allende's dying grandfather, and ended as an epic story of the Trueba family, spanning four generations. If you liked Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Huraki Murakami or Toni Morrisson, make this the next novel on your TBR list.

It has also been adapted into a film, but rather disappointingly replaced the roles of Allende's very much  Latin- American characters with some very white actors.  Skip the rather lacking Meryl Streep interpretation, and go straight to reading the book instead.

3. Gigi & the Cat 


A hallmark of Parisian culture, Colette is one of France's best known authors, yet women represent just 27% of the French literature translated into English.

Here is the review I left on Goodreads; although it is not so favourable, the book is well-loved by many across the world and shouldn't be disregarded by any means.

"I wasn't sure what to think of this one, and found myself pretty much just racing to finish so I could move on to my next book. The language was beautiful, but reviews of Colette's work maintain that "her books offer a manual on how to live fearlessly and joyfully" - perhaps I missed the point, but I didn't see much of that here. The characters were hard to relate to, the internal dialogue and people seemed unnatural and too constructed, with very little reason to sympathise or care for them. "The Cat" was the most enjoyable story, having a little more tension and energy to it, but I still found little to enjoy about it and instead found myself itching to finish it. Perhaps it's a little too out of my time and culture, but I won't be rushing to pick up another book by Colette anytime soon."

4. Clarice Lispector


Despite being hailed as one of the most influential and innovative short-story writers of the 20th century, the complete collection of her works was only just published fully for the first time, in English less than one year ago when it was picked up under the 'Penguin Modern Classics' collection.

Born in Ukraine, raised in Brazil, Lispector herself is one of literature's most fascinating women. She has had several books written about her, and her works are routinely mentioned in Brazillian pop culture. Although Lispector passed away prematurely aged just 56, after suffering a bad accident some years before, the complete anthology of her works contrains no less than 85 stories and has recieved favourable reviews from just about everyone; including the New York Times and Vogue. Compared to Nabakov and James Joyce, Clarice Lispector is one of the most underrated genuises of modern literature.

5. Persepolis 


This autobiographical graphic novel takes us through Marjane Satrapi's childhood in Iran and Austria, during and after the Islamic revolution. It is beautifully told, beautifully illustrated and one of the most influential graphic novels in the world. Originally printed in French, it has since been translated into over 24 different languages. It touches on religion, politics, culture, and western imperialism, with a strong but incredibly astute and relevant message.

This is the review I left on Goodreads;

"I finished this in less than 24 hours. I just couldn't put it down. Marjane is quite a divisive voice, but that's part of what makes the book so commanding. It's emotionally powerful but also an incredible insight into the recent history of Iran from a very personal perspective. Highly recommended."

6. Woman at Point Zero 


Women at Point Zero is a novel by Egyptian author Nawal Al Saadawi, inspired by her encounter with a woman in Qanatir Prison. It tackles some heavy subjects; FGM, arranged marriages, domestic abuse and sexual exploitation. Although bleak, it is essentially a novel about choice, and about hope.

The novel is considered by critics feminist classic, and the issues it discusses, whilst shocking, are struggles still faced by many women all across the globe. Despite this, it has often been underrated in literary canons - just as many books by non-white and non-western women are. Nawal Al Saadawi is a doctor, and a female-rights activist who has spent time in prison for her radical and 'outspoken' opinions.

7. Ministry of Moral Panic 


I received this book completely by chance, all the way from Singapore and sent by an anonymous angel through a round of #SaveTheCulture book exchanges on Facebook. Amanda Lee Koe is an incredibly talented writer, and one of the most promising young authors in the world.

This is the review I left on Goodreads;

"This is one of the best books I've ever read. Amanda Lee Koe writes exquisitely about various themes of modern life, it is full of emotion, depth and it is un-put-downable. This novel also explores life in Singapore and across Asia, whilst completely transgressing any cultural barriers. Very little is lost in translation. These stories are rebellious, full of heart, and almost omniscient in their wiseness. They explore the flawed emotions and lives of characters that you learn to care and mourn for in rarely more than ten pages, from experiences and points of view very little tend to look for. There is nothing stereotypical, girly or cliched about them. It is a truly modern book. If you ever have the chance to read this collection of short stories, don't pass it up"



So what else can you do for Women in Translation Month? Here are some suggestions; 

  • Read a book by a woman in translation
  • Read only books by women in translation
  • Buy a book by a woman in translation
  • Borrow a book from the library by a woman in translation
  • Read books by women in translation from countries beyond Europe. 
  • Tell friends, family and anyone who will listen exactly what #WITmonth is, and why we need it
  • Tweet, Facebook and Instagram about it. Use the hashtag!
  • Write a post about #WITmonth to raise awareness
  • Or, share this/any other post about #WITmonth to raise awareness
Meytal Radzinski and the team behind this awesome celebration have also put together an incredibly helpful and extensive list of books by women in translation from all around the globe. There is a link to it right -> here <- 

Had you ever heard about Women in Translation Month before? Are you going to participate? Do you have a favourite translated book by a woman? Leave your suggestion in the comment below, i'm always looking for news books to add to my wishlist! 







Women In Translation Month: August Book Challenge

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One of my favourite books as a child was a bite-sized collection of Hans Christian Andersen's enchanting fairy tales. His wonderful storytelling has stayed with me so fervently that I was only recently gifted the most beautiful folio edition of my best-loved stories, yet I still can't throw the original, and now well-worn, copy away. His tales are still captivating children today- whether it's through his books or the charming Disney films based on them. So what better place to visit than the magical city where Andersen spent most of his life?

Supposedly the happiest country in the world, how can you not be happy in Denmark too? It might be expensive, and it might not be the first place on everyone's bucket list, but there are hundreds of reasons to jet off to Copenhagen for a weekend. It's full of beautiful people, beautiful food (the world's best restaurant resides there) and has a wonderful education system, so almost 80% of Danes speak English. The city is small enough to cover in a short amount of time, one of the most bicycle friendly cities you'll ever see and full of wonderful designs and ridiculous amounts of vibrant colour.

It's clean, it's friendly, and it's absolutely gorgeous. Have you booked your ticket yet? If you're on your way, or even if you're just dreaming of being in Copenhagen, these are three things you just simply have to add to your agenda.



WALKING TOURS

It might not have the best weather in the world, but Copenhagen is a truly enchanting city to traverse on foot. I don't think you'll find any other urban hub in the world so easy and smooth to adventure around. However, if you're completely new to a city, it's pretty hard to know where all of those magical secret spots are. Your heroes are the utterly ingenious 'Free Walking Tours' that run several times a day all year round. And, yes, really, they are free.

Your guide might be a native Dane, a globe trotter or a tourist who extended their holiday...for a few years. Either way, they'll all be bubbly, they'll all be funny, and they'll all have the most amazing knowledge of the city. Guaranteed. Our first tour was guided by a wonderful Danish woman who taught us a few useful words and warned us to stay away from Vikings; or, rather, people on bikes.

We saw The Little Mermaid, walked past the former Prime Minister, watched the changing of the Guards as they walked past our coffee stop and learned a lot about the rich history of Copenhagen. From the few remains of the medieval city to exciting tales of World War Two espionage and bravery, it was nothing short of fascinating. We saw castles, palaces and walked down the ridiculously long 'Stroget' - a street designed for shopping haven.

It wasn't all history and tourist spots, you get an invaluable insight into the culture of an incredibly interesting community. You'll experience the infamous Hygge and see the most amazing architecture. From spiralled roof tops that could be straight out of one of Andersen's fairy tales, to the houseboats and colourful buildings on Nyhavn, and the wonky houses across the man-made island of Christianhavn, on the way to Freetown Christiania.

Christiania is in itself worth its own paragraph. A 'hippie' commune established in the 1970s. It's most infamous for its anarchist laws, and open selling of cannabis in the streets. Though hard drugs are strictly banned, there is a long waiting list to live in the town where rent is free, violence and guns are banned and is seen by many as a successful social experiment. Arts and creativity are rich in the area; it's full of complex graffitti and murals. Practices such as meditation and yoga have always been incredibly popular with residents too, and despite various clashes with Danish governments, it remains one of Copenhagen's most popular tourist attractions, hosting an annual community Christmas dinner for the whole of Copenhagen, and for which even the Royal family donates food. If you ever get the chance to go, now is the time to be curious. Struggling to raise the money to buy the island, the community is facing emminent eviction.

TIVOLI GARDENS

Tivoli Gardens is one of the oldest theme parks in the world, and by far one the most magical. Opened in 1843, it was pitched to the Danish King by Georg Carstensen, who told him that 'when the people are amusing themselves, they do not think of politics'. Many of Hans Christian Lumbye's - or rather, the 'Strauss of the North's'- tunes were inspired by the early days of this enchanting amusement park. Although it is constantly evolving, it's never lost that original charm and has none of the tackiness of British fairgrounds.

Tivoli is more even more beautiful than you might be imagining, and it inspired the imagination of one very important man in particularly; Walt Disney. His disneyland resorts are said to be modelled on the Copenhagen original and his hopes and dreams about them often echo quotes traced back to Carstensen himself.

The first ride we went on together was a ferris wheel built during the Second World War. There is something for every age group there. From the 1920s bumper cars we queued up at least three times for, to the surprisingly exciting galley ships from the 1930s, the wooden roller coaster built in 1914 (making it one of the oldest in the world), to the fun house and magical Hans Christian Andersen ride I was quite happily made to repeat over five times by the demands of my little sister, who was equally enthralled. Our last ride was the 1920s carousel.

Perhaps the most magical, though, were the dragon boats that were built in 1936. On a beautiful lake overlooking the Gardens, we climbed in when it was pitch black, and pedalled the boats around the water, lit up by the hundreds of fairy lights on the trees and lanterns hanging from sparkling Chinese buildings. Each section is seemingly inspired by a different culture- from the Far East, to Russia, and looks astoundingly gorgeous. If you have the choice, make sure you're there with enough time during night fall. Tivoli doesn't close until 11pm, and looks one hundred times more stunning in the dark.

Don't forget to save some money and treat your inner-kid to the most exciting food you've ever seen at a tourist attraction. From giant candy floss sticks to scrumptious hot dogs, or the large selection of commercial and themed restaurants, there's all the food you could ever possibly want to eat.



POP UPS

Last, but not least, is a rather broad range of the ever changing, but always exciting events and stalls you'll find everywhere in Copenhagen. The city is well cared for all year round, and it shows. You can find something round every corner that is so deliciously tempting you just can't help but stop, from mouth watering food to creative projects hidden around the roads.

If you have a chance to eat anywhere, assuming you can't shell out a few hundred pounds to dine at Noma, try the delectable food market- Torvehallerne. A permanent fixture full of different stalls, the market is an explosion of excitement and always buzzing with atmosphere. Ditch your usual Danish pastry from Greggs and try the Brunsvigers from Laura's Bakery, or dare to try the classic Danish Smorrebrod. Elsewhere in the city, don't miss out on the beautiful coffee and inviting Hot Dog stands. They're not your usual sausage in a bun. If you can, catch the stand outside the Round Tower; it's rumoured to serve the best vegetarian hot dogs, and veggie food is hard to come by in Denmark's capital.

Be on your look out for captivating art around the city. We, and many others, had fun playing around the Happy Wall, pictured third from the left below. Like the Wall, most of the tube's scaffolding was obscured by various creative projects. Other events throughout the year have included pop up hammocks for residents to rest their weary feet, jazz festivals, architecture and design days and Aladdin's Cave markets.

Finally, as you walk around, keep your keenest eye searching for some of the most beautiful and mesmerising statues and monuments in the world. From the grand fixtures of long gone Kings, to friendly benches, hidden mermaids and the Agnete and her Seven Sons; a well kept secret hidden in the canal. If you look closely enough into the clear blue water, you might just catch a glimpse of seven mermen and their father, arms outstretched, begging for their mother to return home.

Three Things You Have To See In Copenhagen

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A

 is for Ada

Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron and his mathematics loving wife, Annabella Milbanke who later became known as the 'Enchantress of Numbers'. Fearing that she would develop her father's tempestuous, poetic tendencies, Ada was brought up by her mother under a strictly mathematical and scientific regime. As a child, she was fascinated by machines, and built her own, fuelled by the new knowledge of the Industrial Revolution. She died at the young age of 36, but her published article on a dreamt up 'Analytical Engine' detailed one of the first ever computer programmes and inspired Alan Turing's work on the first ever modern computer during the Second World War, theorising the process known as 'looping' today. The U.S. Department of Defence even named a newly developed computer language after Ada in the 1980s.

 is for Benazir

Benazir Bhutto became the first ever female head of an Islamic government when she was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1988. She married a wealthy businessman when she was young, but refused to let him influence her character. She was a vocal opponent of gender-selective abortions and fought to create a country where the birth of a girl would be just as welcome as the birth of a boy. One of her main policies was ensuring the empowerment of women, which she defined as the right to education, to have choices in life, to be independent, to have a career, to participate in business and rise to the highest levels in politics. She was nicknamed the 'Iron Lady' and re-elected in 1993. However, she was forced to flee to Dubai years later on false corruption charges, but when these were dropped in 2007, she was assassinated upon her return to Pakistan.

 is for Claudette

Claudette Colvin was a pioneer of the African-American Civil Rights movement who dreamt of being President one day. 9 months before Rosa Parks resisted bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, 15 year old Claudette had done the very same, and became the first person ever arrested for doing so. She was also one of the five plaintiffs used by Civil Rights lawyers in the federal court case that finally ended bus segregation in Alabama. However, when it was revealed she had become pregnant, young and unmarried, the NAACP decided not to publicise her brave acts of defiance, instead deciding to wait for someone less controversial to carry it out. She was branded as a troublemaker by the community, and forced to drop out of college. She moved to New York with her newborn son and older sister to become a nurse.

 is for Daphne

Daphne Du Maurier was an English author whose books became popular in the 1930s and 1940s. They often addressed issues of female identity and their complicated relationship with men. Although often set in bygone eras, the characters in her novels seem to reflect her own personal struggles. A mistress of suspense in her writing, Du Maurier was depicted as frosty and cold in real life, a recluse who refused to give public interviews. Her most famous novel, Rebecca, she called a 'study in jealousy' and it's been theorised that both female characters represent the different sides of herself. She struggled with the confines of her own traditional marriage, and settled in Cornwall, where she practised her love for sailing. She was a tomboy, and despite infidelities, and rumoured affairs with other women, she remained a family woman throughout the rest of her life.

 is for Eva

Eva Peron was one of the most influential women in Argentinian history. Still admired by many, the first ever female President of the country claimed that women of her generation owed a debt to Eva for her example of passion.  She met Juan Peron, who would later become President, in the 1940s, and they married soon after. He allowed her to sit in on intimate political meetings, and observe as much information as possible. She was most loved for her charitable works, setting up her own foundation after being outcast by others for her impoverished background. Her charity secured millions of dollars, and gave jobs to tens of thousands of people. She was rumoured to have worked 20 hours everyday with the organisation, many of which were set aside meet with the sick and poor. She was also incredibly influential in securing women's right to vote and founded country's the first female political party.

 is for Frida

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist, who is perhaps most well-known for her self-portraits. Frida's art is particularly loved by those of indigenous backgrounds and feminists for it's obvious influences of Amerindian culture and the female experience. She originally began studying medicine, but had to abandon this after a serious bus accident. Her poor health meant that she was often isolated from others, but she began communicating with artist Diego Rivera, asking for advice. She would later marry him and describe his paintings as "okay for a boy". Their marriage was turbulent, both had tempers and numerous affairs with both men and women; Kahlo had relationships with some of the most influential people of the time, including Josephine Baker and Leon Trotsky, who lived with the couple during his exile.

 is for Gloria

Gloria Steinem is a journalist and activist, who became a spokeswoman for the American feminist movement in the 1960s and 70s after publishing an article "After Black Power, Women's Liberation". After having an abortion in London aged just 22, Gloria became a representative of the movement for reproductive freedom, co-founding the feminist magazine Ms. in 1972. She also helped found the National Women's Political Caucus and encouraged the resurrection of Wonder-Woman, which resulted in the restoration of the comic-book character's powers, and costume. She was also an activist for many other issues, being a stark opponent of the Gulf War, and was arrested for protesting South African apartheid in 1984. In the 1970s, she voiced support of many issues that are still being discussed today, such as same-sex marriage, transsexual rights and government action against FGM and circumcision.

 is for Hedy

Hedy Lamarr began her career as an German/ Austrian actress, but fled to Paris, and later Hollywood, after appearing in a controversial sexual scene that depicted the female orgasm in 1933, and to escape her husband, a munitions manufacturer who worked for the Nazis. Her career as an inventor began long before the war; she is credited with creating an improved traffic stop-light and a less than successful tablet intended to make a carbonated drink when dropped into water. She is best known, however, for her wartime co-creation of a spread-spectrum and frequency-hopping system which would later be used, with much success, to control torpedoes. This technology would be more recently used in Wi-Fi, CDMA, and Bluetooth technology. Married six times before her death, aged 86, Lamarr later abandoned her Hollywood life to focus on her family and passion for science.

 is for Indira

Indira Gandhi was the second longest serving Prime Minister of India, and the only woman to hold the office. Her father had been the first Prime Minister of Independent India, and she had served, unofficially, as his personal assistant, and later as his Chief of Staff and President of the Congress. She was elected twice, for 1966 and until her assassination in 1984. She enshrined equal pay into the Indian constitution. She was known for her ruthlessness and unprecedented commitment to the centralisation of power. After a series of violent acts against some Pakistani people in the 1970s, Indira opened India's doors to them and led the 'Green Revolution' that addressed chronic food shortages. She was assassinated by one of her most trusted bodyguards in retaliation for her brutality during the Sikh separatist movement. In a 2001 poll, she was voted as India's greatest Prime Minister.

 is for Jane

Jane Addams was a philanthropist, women's rights and anti-war activist  who also co-founded one of the first settlements -Chicago's Hull House- for European Immigrants in the United States. Known well in her time as a social reformer, pacifist and feminist, Addams served as the first female President of both the National Conference of Social Work and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, established the National Federation of settlements, and was a co-winner of the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize. She was also deeply committed to education, serving on Chicago's Board of Education and chairing it's school management committee. As a peace activist, she travelled all around the globe, attending conferences at The Hague during WW1 before her Nobel Peace Prize win.

 is for Katharine

Katharine Hepburn was one of the 20th Century's first feminist pop culture icons. Much more comfortable in slacks and trouser suits than the fashionable dresses of the time, she became a symbol of refusing to conform. One story that allegedly took place when her studio attempted to force her to wear skirts paints Hepburn as parading around in her underwear until they gave her back her usual uniform. She often refused to wear make-up, too. Known for her beauty, strength and wit, her strong personality was often questioned by those at the time, so Hepburn often avoided media attention. She attended one of the Seven Sister's Colleges and was raised under a fairly feminist upbringing before moving to Hollywood, where she acted in various films with feminist themes, such as Adam's Rib and Little Women.

 is for Laverne

Another award-winning actress, Laverne Cox was the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in the acting category, as well as the first to produce and appear on her own show. She is best known for her role in Orange Is The New Black, a TV show about a women's prison, but is also an incredibly influential LGBT activist, often speaking and writing about transgender experiences and rights. Laverne knew she was transgender since elementary school, but by 6th grade she felt so ashamed that she tried to end her life. Since then, her main aim has been challenging traditional gender expectations. After an interview with Katie Couric, in which Cox highlighted the discrimination against trans people, Laverne became the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of TIME magazine.

 is for Malala

Just five years before she became the youngest winner of, and first Pakistani to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai began her rise to prominence by publishing an anonymous diary about life under the Taliban rule in North-West Pakistan. Her psuedonymn, Gul Makai, was derived from the heroine of an old local folk tale. For speaking out, and refusing to abandon her education, she was shot in the head by Taliban militants in 2012, but survived, and recovered in the UK where she resumed school. Since then, she has written a best selling book and set up a charity committed to providing girls around the world with proper education, even confronting Western politicians personally and trying to convince them into action. Malala has also had a documentary filmed about her life, won the International Children's Peace Prize and the National Peace Award from Pakistan.

 is for Nellie

Nellie Bly was a Pennsylvania journalist who began writing for the Pittsburgh Dispatch in 1885. Two years later, she moved to New York City to work with the New York World, where she found her big break. Posing as a mental patient, she led an expose on Blackwell Island, revealing the appalling way inmates were treated. She lived on the island for 10 days, where she was surprised at how easy it was to convince doctors that you were crazy. The report shed light on physical abuse, poor health conditions and neglect, and prompted a large scale investigation into the institution. Three years later she was sent on a 72 day trip around the world. In the start of her journalistic career, she constantly provided fiery responses to the sexist assumptions of her male counterparts. Many of her articles focused on the negative consequences of sexist ideologies, but it was for her investigative reporting that she would become renowned.

 is for Oprah

Whilst most people have heard the name 'Oprah Winfrey', not nearly enough know why she is so amazing. Born in Mississippi, she had a troubled childhood and was sexually abused by male relatives and friends of her mother. At 18, she moved to Nashville to live with her father as soon as she could and enrolled in University. 5 years later, she began hosting her own TV show 'People Are Talking' which reached 100,000 more viewers than her male counterparts. She gained national notoriety after starring in Spielberg's adaption of Alice Walker's novel 'The Colour Purple'. A year later she debuted the Oprah Winfrey Show, reaching an audience of 10 million on 120 different channels. Out of the $125 million that the show grossed in its first year, she received $30 million, but then took control of the show herself. She veered away from tabloid topics, and pushed many new authors into the light with her Book Club segment. She is also a vehement activist, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 is for Pearl

Pearl S. Buck was a prolific author, civil rights activist, Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Born in West Virginia, she published her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, in 1930. It was her next novel that earned her a Pulitzer Prize, and a few years later she would become the first female American Nobel  Laureate. Her parents were committed to missionary work in China, and didn't flee until after the Boxer Rebellion. After its culmination, she attended boarding school in Shanghai instead of the usual village they stayed in. A few years later, she moved back to America to study Philosophy, where she performed so well that she was offered a role as Professor. Most of her writing was set in China and explored Chinese culture. Buck was an avid humanitarian until her death, often working to protect Asian Americans from racism and improve their living conditions under the 'Pearl. S. Buck Foundation', whilst also setting up the adoption agency 'Welcome House'.

 is for Queen Bessie

Bessie Coleman was an American aviator, and the first female pilot of African-American descent, as well as the first to hold an international pilot license. Born in Texas to a sharecropping family with thirteen other children, Bessie had to walk four miles everyday to attend her segregated, one-room school. She loved to read and was mathematically gifted. Despite this, she would have to leave for weeks at a time in order to help her family during the cotton harvest. When her father, who was of Cherokee origin, left the family in 1901, Bessie also decided to pack up and enrol in Agricultural university but was forced to drop out because she didn't have enough funding. Aged 23, she moved to Chicago instead, where she heard stories of WWI pilots, but found it impossible to find someone who would train her. A local newspaper funded her to study abroad in France. She spent most of her career performing at impressive airshows, and died in an aeroplane accident aged 34.

 is for Ruth

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the second woman to be appointed as a United States Supreme Court Justice, and has been an advocate and protector of women's rights all throughout her career. Ruth's mother was an incredible influence in her life, she was especially touched by her constant selflessness and after her death, Ruth went on to study at Cornell and Harvard, whilst balancing the role of becoming a mother herself. Out of the 500 law students in her class, she was one of only eight women. She became Columbia Law School's first female, tenured professor and served as the director of the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. She was appointed to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton where she favours equal rights for women, workers and the separation of church and state. One of her most notable dissents was in the Bush Vs. Gore case where she omitted the usual word 'respectfully' from her statement.

 is for Shirin

Shirin Ebadi was the 2003 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and Iranian lawyer and women's rights activist.  Born into a normal Muslim family, they decided to move to the Capital city, Tehran, when she was just one years old. It was here that she was educated and trained as a lawyer. She began serving as a judge whilst studying for her PHD in the late 1960s. 6 years later, she became the first woman in the history of Iran to be appointed President of the bench in the Tehran City Court. However, she was forced to resign four years later when women were banned from serving in law and was unable to practise again until 1992. During this time, she taught human rights courses at the city's university, focusing particularly on women and children. Some of her most highly publicised cases include representing the mother of a girl who was raped and killed under her father's custody, families of serial-murder victims, and the mother of a murdered photo-journalist.

 is for Tegla

Tegla Loroupe is a Kenyan athlete, long distance runner and an activist for women's rights. She holds the world record for three different marathons, as well as the world champion for the half-marathon. She has won marathons in cities like London, Boston, Berlin and Hong Kong and was the first African woman to win the New York marathon. Born into the Pokot tribe, from a polygamous father, she spent her childhood tending to cattle and looking after her siblings. She became the United Nations ambassador for Sport in 2006, and also represents UNICEF and International Association of Athletics Federations. That year she also travelled with George Clooney, on behalf of Oxfam to condemn the violence in Darfur. She has sponsored peace marathons in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan to battle the constant warfare. Six different tribes competed with over 2,000 warriors.

 is for Ursula

Ursula K. Le Guin is a children's books author behind the Earthsea series. Although she also writes poetry and essays, most of her writing falls within the fantasy and science fiction genres which often explore issues of politics, gender, religion and sexuality. She began receiving nationwide recognition after her novel 'The Left Hand of Darkness' was published in 1970, and coupled with her next novel, made her the first author to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel, twice for the two same books. Along with several other authors, she co-founded the Oregon Institute of Literary Arts but resigned from the Author's Guild in 2009 in protest over their dealings with google to begin digitising books. She has won innumerable awards for her work, such as the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, awards from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

 is Virginia

Virginia Apgar was a pioneer in the fields of anaesthesiology and teratology who also contributed considerably to neonatology. Perhaps her best known contribution to science is the Apgar Score, which quickly assesses the health of newborn babies immediately after birth to determine if they need medical attention. In New York, she studied zoology, physiology and chemistry during the early 1930s. When discouraged from pursuing a career in surgery by Allen Whipple, the chairman of surgery at her university, she aptly ignored his advice and became a certified anaesthesiologist in 1937. In 1949, she became the first ever woman to become a full professor at CUCPS. Whilst there she began doing research at the Sloane Hospital for Women, and her invention of the Apgar test saved millions of young lives. She was an outspoken advocate for vaccination, spoke to hundreds of audiences nationwide and claimed that women were liberated "the moment they leave the womb".

 is for Wangari

Wangari Maathi grew up in a small village, her father was a tenant farmer at a time when Kenya was still a British Colony. Against usual expectations at the time, Wangari's family decided to send her to school when she was eight years old. Little did they know that, a few years later, she would become the first ever woman to earn a doctorate in both East and Central Africa. She received a scholarship to study in America, where she was inspired the anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements popular at the time. She later became the first woman to chair a University department in the country. One of her biggest worries was about the environment and the stark devastation of Kenyan forests, prompting her to launch the Green Belt Movement that helped reforest the country and gave thousands of Kenyan women jobs and income. She was beaten and arrested several times for her political views, but was elected to Parliament in 2002, winning the Nobel Peace Prize just a year later.

 is for Xing

Jin Xing is one of the first and most recognisable transgender women in China. A ballerina, modern dancer, choreographer, actress and owner of a Shanghai dance company, Jin became one of China's most fascinating celebrities. At 43 years old, she holds an impressive career. Once a Chinese Army Officer, she is now one of TV's most in-demand stars. Despite living in such a conservative country, Jin has been very open about her gender-reassignment surgery and has worked with some of China's most important LGBT activists. Her former military training, she claims, has worked to her advantage, as she manages to balance an incredibly busy career, activism, and a family life with three small children. She's also known as a tough talk-show host, calling out a sexist presenter who berated his wife for speaking out against his violence during their marriage.

 is for Yoani

Yoani Sanchez is a Cuban blogger who has brought international attention to life under its current government. She grew up in a very affluent Cuba, when they still had large aid arriving from the Soviet Union and her portrayal of life today is very critical. The fall of the Soviet Union coincided with her University education, creating a very Public education system that Yoani resented. She moved to Switzerland in 2002 instead, becoming interested in Computer Science.  She did finally decide to return to Cuba, setting up a newspaper 'Contodos' that advocated freedom of expression, and bypasses Cuba's censorship laws by emailing blog entries to foreign friends. Her blog is incredibly popular and has been translated into 17 different languages. In 2008, she was named as one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people, and has been praised in speeches by U.S. President Barrack Obama for her empowerment of Cuban people.

 is for Zora

Zora Neale Hurston was an American author whose works explored folklore and anthropology. She published four novels, and over fifty short stories, plays and essays. The most celebrated of which being the 1937 novel 'Their Eyes Were Watching God'. When she wasn't writing, Zora was also a civil rights activist who fought for the rights of African Americans. Born in Alabama, her writing was influenced by the traditional folklore from the Deep South, the Caribbean and Latin America, all of which she had studied at various universities. The daughter of two former slaves, she had to provide the money for her education herself and managed to land a scholarship to study anthropology in the 1920s, before moving to Harlem, New York. Whilst writing, she travelled the world, visiting countries such as Haiti and Jamaica where she studied voodoo. Despite her success, she struggled financially after being falsely accused of molesting a ten year old boy, despite being able to prove she was in another country at the time. After criticising the idea of segregation, she found it even harder to get published, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Florida.

An A-Z of Amazing Women

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There's a reason Yorkshire is referred to as God's Own County. Scrap that, there's hundreds of reasons, actually. Alright, the South of England might have a few more jobs but it's to the North what Austen is to Bronte; drab, dull and insufferably pretentious.

That might sound a little inane coming from someone who has just chosen to move there for the foreseeable future, and the wealth of opportunities and wonder on your doorstep in London makes it the one exception. Even so, let's be honest, the fairytale world of North Yorkshire will always be far superior, by miles, to anywhere else in England. I made a recent trip back home from university, and for the first time I realised just how many things I missed about my home town...

So as soon as I got back to London, I knew exactly what I needed to do; write a blog post littered with references to Wuthering Heights that could be added to the maze of information around on just how much more everyone loves us northerners.

I lived in York for precisely 18 years and despite my 'Big City Dreams' I loved every day of it. Give me the Yorkshire accent over a Cockney one any day, the cobbled streets of the Shambles over the shops on Oxford Street, and it's about time you started serving scraps with your chips. Seriously though, what do you do with them? Just throw them away? So here, in lieu of my home-sickness, are three of (the many, many) things that I miss about Yorkshire.

THE MOORS 

There's no shortage of beautiful sights to be seen around the whole of Yorkshire; the rolling hills of the Dales and the Gothic elegance of the east coast seaside towns like Whitby and Robin Hood's Bay. Nowhere else compares. There's nothing nearly as sublime as a bicycle ride up the river Ouse, out of the centre of the city and onto Benningbrough. However, even the beautiful coastline and green pastures are overshadowed magnificently by the most passionate and exciting landscape in England; the North Yorkshire Moors. 

There's a beauty on the moors that's more fascinating than the Dickensian landscape around the rest of the country. The jagged cliffs and heaths of  heather and cotton grass are a delight to the eyes yet so much wilder, full of menace and mysticism. They are boundaryless, liberating and almost supernatural. Walks around Goathland, the drive to Whitby, or an adventure in Haworth transport you instantly into another, more mysterious world, almost Heathcliffian in nature.

You can almost see Jane Eyre standing atop the gritstone escarpment of Stanage Edge, or Cathy stagnant in isolation at the peak of Roseberry Topping. Who knows what treasures or stories you'll find hidden in the ruins of Fountain's Abbey, and the woodland walks at Hebden Bridge. There's more to explore on the moorland than anyone could possibly imagine, so let your imagination truly run wild and don't let the weather stop you.

FRIENDLY FACES

Science has told us the the Yorkshire accent typifies loyalty and reliability.  That doesn't come as much of a surprise since the old stereotype has always been that the Northern bunch are far more friendly than anyone down the bottom end of England and, quite frankly, it's true. You know you're on your way up North when the train guard starts calling you 'pet' or 'duck' and the lady sitting opposite you actually smiles and wishes you a "good morning". If you'd rather have it any other way, you're a miserable git who has been spending too much time in Hampshire.

After spending a couple of months in London, hearing a real Yorkshire accent is like curling up on the sofa with a brew and some of those scraps that people refuse to serve down here. It's homely and comforting and amusing all at once. The Yorkshire accent is even seen as more intelligent than received pronunciation, which was described as dull and boring. Rest assured, there's nothing remotely dreary about the Yorkshire people. Labelled as 'wholehearted' and 'genuine', there isn't a more friendly folk anywhere that I've been.

I've seen the words Ee By Gum written on mugs and cards more than I've ever heard them actually spoken, but the stereotype of Northerners being warm and welcoming still rings true. It takes some time adjusting from the fast, busy pace of London but the smiles and salutations are worth it. Maybe that's why Yorkshire was named the happiest place in the UK.

THE DE GREY ROOMS

"The What?" I hear you say! I imagine most people in Yorkshire don't have much clue at all what on earth the De Grey Rooms are. As a matter of fact, I bet even some of the more routinely unobservant people in York couldn't locate them either, which is a real shame, because the gorgeous Georgian ballroom is an unquestionable treasure that should be taken advantage of far more often.

On a recent adventure to my grandparent's house using York's painfully dreadful bus service, (okay, fine, I admit, public transport is perhaps literally the only category which London wins in) we stopped at the traffic lights on St. Leonard's Place right in between the art gallery - which has temporarily been transformed into a mountain of scaffolding- and the aforementioned De Grey Rooms. I remembered for the first time in a long time all of the memories that had been built  in that building, and in the city over my whole life.

Before we moved back into the old theatre buildings, the De Grey Rooms were the home of my merry band of fellow aspiring actors and theatre geeks; the York Youth Theatre. I was never a good actor, I never will be, but the ten years I spent once a week with those friends and teachers and all of the things that I learned there have become a memory, not just of an old hobby, but a family as important to me as my high school and all of the friends that I made. It was only fitting then that it was also the house of our high school leaver's ball, where I had to say goodbye to some of the most influential and important people in my teenaged life.

I grew up in York, my whole family is there, all my old friends, my old teachers and literally everyone and everything that ever built me. The De Grey Rooms is just one of the many buildings and sites that will always hold so many memories for me. Going back home can sometimes feel like looking through a crystal ball at old recollections and revisiting every feeling again. And despite my dreams of London and the fancies of something bigger, Yorkshire will always hold the biggest place in my heart.


Three Things I Miss About Yorkshire

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Perhaps it was a feeling in the air, or the fact that it was the year of my own feminist awakening, but it seemed to me that 2014 was incredibly significant for women. To identify as a feminist was suddenly fashionable, celebrities were speaking out, media exposure began highlighting solidarity and intersectionality. Countless campaigns spread through Twitter and Facebook like bushfire. Although there were plenty of setbacks, there were innumerable reasons to be proud to be a feminist.

The Struggle 

However, 2014 wasn't without its disappointments. The US Supreme Court ruled in favour of Hobby Lobby's decision to refuse their female employees access to contraception. Victims of violence and sexual assault were frequently shunned and blamed for their trauma; one Washington Post columnist suggested that being a victim of sexual assault was a "coveted status" at colleges, the editor of the Wall Street Journal blamed female alcohol consumption on rape cases and Rush Limbaugh announced on air that "no means yes if you know how to spot it". The justice system failed victims of domestic abuse, such as Reeva Steenkamp, whilst the media covering the trial scarcely remembered to mention her name. Despite glaring statistics, high profile personalities such as Dennis Prager denied the existence of 'campus rape culture' and Glenn Beck mocked rape victims in a skit on his own show. One aspect of women's lives the media in America failed to mention, however, was the constant attack on access to abortion all throughout the US. NRO's Kevin D. Williamson wrote an article detailing all of the reasons young women are 'too dumb' to vote, and Bill O'Reilly rejected the idea of a Hillary Clinton 2016 run for presidency merely because she was a woman. 273 young girls were abducted from their schools in Nigeria, of which only 57 have returned home.

It's also important not to forget the victories that we shared. After making a storm last year with his hit, Blurred Lines, and its insufferably objectifying video, Robin Thicke's newest album literally fell flat on its face- selling only 2% of his previous release, and less than 54 copies in Australia in the opening week. A debate on abortion rights due to be held at Oxford was shut down after protests, teaching those involved that, although freedom of speech is a right, a platform is not. Tireless campaigning resulted in 'pickup artist' Julien Blanc, whose dating advice clearly encourages sexual violence and abuse, being barred from entering and performing in several countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Singapore. The unbearably unfunny vine star Dapper Laughs was dropped from his ITV show after the hashtag #CancelDapper went viral.

Kickass Individuals

Keeping on that positive note, 2014 was also the year we got to know some truly super duper individuals.  Malala Yousfzai, the Pakistani activist for human rights and female education was celebrated throughout the world when she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, aged just 17. Libby Lane became the Church of England's first female bishop. Shonda Rhimes dominated prime time TV with shows like 'Scandal' and 'How to Get Away With Murder'; both featuring amazing African-American leads. In Nigeria, Dr. Stella Ameya Adadevoh lead the fight against one of the biggest outbreaks of Ebola in human history. Adadevoh became one of the 20 fatalities linked to the first case of Ebola in Nigeria, her dedication saved hundreds of lives and quite possibly saved Nigeria from a catastrophic outbreak. Leading the fight against Ebola on the international front was Dr. Joanne Liu, the International President of Doctors Without Borders.  Dr. Hawa Abdi continued her amazing work in providing shelter for the women and children of Somalia and fighting for sustainability, often whilst battling the constant threat her sanctuary faces from drug lords and terrorists. In May, Latifa Ibn Ziaten also received a Moral Courage Award for her work countering terrorism, following her own son's murder in France two years ago.

There were also some sporting victories; Chinese tennis player Li Na became a national hero when she ranked world No.2 on the WTA tour.  Back in America, baseball pitcher Mo'ne Davis proved that 'throwing like a girl' wasn't such a bad thing, becoming the first ever girl to earn a win and pitch shutout in the Little League World Series history. A couple of hours away, fourth year Colombia University student Emma Sulkowicz's performance art piece 'Carry That Weight' was a triumph, speaking out for sexual assault victims everywhere. Rinelle Harper, a 16 year old aboriginal student who barely escaped death after being attacked by two men, called for a national enquiry in Canada to "end violence against young women". Roxane Gay taught us that there is no such thing as a 'good' feminist and broke down barriers across the so-called 'sisterhood'.

Solidarity 

2014 was also a year of solidarity. Mutual support became one of the world's most powerful weapons against injustice. Black women held the front-line in Ferguson and other protests against police violence all around America. Peace-keepers and leaders like Shermale Humphrey were pictured standing up in Missouri and New York, or standing in between young men and police officers. Erica Garner, daughter of the recently murdered Eric Garner held a die-in on the spot where her father died, sparking similar protests all around the globe. Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal voiced her own support for the movement, despite the heavy criticism around it. It wasn't long before the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was trending worldwide, resurrected two years since its first use after the death of Trayvon Martin. In Nigeria, the mothers of nearly 300 kidnapped girls led marches to the National Assembly, hoping to pressure the federal government into doing more to help them bring back their daughters, some of whom were being tortured, raped and sold into slavery. Over 1,200 kilometres away from their home and in pouring rain and thunder, several hundred women marched together on the streets of Abuja to protest the media and government blackout on the incident. The social media campaign and protests were organised by Nigerian activists and politicians Hadiza Bala Usman and Maryam Uwais. It wasn't until three weeks later that Michelle Obama began to raise pressure in the US, popularising the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, and taking over her husband's weekly presidential address for the first time.

In the middle east, an unlikely opponent to the rise of ISIS emerged; the Women's Protection Unit (YPJ), a group of Kurdish women who decided to join the fight against the terrorists, militantly. They were first set up in 2012, and have grown massively since with over 7,000 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 40. They are reliant on their own community's support; they do not ask for charity or international support and yet they are a force to be reckoned with. They have become such a threat to ISIS that they are now being targeted personally. Whilst women under 18 aren't allowed to fight on the front line, many younger women in the community also get involved too. They often fight amongst the Kurdish men, providing support and extra fire-power. When asked why they wanted to join the force, women such as General Zelal stated that she wanted to be "free", and not sit in the house all day. Across war zones all around the world, the Executive Director of Crisis Action, Gemma Mortensen has been working on providing extensive protection for civilians. On a less militant front, and back in America, a group of mothers decided to combat discrimination in California by creating a girl group for their daughters; the 'Radical Brownies', whose aim is to 'empower young girls of colour' and where they earn badges for subjects such as 'Black Lives Matter', 'Food Justice', 'Radical Self-Love' and 'LGTB Ally'.

Hollywood 

Despite recent uproar regarding the announcement of 2015's Oscar nominations, and the still rampant under-representation of women in Hollywood, 2014 still provided some truly wonderful moments from the world of celebrity, film and music. We've already touched upon the powerhouse of Shonda Rhimes, but there are some other truly notable mentions. The beautiful Laverne Cox graced the cover of TIME magazine and became the first transgender woman to be nominated for an Emmy for her role in Orange is the New Black. Ellen Page inspired young women all around the world when she revealed she was a lesbian in a highly emotional speech for the human rights campaign and Time-to-Thrive conference. Lupita Nyong'o wowed the world with her amazing acting and her eloquent speeches on black beauty and black women in Hollywood. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey continued to lead Smart Girls everywhere, Scandal's leading lady, Olivia Pope, officially came out as a feminist, as did singer Taylor Swift. Kira Isabella's remarkably emotional song 'Quarterback' addressed the issue of revenge porn, Nicki Minaj spoke out about her abortion and Miley Cyrus excited riot grrrls everywhere when she sparked rumours of a collaboration with the legendary Kathleen Hanna. Perhaps the most iconic moment, however, belonged to Beyonce. As if her song 'Run the World' wasn't enough to fill us with glee, Queen Bey performed her epic song 'Flawless' with the word 'Feminist' blazoned across the screen at the August VMAs and a sample of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's remarkable speech. 

Just so, there were some wonderful female driven films released this year, too. Scandal trail blazed American TV screens, Claire Underwood's character in the Netflix original House of Cards remained incredibly powerful and Homeland continued it's four season run. Another newcomer, and now Golden Globe winner, was Jane the Virgin; although not without its imperfections, it's a TV show that finally addresses Latino culture in America and female sexuality as its key themes. The documentary She's Beautiful When She's Angry chronicled the second wave feminist movement, and films like Maleficent, Wild, Tracks and The Babdook provided strong leading female roles. The Polish film Ida focuses on women and religion, Still Alice on mental health, We are the Best on the 1980s punk movement, Obvious Child on abortion, 1000 times goodnight on women in war zones and journalism, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya was a triumph in the anime world. Not to mention, the world was still completely obsessed with Frozen.Edward Snowden found an unlikely ally in filmmaker Laura Poitras, whose documentary Citizen Four came out in November and Amma Asante's film Belle was an absolute triumph.



Social Media

2014 was also the year Social Media showed just how powerful it was. Websites like Facebook and Twitter give even the most everyday people a voice and a worldwide platform for their campaigns. This, however, does result in a soapbox for those who don't have such nice things to say. After receiving race and death threats from young boys on Facebook and Twitter, game reviewer Alanah Pearce took matters into her own hands and decided the contact the boy's mothers with screenshots of what they had said to her. Another video that went viral was taken outside an abortion clinic in London where two protesters, members of Abort67 lead a demonstration, intimidating and threatening people coming in and out of the clinic. A pregnant woman then confronted the pair, accusing them of "making other women feel guilty" and called them out on their hypocrisy for taking advantage of the choice that was given to them, yet trying to take it away from other people.

In news of combating body-shaming, a North Carolina mother wore her daughter's dress to her graduation ceremony after she was told it was 'inappropriate' and the pictures went viral. Crohn's disease sufferer Bethany Townsend made waves on Instagram after posing with colostomy bags in a bikini picture, encouraging others to do the same. Facebook stopped censoring breastfeeding, despite the ridiculous opposition to letting women breastfeed in public, not just in Claridges, but all around the world. The blog scene was dominated by influential and young activists like Yas Necati, who began her own campaign for better sex education in the UK, and Jennifer Lawrence's response to the hackers who stole and published nude photos of her online beat the trolls to their own game. Youtuber Laci Green continued her series of sex-positive and sex-education videos, whilst debuting her own MTV webseries 'Braless'. 2014 was also the year of hashtags, on twitter trends like #YesAllWomen and #BeenRapedNeverReported drew significant exposure to certain issues and created a place for people to discuss and share their own experiences. Hashtags were also used in political campaigns; the hashtag #DirenKahKaha protested against the Turkish Prime Minister's claims that women shouldn't laugh out loud and thousands of Turkish women responded by posting pictures of themselves laughing.

Campaigns

Speaking of campaigns, there were plenty to get excited about in 2014. The 'It's On Us' Campaign, with videos including celebrities like Jon Hamm and Kerry Washington, and even being backed by Obama, encouraged people to take a pledge to keep women and men safe from sexual assault by recognising what sexual assault is, identifying situations in which sexual assault may occur and to intervene and create a safer environment. The HelloFlo campaign broke down the barriers surrounging women's menstruation, which is often seen as a taboo subject and one very few are correctly informed about. FBombs for feminism presented the  question, why are you more offended by children swearing than by the sexism they are likely to face later in their lives? Powered by Girl created a blogging platform for girls, and by girls to combat the 'sexist, racist, classist and homophobic' media in all its forms, as did the website Purple Drum; aimed at women under the age of 30. Girl Guides in the UK started the campaign 'Girls Matter', setting out eight main goals they wanted to see tackled in the next election, including listening to young girls, tackling sexual harassment and guaranteeing an equally represented parliament.

The Industry

However, even 200 years  after Mary Wollstonecraft's game changing series of essays; Right's of a Woman was published, the majority of industries still remain dominated by men. This section is dedicated to the women, men and companies who tried to combat this problem in 2014. GoldieBlox aimed to create building toys that weren't just aimed at boys, with the greater goal of encouraging more young girls to become interested in technology, engineering, maths and science. Dr. Ellen Kooijman, a Swedish geochemist, lobbied for Lego to release a series of female scientist figures, completely devoid of the colour pink. Nickolay Lamm created a barbie doll with more realistic measurements, complete with stretch marks and no makeup and seven year old Maggie Cole
wrote to Tesco, demanding that they change a sign she saw labelling a Marvel Comics Clock as a 'gift for boys'. Karen Crespo inspired the fashion industry when she became the first quadruple amputee to walk the catwalk at the New York Fashion Show.

In mathematics field, Dr. Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman to win the Fields Medal. The Gamergate affair highlighted the appalling way women in the gaming industry are often treated, whilst comic books centred around the female Thor and Muslim superhero Kamala Khan provided girls and women with some new kick-ass characters. In India, Arundhati Bhattacharya became first woman to be nominated as the Chairperson of the State Bank of India, and was listed as one of the worlds most powerful women by Forbes. Alibaba, the second largest Internet company in the world, after Google, outperformed all of its rivals on one ground; the number of women in power-positions. A third of its 18 founding partners are female, and women account for 9 of the 30 partners who controlled management decisions.


Politics 

Politics was also a breakthrough area for women in 2014. There are now at least 100 women in US congress. The scene in America this year was dominated by female politicians like Elizabeth Warren, Wendy Davis and Hillary Clinton, whilst Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg literally rose to notoriety as she became the subject of an Internet meme- and known as The Notorious R.B.G. Canadian politician Kathleen Wynne pushed education on sexual consent being introduced into school curriculums, and revenge porn finally became illegal in several countries such as the US and UK. First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon played a vital role in the Scottish referendum and is continuing to rise through Scottish politics. Also in the UK, Fahma Mohamed and Muna Hassan successfully petitioned the government to start taking the issue of Female Genital Mutilation seriously whilst Meltem Avcil brought to light the issues asylum seekers face.

Across the world, Retno Marsudi became the first female Minister of Foreign Affairs in Indonesia, and Catherine Samba-Panza became the first woman to hold the post of interim President of the Central-African Republic. Marina Silva, a politician and environmentalist became a key figure in Brazilian politics. Also in Indonesia, Susi Pudjiastuti, a successful entrepreneur involved heavily in humanitarian aid, became the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. Thuli Madonsela took on South African politics, exposing the abuse of public funds after becoming a 'Public Protector'. In Iraq, Vian Dakhil became the only Yazidi in Parliament. In 2014, the Vatican also finally backed down from the enquiry into three feminist nuns with little more than mild rebuke. And of course, who could forget Emma Watson's speech as the UN's Ambassador for women on encouraging men to support the movement for equal rights.

He for She

So how successful was the speech? Despite the fact that our own Prime Minister refuses to call himself a feminist - and thus suggests that he doesn't believe women should have equal rights or opportunities- there was increasing support from politicians like Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. Most male support for feminism, however, came from Hollywood and the media. Joseph Gordon Levitt became a spokesperson for male feminists everywhere when he spoke out on the Ellen show and in his own YouTube video. American comedian Aziz Ansari also spoke out on social media numerous time in support of the feminist movement. Scores of celebrities came out in support of the He for She campaign that Emma Watson launched, including Harry Styles, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Colfer, James Van Der Beek, Simon Pegg and Russell Crowe.

If you've managed to make it this far, I commend you. I'm not going to complain that this post turned out a lot longer than expected, I think that only proves how positive 2014 has been. I guess that all there's left to say now, is here's hoping the New Year is just as good!

2014: The Year of the Feminist?

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A Tale of Three Cities.

Have you ever been somewhere for the very first time, and yet felt like you were home? My memories of my first ever trip to Poland are vague to say the least; it was for a wedding. I remember snowy covered mountains and dancing the night away. Walks into (what seemed like) the wilderness, and lots of friendly faces. I was a small child, I don't remember the name of the town. 

I bet you've probably never considered visiting Poland. It's not usually the first European country on everybody's lips. For me, there was never a question about it. Polska has always in my heart. My great-grandfather was Polish; a Second World War veteran who escaped from his invaded town to fight for the British army, but by the time it was over he was wounded and he had fallen in love with a Scottish nurse. In Aberlady, he taught my grandmother to make Piergoies and a myriad of Polish swear words. 

Although I'd only ever been there once, it was this history that drew me back to Poland. I couldn't speak Polish, I'd never lived there, and yet I felt a stronger connection to it than anywhere else in the world. When I finally had the chance to re-visit it this summer, I discovered Kraków, a city full of surprises and delight. It's that enchanting charm that will keep drawing me back again, and again. 

WHO WILL BUY?

In the centre of Kraków, you're very rarely any further than a street away from the nearest tourist information shop. Whilst they can be helpful, nonetheless, the best of Kraków remains with its locals. Whilst I adored our tour guide at the salt mines, I found it unnecessary and disruptive when we visited Auschwitz. Know when local help is needed, and when it might be best to sit back and observe.

Which brings me on to my first favourite thing about Kraków; the people. Rather than visiting the organised events and department stores, it was far more interesting to throw yourself in the centre of things, to taste what was on offer. It isn't hard- even on the coldest and rainiest day you'll find people sitting outside in the main square. Every single restaurant and cafe had colourful blankets draped over the outdoor seats; as someone who is continuously cold, I'm almost certain this is a policy cities should begin to adopt everywhere.

Everything from the Krusczyki stalls to the local vodka tasting shop is delectable. In reference to the latter, I recommend the hazelnut. Whether you're enjoying the most delicious cakes in the whole of Europe at Milano (trust me, you won't be able to resist repeat visits), or grilled Sheep cheese on the other side of the square, you'll probably notice a delightful variety of street performers. Musicians, women selling roses and children selling drawings. Don't forget the cloth hall; if you look closely enough, there's some real treasures to be found. Mine was a hand-carved amber locket. The pottery shops are breathtaking too.

If you want to explore the city, join a free walking tour, you'll make friends. Or hop on a horse and carriage fit for a fairytale. There's plenty to see, do it in style!

KAZIMIERZ

Another thing you might notice about Kraków is the apparent abundance of golf carts. literally. everywhere. They'll take you around whatever part of the city you want, usually at an extortionate price. The guides are thorough though, and heartwarmingly friendly. Most of the city can honestly be done on foot, but the reels of history behind Kazimierz, or the 'Jewish Quarter' are so remarkable that I would recommend a guided tour whole-heartedly.

So the second thing I love about Krakow? It's this place. Far away from the grandeur of the Old Town, Kazimierz is disarmingly captivating. It's an area where you should be on full alert, because it's not just the quarter as a whole, but the little details that make it so fascinating. Hostels with names like 'Goodbye, Lenin!' and enchantingly artistic graffiti scattered around the walls. 

Szeroka Street, which is really a little square, represents the heart of the whole district and has been around since the 14th century. Here you'll find wonderful restaurants; possibly the best food in Kraków, and the thickest hot chocolate in the whole world. Shop signs from the 1940s still hang above the doorways, and although the place is brimming with life, it's almost like stepping back in time. There are also an abundance of beautifully Gothic churches, and historic Synagogues, as well as spine tingling monuments remembering the Holocaust; remnants of the old Ghetto walls and Schindler's Factory.

If you're around in July, don't miss the Jewish Culture Festival there. If you're into vintage too, there's also a daily market that sells the most amazing wonders.


THE BUGLER OF ST MARY'S

Now though, it's time for my favourite thing about Kraków. It's small, but this little practise enchanted me over and over again. We didn't know what was going on at first; every hour, when the bells of St. Mary's Church struck, a sound would emerge from the top of the tower and dance around the square.

The Hejnał Mariaki; a bugler opens a window and plays the Kraków anthem. You could see the shine of his trumpet, maybe the wave of his hand before he disappears again, but that was all. It's so popular that the noon song is played on radios all around Poland. I was fascinated. I think Victor Hugo would be too. Back to my great-grandfather, who was injured at the Battle of Monte Cassino, he would have also heard the Hejnał playing when the Polish announced the allied victory.

I included a fairly shaky video above, but it doesn't do nearly enough justice to the magic of it all. If you're as captivated as I was, don't forget to go inside the church too; it's the most beautiful I've ever seen. Colourful, and full of life. Music is an integral part of the charm of Kraków; if you have a spare evening spend it listening to a Chopin concert in one of the hotels - they're on every night- or a Klemzer band in the middle of Kazimierz whilst you're dining.


Kraków is an exquisitely beautiful city. The Old Town encircles the main square; there's very little traffic in the centre, instead you'll find students riding bicycles and monks travelling by foot. Despite being so popular, it remains a quiet city and one that feels incredibly safe. Unspoiled by the arms of industrialisation, the centre of Kraków is absolutely bursting with history.

A small walk out of the Old Town tells a different story, but an important history nonetheless. The outskirts of Kraków, whilst still wonderful, bear the marks of Communism and the Holocaust. A younger generation lives here and it remains a thriving centre of Polish and Jewish culture. The contrast between the two areas just adds to the magic. I'm yet to encounter an unfriendly face there. Although it's only been a few months since Summer, I miss it, and I can't wait to go back.

And remember, whilst you're out there adventuring and discovering the city, as they say in Poland- szukajcie, a znajdziecie. Seek and you shall find.

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Three Things I Love About Kraków

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Pictures of Marilyn Monroe in bed and reading.
The Woman Behind the Icon.

Just this week, Max Factor announced the late Marilyn Monroe as their latest global ambassador, despite the fact she's been dead for over fifty years. For many, Monroe is an icon, a symbol of glamour, sex appeal and metamorphosis. Rumours about her life as Norma Jeane, her dress size and her death have ensured that Monroe has remained both the epitome of every girl, and the woman every girl wants to be.

THE NORMA JEANE MYTH

Anyone who knows anything about Marilyn Monroe is familiar with the Cinderella story of Norma Jeane, Monroe's alter-ego, the supposedly 'plain Jane' who was transformed into one of the world's biggest superstars. Monroe certainly suffered a traumatic childhood. Her father abandoned both Norma Jeane and Gladys Mortensen when she was born. Just a few months later, Monroe's mother, Gladys, was institutionalised. She spent most of her life in and out of foster homes, none of which were particularly happy; one woman attempted to smother a two-year-old Monroe, and she was sexually abused when she was merely eight. It was after this that the young Monroe developed a stutter. Monroe was incredibly open about this whilst alive, a particularly brave move when one considers the attitudes towards rape in the mid-century; one that portrayed women, even those of a younger age, as the seducer, and Monroe was no stranger to the accusation of being called a 'slut'. Perhaps it was this story of survival that resonates so deeply with her female admirers.

However, the images and stories of a 'plain' and unsightly Norma Jeane who accidentally transformed into an icon are simply untrue. So why has this fairytale been so excessively reproduced? Perhaps it is part of the appeal of Monroe, the dreams of a metamorphosis, that any girl can suddenly become a superstar, a sex symbol that makes her so 'relatable'.

As a matter of fact, Norma Jeane was a popular girl at school. She was constantly asked on dates by boys, and named the 'Oomph Girl' by her graduating classmates in 1941. It wasn't just her looks that set her apart, though. She was shy, and although she had poor grades she was remembered as witty and an incredibly good writer. She often submitted articles to the school newspaper. Her biggest dream was to escape the orphanage; she dropped out of school aged fifteen and eloped with her childhood sweetheart. Her husband was quickly sent to war, and Norma Jeane carried on with her own life and hopes. Noticed whilst working at a radio-plane factory, she was a leading model within two years. By the time she was divorced in 1946, she had appeared on the cover of 33 magazines, including the first ever playboy.

It is true that there was some transformation to her image, but whether she was Norma Jeane or Marilyn Monroe, she had always been an attractive woman. Her agent, Johnny Hyde, paid for her to have plastic surgery on her chin and her nose. Emmeline Snively suggested the change from Norma Jeane's naturally chestnut hair to Monroe's platinum blonde because it could be photographed with any wardrobe, in any light. Snively also gave her lessons on fashion, lighting and grooming. If you've ever noticed Monroe's upper lip quiver on film, it was because she was told to lower it when she smiled so as to hide her gums. Monroe was a master of self publicity; she would turn up to Hollywood events, often late, and in low cut red, or black dresses, hoping to make an impression on the journalists there. Her camera tricks included looking at her co-star's foreheads, instead of their eyes, to make her own eyes look bigger.

However, all the make up and film tricks in the world did not transform Norma Jeane into a worldwide icon. Her demeanour and attitude made Marilyn. That, and her own hard work. Snively said of the young Monroe that "she wanted to learn, wanted to be somebody, more than anybody I ever saw in my life". Even Monroe admitted that she never wanted to 'be' Marilyn. She said of her dual-personalities that Marilyn was "like a veil I wear over Norma Jeane" and was known for being able to flick between the two, like a switch. After all, Norma Jeane never became a different person, she merely created an iconic style.

Pictures of a young Marilyn Monroe

THE BOMBSHELL

It is, on the other hand, ultimately the icon of Monroe that is idolised, not Norma Jeane. There is something very paradoxical in nature about Monroe's image; first and foremost, she was a pin-up girl, a sexual icon admired by men. However, her childlike innocence and radiance arguably evoked maternal feelings in her female fans.

By the time Monroe began to rise, Hollywood was in dire need of a sex-symbol. The growing popularity of foreign stars like Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren needed an American counterpart, and no doubt influenced Monroe's own style; the full figure, arched eyebrows, heavy eyeliner and full lips. Monroe had always been a trend-setter; in high school she wore tight jeans and short skirts for which she was reprimanded by the school officials. As a model, she credited her 'magic red sweater'- which she wore without a blouse or bra, as was expected at the time, for creating job opportunities. When she couldn't afford designer jeans, Monroe bought them at a local army surplus store and ran in the sea so that they would dry clinging to her skin. Although not a fashion icon at the time, just like her contemporaries, Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, Monroe stayed far away from what was in vogue and created her own style.

Being too buxom for the demure, Parisian styles in magazines, Monroe instead used her sex appeal - whilst maintaining an elegance lost on other stars, such as Jayne Mansfield, that made her image irresistible to both genders. One story goes that, before appearances, she would take one last look at herself in the mirror and whatever her eye hit first, she would remove. Often jewellery. Speaking of, although she famously sang 'Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend', she owned very few herself. With the exception of a ring given to her by her second husband, Joe DiMaggio, Monroe preferred costume jewellery.

Marilyn also endorsed workout and diet books long before Jane Fonda made it popular for celebrities to do so. She was an early devotee of yoga, taught by the famous Indra Devi. Although she was athletic; lifting weights and going on regular runs around Beverly Hills, Monroe was not strict in her routine. She loved cooking, enjoyed a good steak and would often treat herself to an ice-cream sundae after work. Another never-ending myth is that of Marilyn's size. Many a woman will happily tell you that Monroe was a size 12, or 14 (that of an average American woman) whilst lambasting the expectations of today's beauty industry and expectations. However, measuring 35-22-35, Monroe was close to a size zero. It's true that her weight often fluctuated, much to the dismay of her movie's costume makers, but she was never larger than a size 6, or 8 by today's standards.

THE MOVIE STAR

To reduce Monroe to merely an image, however, seems an injustice. Monroe was not a model, she was a fiercely ambitious movie star. Yet if you asked the younger generations of Monroe's fans, they will most probably have never seen her films. Despite her work, she is known more as an image than as an actress.

Monroe faced adversity all throughout her career. Dismissed as cheap by others in Hollywood, she never got to realise her dreams of becoming a serious actor. Always ambitious, she began working with the Strasbergs in hope of bettering her career. She was witty and knowledgeable despite having no formal education. Her dream roles included Grushenka in Brothers Karamazov- a book she avidly discussed with Nikita Krushchev when they met. Although she had some good roles, and was her studio's most bankable star by far, she was still massively underpaid. She earned just $100,000 for her final film, Something's Got to Give; just a fifth of what her co-star, Dean Martin, was awarded and very little compared to the millions that Elizabeth Taylor received for her role in Cleopatra. She suffered from a crippling performance anxiety; this meant she very rarely turned up, and struggled to learn her lines. It took the director 60 takes just to get the "It's me, Sugar" scene in Some Like it Hot. Yet, despite this, she has outlasted her Oscar winning counterparts; Dorothy Malone, Simone Signoret and Jennifer Jones have very little on Marilyn's Enterprise.

When she wasn't acting, Monroe was also a champion for charities- especially to orphanages and children's organisations. Though perhaps her most famous stint was performing for troops in Korea.  One might argue that the censorship rampant in the 1950s contributed to keeping up appearances, whereas a star of Marilyn's size today would be shredded to pieces by the press. However, Marilyn was not without scandal. As she was rising to fame, a newspaper leaked nude pictures of a young Norma Jeane, taken in the 1940s. Not unlike the similar hacking scandal that exploded in 2014, Marilyn urged her studio to let her handle her own PR. Instead of denouncing the images, Monroe simply said she'd been hungry and behind on rent - stressing that the photographer's wife was in the room. She concluded the interview with the powerful statement "I'm not ashamed of it, I did nothing wrong.".

Her studio head, Darryl F Zanuck, hated Monroe. Her accomplishments are, however, mighty. In the face of misogyny and dismissal from her peers, Monroe was the first woman to challenge a major movie studio on the issue of artistic freedom, and second to set up her own production company. Typecast as the dumb blonde, Monroe begged of one journalist after an interview "please don't make me a joke."

Pictures of Marilyn Monroe modelling, and smiling

THE MANEATER

Monroe was certainly unique. She was a sex symbol in an age when sex was a four letter word. Her nude pictures were hung on the walls of American Troops in Korea, propelling her to fame. However, her own view of attraction was very different. Her celebrity crushes included Albert Einstein and Arthur Miller.

As someone who was clearly searching for love, the men in Monroe's life also cannot be dismissed as insignificant. She was first married at 16, to a man who didn't approve of her job as a model, and was later banned by his second wife from going to see Monroe's movies. Their marriage ended when he returned home from war,  and whilst before she had once threatened to jump off a bridge if he left her, she claimed later she felt "trapped and bored".

Her marriage to Joe DiMaggio was explosive, and only lasted nine months. He also disapproved of her career, and asked her to stop acting. Although when they married he was by far the more famous, he retired aged 36 and whilst her career was at an all time high, his was beginning to fade. She got all of the attention. Friends argued that their relationship began to deteriorate after her visit to Korea, however, it was the famous subway scene from The Seven Year Itch that provided the breaking point. At the last minute, the director had advertised the shooting location, turning the set into a media circus, with thousands of men there. She was made to shoot the scene over and over again whilst the crowd cheered lewdly, and DiMaggio stormed off. The night culminated with a screaming match in the hotel lobby, and him beating her in their room so violently that security was called. She filed for divorce on account of 'mental cruelty'. She was not the housewife he wanted her to be.

Despite this, they remained good friends. When she was involuntarily committed to an asylum, it was DiMaggio she turned to, not her then-husband Arthur Miller. She joined him in Florida and he quit his job, alarmed by her condition. There were rumours that they were planning to remarry, and after her death he sent red roses to her grave three times a week for twenty years.

Joe DiMaggio's words on the end of their marriage were simply; "it's no fun being married to an electric light."

Her next marriage was to her celebrity crush, Arthur Miller. He said of their romance "She was a whirling light to me then, all paradox and enticing mystery, street-tough one moment, then lifted by a lyrical and poetic sensitivity that few retain past adolescence". Newspapers ran the headline "Egghead Marries Hourglass". They seemed like an odd couple. Monroe hung on to his every word, but peers claimed he was resentful, too critical and lacked understanding. When their marriage began to fall apart, Monroe came across a letter in which he claimed that she was childlike, not as intelligent as he had hoped and that he pitied her. They did publicly support each others career, though. She starred in Miller's film 'The Misfits' which he hoped would help her become a more serious actress, and Monroe refused to abandon Miller when he was called to the committee of un-American activities.

The aftermath, however, was ugly. Miller's play After The Fall and its character 'Maggie' was supposedly based on Monroe, and was a very bleak portrayal. Jackie Kennedy turned on Miller for this, as she thought it was disloyal of him. Writer James Baldwin walked out of the play because he thought the portrayal was too harsh; she was shown as a self destructive jezebel who was abandoned for her own good.

THE REALITY  

Perhaps the most tantalising insight into Marilyn's character, however, is in the words of her dearest friends. Jane Fonda swore that Monroe "radiated light and vulnerability". The writer Isak Dinesen poetically compared Monroe to a lion cub, full of "unconquerable strength and sweetness". She compared her meeting to Monroe as having the "wild nature of Africa amicably gazing at me with mighty playfulness". It is exactly this character, the icon who beams life and light that continues to captivate people over half a century on.

In her own words, Marilyn was merely a veil that she wore over Norma Jeane. Perhaps this was a reflection on her own vulnerabilities. Edward Wagenknecht said of Marilyn that she "played the best game with the worst hand". Beyond her life as a sex symbol and a superstar, Marilyn, or Norma Jeane, was so much more than an actress or an icon. She was a human. She loved children and animals; she always yearned for her own child but was plagued with miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. She was, however, very close to her step-children.

Although she played it dumb, Monroe was anything but. She loved reading; her old friends at the Hollywood Studio Club remembered her as always toting books around. Her favourite authors included Camus, Steinbeck and Hemmingway. She was reading To Kill A Mockingbird before she died. Her favourite subjects were poetry, classical literature and politics. Even as she was older she always kept a diary, penned poems and wrote. Her poems often explored the theme of escape; from the world, her childhood, from the busy life of the city to somewhere more silent, and sometimes death. Her favourite artist was Goya, her hero was Abraham Lincoln.

Monroe was also an advocate for equal rights; she said in one interview, that wasn't published at the time, that she believed "what the world really needs is a feeling of kinship". When Ella Fitzgerald was refused a spot to sing at a club because of the colour of her skin, Monroe intervened and promised she would sit on the front row for a week if Fitzgerald was allowed to play. She opposed nuclear testing, and often questioned the Kennedy brothers on the morality of it. However, Monroe also struggled with her own personal demons. The trauma from her childhood, her anxiety and depression led to a growing dependency on drugs.

A poem and two self portraits by Marilyn Monroe
A Poem and Two Self Portraits by Marilyn.

THE DOWNFALL

Marilyn Monroe's death is the perfect mystery. A beautiful woman, in the prime of her life, dead, with an abundance of enticing rumours and secrets surrounding the circumstances. Was she murdered by the Kennedy's, by Dr. Greenson, the Mafia? The enigma only adds to the appeal.

And then, there is the question; would she still be an icon if she wasn't dead? With a young death comes eternal beauty, there are no pictures of a wrinkled Monroe on google. She is captured merely in her youthful perfection. Considering her problems, and the invading nature of today's press, her career would have most probably ended a long time ago. She would be no Meryl Streep or Jessica Lange. Would it matter? Most the pictures you see of Audrey Hepburn and other old Hollywood stars, if you were to google it, are of them in their heyday, despite living to older ages.  Bettie Page, who endorsed lingerie companies in her later years, refused to be photographed at events. Has the nature of celebrity changed? Are people too cynical, too transparent now? There are no ties to the Mafia, no presidential affairs to get excited about. Perhaps that is why we turn to the magic of a bygone age. Moreover, despite being the most written about woman in history, Monroe is still an enigma. Men want to be with her, women wanted to be her. In season two of Mad Men, the office workers cry on the news of her death. Suicide in New York peaked one week after Monroe passed, with one woman's note reading "If the most wonderful, beautiful thing in the world has nothing to live for, then neither must I".

SO WHY DO WE STILL LOVE MARILYN?

The trend of using dead celebrities as an advertising campaign is not a new one; Monroe is only the 6th top-earning deceased celebrity, according to Forbes, and the only woman on the list. New technology, as seen in last year's Galaxy advert with Audrey Hepburn, is making this even more freakishly possible. Despite her personal problems, Monroe was seen as vivacious and furiously alive by her peers; her childish innocence and enduring sex appeal as well as the constant rumours surrounding her life and death have ensured that the Monroe industry shows no sign of slowing down.

Why We Still Love Marilyn Monroe

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