Inspirational Women of 2011

Labour Rose is running a poll for our Women of 2011. All the women featured have been nominated by Labour Rose readers. You can vote for up to three women in the poll. All the women nominated have inspired throughout the year. Click more to read about the nominations.

Norma Stephenson
Hilary Devey
Sue Marsh
Pauline Pearce
Sarah Brown
Military Wives
Stella Creasy
Emily Lewis Clarke
Sophia Bush
Giuliana Rancic
Hilary Clinton
Aung San Suu Kyi
Angela Merkel
Christine Lagarde
Isobel Appiah
Caitlin Moran
Tracey Cheetham

Emily Lewis Clarke

Nominated by: @janetmarland

Many of you won’t be aware that women’s football matches once used to attract crowds of 50 000+. The games, often fund raisers for charity, were hosted at FA member clubs’ grounds and were popular with the public. However, in 1921 the FA dealt women’s football a double whammy. Firstly, it banned women’s football from the main stadiums of the day, and it forbade experienced male officials from refereeing or running the line for women’s games. Another of FA’s misogynistic little rules was that girls were not allowed to play in football teams with boys beyond the age of 11, a diktat which lay Jnet11 defender with Newton 66 FC. Approaching her 11th birthday, she realised that she would not be able to remain with her club playing the game she loved beyond the end of the 10/11 season.

Now, the easy thing to do would be to accept the status quo and the Neanderthal organisation that is the FA, bid a fond farewell to the lads at Newton 66, and find a girls’ team. Emily however is clearly a girl who likes a challenge. She set up a Facebook page to attract followers who would support her petition to the FA to reconsider its rule on mixed sex teams. I might add that at the time this seemed set against insurmountable odds – the FA had only recently held its own two year long investigation into the 11 yrs age limit for girls, yet its recommendation for change was rejected by its own stakeholders at the AGM!

Undaunted, in 2011, Emily presented a 6000 signature petition to a FA shareholders’ meeting, and on 25th May this year the FA accepted that change was due and extended the age limit for girls to play with boys to 13.

Because of Emily’s refusal to accept the world as she found it, thousands of girls will be given the opportunity to play alongside their male teammates for an extra 2 years. This means that they will not be forced to find alternative sports in their first 2 years at high school. Instead, they will have more time to develop their skills, techniques and understanding of game strategy. This in turn can only be good for the development of the women’s game (a game, let us not forget, which heaps adulation and immense riches on the MEN who succeed in it!). Who knows, Emily might just become the first English footballer to lift a World Cup since Bobby Moore in 1966. My God, we might even end up with a few women footballers on the BBC sports personality of the year shortlist!

For her tenacity, persistence, refusal to be intimidated, and her sheer love of the game, I nominate Emily Lewis Clarke as my Girl of the Year.

Sarah Brown @SarahBrownUK

Nominated by: @MerleReads (see feature below)
also Nominated by: @RosieCosy

My choice for inspirational woman is Sarah Brown, the former Prime Minister’s wife, and founder and president of PiggyBanksKids, a charity that supports projects that create opportunities for children and young people in the UK. 

The charity administers the Jennifer Brown Research Fund, launched in 2004, which supports groundbreaking research to prevent pregnancy problems and newborn lives. The fund was established in memory of Sarah and Gordon brown’s first child Jennifer, who was born prematurely in 2001 and died after ten days. 

The Jennifer Brown Research Fund supports the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory whose purpose is to advance progress towards resolving some of the life-threatening complications that may arise during pregnancy for both the mother and baby. 

In 2007 when Gordon Brown became the Prime Minister, Sarah set aside her own successful career to accept her new role as the wife of a Prime Minister. She used that opportunity to focus on causes and campaigns close to her heart, following her husband’s motto, “to do his utmost.” 

One of her campaigns was the Million Mums campaign, which was launched on Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom on March 22, 2009. The campaign aimed to raise awareness about women dying during pregnancy and childbirth, bring together an active group of people to campaign for healthcare for pregnant women, and to provide a united voice speaking out against needless maternal mortality that was occurring worldwide. 

As a Global patron of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, Sarah was a staunch supporter of the Million Mums campaign using Twitter as a social media to spread the word. Having reached the “Magic Million” followers, as impressive fete in itself, Sarah was able to spread the word to a million people, who in turn spread the word to their followers. Sarah took twitter further by hosting a “Downing Tweet Christmas party” to offer an opportunity for people from all walks of life, to come together to raise awareness and funds for Million Mums. Twitter, was how I met Sarah Brown. 

In 2011, Sarah wrote “Behind The Black door,” an often humorous account of herself as the Prime Minister’s wife, mother of two little boys, and as a woman living on Number 10 Downing Street. In her opening chapter, Sarah’s words inspire me as a woman, as she describes her role to do her “utmost.” 

“Two things strike at me first: firstly, that my children are very young, so I need to make time for them and prioritize our family, and secondly, that with whatever time I can carve out after that, I will devote my efforts to supporting causes that I’m passionate about, and continue to open up Number 10 to as many charity groups and other visitors as possible.” 

This statement, defines many women today, struggling to balance the raising of a family, supporting one’s spouse, often also working full-time, squeezing in the time to help others, all the while, trying one’s “utmost.” Fortunately, most of us do not have to do all this while under the watchful eye of the public as Sarah did for many years, and for which I find her most inspiring.

Pauline Pearce @HackneyHeroineP

Nominated by:  @Oligarque (see feature below)
also @MrsEddieIzzard

When I saw Rosie’s request for names of the inspirational women of 2011, I thought of the wonderful Baronesses, Shirley Williams and Joan Bakewell, now in their 70s, fighting for our NHS day in day out in the House of Lords.  Eye aching, brain numbing work, reading in between ALL the lines of that outrageous and monstrous bill; they, and their many wonderful colleagues, must feel exhausted and hopeless most nights, but won’t give up.  Shirley even sends out reports on the debates to all the people who have emailed her with their concerns. If only she had stayed in the Labour movement; let’s hope her time has come, and she becomes the true heroine of 2012 having persuaded her fellow LibDems to kill the bill.

Great as they are, and I had to mention them here because so few people realise what is going on in the Lords right now, I give my personal award for 2011 to Pauline Pearce whose speech to the young rioters on Clarence St in Hackney in August went viral on the social media networks. 

The follow up stories have been really interesting, watching how politicians all want a piece of Ms Pearce and how she sees right through the hype.

See Michael White’s article in the Guardian and the recent Observer piece by Tim Adams

 So yes, my Inspirational Woman of the Year is Pauline Pearce, surely a future Baroness (should the House of Lords survive). In the meantime, I hope her wise counsel is heard and acted on by the politicians who have rushed to her door in 2011.

Sue Marsh @suey2y

Sue Marsh is married with two small children. She campaigns to raise awareness of hidden disabilities and long term illness. A sufferer of severe Crohn’s Disease for nearly three decades, Sue set up the blog Diary of a Benefit Scrounger to raise awareness of life with a chronic illness. 

 Nominated by: @RosieCosy
Nominated by: @Cllr_Roxsie

Hilary Clinton

Nominated by: @Scarletstand

Forget the Vice President, Biden was just about balancing the ticket. When you’ve a president as young and vigorous as Obama, the real number two is the Secretary of State. The second most powerful person in the nation that remains the most powerful on Earth is a woman, and what a woman Hilary Clinton is.

After losing the nomination battle of 2008 to Obama, most would have perfectly understood if she’d wanted to retire from political life, take a back seat and get on with her own life. Instead, she picked herself up and took up the mantle of Secretary of State and is a loyal, highly visible member of the Obama administration. She gets more abused than almost anyone else in politics (Googling Hilary Clinton Bitch gives over 6.7 million results for example).

In 1995, Hilary gave a rightly famous speech to the United Nations’ Women’s Conference declaring “women’s rights are human rights”. This year, she reflected the rhetoric she brought to the cause of feminism 16 years ago to the cause of LGBT rights in another speech that has been rightly lauded around the world.

If you have the time, I urge you to listen to the whole speech. It’s incredibly well written, and addresses all the likely criticisms, particularly on America’s own evolutionary journey on LGBT rights. At the same time, it makes it clear that this is an issue that must be dealt with at all levels, but must be led by an active state. That laws change, shape and mould culture and have a role in leading and exemplifying. For this powerful speech, and her continued role as a world leader (though like all world leaders, not one I always agree with) she deserves our continued recognition.

Norma Stephenson

Nominated by: @sarahbrown1984

Norma Stephenson is someone who I consider one of the inspirational women of 2011.

Former chair of the Labour Party, NEC member and UNISON activist Norma is much loved among the Labour Party for her dead pan and dry wit.

Norma works for the NHS as a healthcare assistant working in mental health. She has held many positions within UNISON. Having been on the NEC and spent a year as president. She has done much also for the Labour party, chairing the women, race and equality committee.

I’m proud to be in the same union and same party as her.

Hilary Devey @HilaryDevey

Nominated by: @Ayeshazgj

The reason I think Hilary Devey is such an inspirational woman is, she has built herself up from absolutely nothing. After suffering as a child when the bailiffs took everything, she vowed never to let anyone take anything from her again. She built her business up from nothing.

She thrives and manages to succeed in a very male dominated profession. She works very hard and never takes a sick day. And she came back from suffering a serious stroke and vowed never to give up.

The Military Wives @Milwiveschoir

Nominated by: @Ayeshazgj

The military wives are remarkable because of their endurance to carry on, despite their boyfriends and husbands being away in Afghanistan. They’ve bonded together and produced a wonderful album.

Sophia Bush @SophiaBush

Nominated by: @Naffy_786

To me, Sophia Bush is one of the most inspirational women of 2011 especially for younger generation. Sophia Bush is more famous for her role playing the ever cool Brooke Davis on the hit American TV show One Tree Hill. In 2011 however she is just as well known for her her activities and hobbies off the show.

She is a known environmentalist, she care a lot about the environment and helps campaigns. On her website she is always encouraging people to do things such as using a water bottle instead of buying plastic bottled water and small things like that.

She is a great supporter of human rights campaigns especially though which focus on women rights. In America, she is linked with the campaign I am that girl. I am that girl campaign focuses on giving young women confidence and try to create healthy media. Sophia is so involved with this campaign she has gone to the White House with the founders of the campaign.

She is also heavily involved with organisation Do Something and she won a Do Something award which is voted on by the public.

Among other things Sophia is a advocate for equality ranging from race equality to Homosexuality. She is also a keen supporter of fighting Breast Cancer as her family had been affected by it. She is also a supporter of the occupy wall street campaign which has taken over the western world.
Since One Tree Hill wrapped up, she has been spending time helping an organisation called pencil of promis which helps build schools. She went to see a school being built in Pha Theung which is near Vietnam and helped out there and in the head quarters.

One of the other reasons why I personally feel that Sophia Bush is inspirational for the younger generation is because she is young, talented, beautiful but as well as knowing the world around her and being affected by it all she knows that friends and family are important and her love for music is also something which helps makes her stand out. Her twitter page is proof enough to show what kind of person inside and out she is.

Giuliana Rancic @GiulianaRancic

Nominated by: @Trillian_01

For me, the woman who inspired me most in 2011 is the TV presenter Giuliana Rancic for highlighting the issue of breast cancer and being brave enough to share her private struggle with her public viewing audience. Although she only had early stage breast cancer, a lumpectomy did not remove all of the cancerous cells and she faced the prospect of the cancer returning.

Rather than face chemotherapy which would’ve put her into early menopause (thus preventing her from having the family she craves), she chose a more radical therapy. The fact that she opted for a double mastectomy and, in the process, dismissed a lot of the taboos surrounding the procedure by talking so openly about it, is particularly impressive.

Like a lot of women, she feared feeling “less of a woman” but medical procedures have advanced considerably and now, doctors can save the skin and nipple and reconstruct the tissue underneath to give a more natural result. She even joked that her husband Bill helped to pick out her new breasts. A brave decision all around and I know that if I ever faced this, I would feel a lot more informed about it, having witnessed Giuliana’s courage.

Families Against Corporate Killing

Nominated by: @Spidey__

The F.A.C.K.ers (Families Against Corporate Killing) are a group of families set up in July 2006. It’s a club that none of these families and women wanted to join. They have all lost loved ones in workplace incidents. Two of the inspirational ladies I met this year both have tragic stories. Linzi Herberston, lost her partner who was working overtime to support his young family. Company fined £10,000 for health & safety breaches. Dorothy Wright lost her son Mark in a fatal workplace incident while bailing sealed aerosol cans, in which he suffered 90% burns and died the next day. The company was fined £100,000 over 4 years for health & safety breaches, but this has been recently reduced to only £50,000 to be paid over 5 years for fear that the initial fine would put the company out of business.(1) 75% of deaths and serious injuries are due to management health & safety failings, and are preventable. Sometimes firms are only fined a £1 for taking a life.

Yet despite these families being torn apart, they strive to stop it happening to other families. They fight for justice and are asking for urgent government action on making directors of employing organisations accountable for their actions. Breaking health & safety law is a criminal act, yet employers who do this aren’t treated as such. They want families across the country to unite and become a voice to campaign for an end in work related deaths, which is often well in excess of a thousand each year. Seeking better treatment for the families, able to advise and advocate on the families behalf during the investigation process, providing emotional support and to gain strength from each other.
These ladies fight on, determined that the law will be changed. Taking part in marches, meetings and featuring in the paper should the occasion arise.

The group continue to lobby parliament on many occasions, but Chris Grayling refused to meet them even though they made many requests. They would have been able to give valuable first hand experience on the effects of workplace incidents and what needs to be changed had he met with them. Professor Lofestedt did meet the group in his recent health & safety review for the government in which the group submitted valuable evidence an effort to keep us all safe at work.

These families and ladies, are striving to stop you and I suffering in the way that they have. They have lost a loved one, this is why I find them so inspirational.

If you want to know more about this group or could donate? Then please follow the link:

Aung San Suu Kyi

Nominated by: @lucianaberger
Nominated by: @S_eastwood
Nominated by: @kirstyjmcneill

Aung San Suu Kyi, AC (Burmese: born 19 June 1945) is a Burmese opposition politician and the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy. In the 1990 general election, her National League for Democracy party won 59% of the national votes and 81% (392 of 485) of the seats in Parliament. She had, however, already been detained under house arrest before the elections. She remained under house arrest in Burma for almost 15 of the 21 years from 20 July 1989 until her most recent release on 13 November 2010.

Angela Merkel

Nominated by: @PaddyBriggs
Nominated by: @MichaelH14

Angela Dorothea Merkel  is the Chancellor of Germany and Chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

After her election as Chancellor following the 2005 federal election, she led a grand coalition consisting of her own CDU party, its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), until 2009. In the 2009 federal election, the CDU obtained the largest share of the votes, and formed a coalition government with the CSU and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).

In 2007, Merkel was also President of the European Council and chaired the G8. She played a central role in the negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon and the Berlin Declaration. In domestic policy, health care reform and problems concerning future energy development have thus far been major issues of her tenure.

Merkel is the first female Chancellor of Germany. In 2007, she became the second woman to chair the G8, after Margaret Thatcher. In November 2011 she became the longest-serving leader of a G8 country. Forbes has named her the fourth most powerful person in the world as of 2011.

Christine Lagarde

Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde (née Lallouette; born 1 January 1956) is a French lawyer and the managing director of the International Monetary Fund since July 5, 2011. Previously, she held various ministerial posts in the French government: she was Minister of Economic Affairs, Finances and Industry and before that Minister of Agriculture and Fishing and Minister of Trade in the government of Dominique de Villepin. Lagarde was the first woman ever to become minister of Economic Affairs of a G8 economy, and is the first woman to ever head the IMF.

Nominated by: @PaddyBriggs
Nominated by: @adam_j666


Isobel Appiah

Nominated by: @JoeFinder

Founder of Pendunka, a crafts cooperative in Namibia for women with TB and/or HIV.

Stella Creasy MP @stellacreasy

Nominated by: @Cllr_Roxsie

For a 34 year old woman Stella Creasy has already achieved a lot. By 33 she was a Labour and Cooperative MP and as soon as she entered Parliament she hit the ground running. Her relentless campaigning on the issue of legal loan sharking and attempts to get legislation passed to curb the amount of interest payday lenders are able to charge, as well as her promotion of credit unions, have made her stand out from the rest of the 2010 intake.

The issue of legal loan sharks is one which primarily affects the poorest in society and by fighting to tackle it Stella has drawn her lines of battle and they are cooperative lines.

For her campaigning on this vital issue, her actions during the london riots and her championing of cooperative values Stella Creasy is my woman of the year.

Sign her petition at:

Caitlin Moran @caitlinmoran

Nominated by: @janeconsidine

Caitlin redefines feminism for a new age of women but it was her stance on Britain’s proposed library closures that clinched Jane Considine’s vote. Jane is an Education Consultant and trains UK Primary School teachers on Curriculum redesign, English learning and teaching and standards issues.

A travesty is slowly unraveling. More than 400 libraries are under threat of closure due to budget cuts. This could result in one of the greatest resources in our communities being removed for a new generation of children. Libraries are about connections, connecting people to their inheritance. Children in particular are entitled to their inheritance; the very brightest ideas, beliefs, achievements and stories. Long live Libraries. My childhood was spent in my local library in Erdington in Birmingham, so fond was I of this place, a treasure trove of words that at home my favourite imaginative play game was ‘libraries’. My dad bought me a date stamp like those that the librarians used in the seventies to tell you when your book was due back and I spent hours designing book inserts and creating a library space from cushions, blankets and a clothes airer. As I blossomed into a gangly teenager I hung around Central library in the City Centre, it was organised over six floors bursting with knowledge, learning and culture. I studied there for school exams, made friends and even had my first kiss.

Caitlin Moran is a columnist at The Times where she writes three columns a week: one for the Saturday Magazine, a TV review column, and the satirical Friday column “Celebrity Watch”. Moran won the Galaxy book of the year 2011 for her edgy read, “How to become a Woman” however it was her article on library closures that reminded us all of the quiet erosion of our communities. As the economic gloom hung forebodingly over our lives was the destruction of libraries really worth the money saved. No one seemed to be evaluating the real price that would be paid down the line from these cuts. Libraries act as a social glue binding communities together. They are for everyone – the toddler exploring, the child who needs to discover what they like, the teenager studying, the researcher fine tuning their thinking, the adult seeking information, escape or a new skill.

Many children’s authors are very proactive and strongly campaign for the issue of saving Britain’s libraries including Julia Donaldson and Philip Pullman. However it was Caitlin Moran’s article that caught my attention with its raw and honest account of the impact of a library on her life and how the proposed closures are a quiet erosion on our communities.

Outlined below are some of the more striking comments in that article.

“Everything I am is based on this ugly building on its lonely lawn – lit up during winter darkness, open in the slashing rain – which allowed a girl so poor she didn’t even own a purse to come in twice a day an experience actual magic: travelling through time, making contact with the dead (Dorothy Parker, Charlotte Bronte, Richard Brautigan, Truman Capote).”

“A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold, rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead. A human with a brain and a heart and a desire to be uplifted, rather than a customer with a credit card and an inchoate “need” for “stuff”. “
“Unless the Government has developed an exit strategy for the cuts, and has insisted that councils not sell closed properties, by the time we get back to “normal” again, our Victorian and postwar and Sixties red-brick boxy libraries will be coffee shops, Lidls and pubs. No new libraries will be built to replace them. These libraries will be lost forever.”
“And in their place, we will have a thousand more public spaces where you are simply the money in your pocket rather than the hunger in your heart. ”

Caitlin’s views resonate with all of us. I have such wonderful memories of the two libraries that featured in my childhood. The impact of both these places – the atmosphere, the physical structure of the building (even though not a big hit with Prince Charles) the smells, the rows of thousands and thousands of books, the way I felt just being there – all of these feelings have stayed with me. Keeping libraries as a focal point of our communities is how we show our youth the wonders of life long learning and support them to find the pleasure principle of reading.

Tracey Cheetham @tchee

Nominated by: @julianswainson

Tracey is a mother of three, a cancer survivor, a wife, a PhD student, a student teacher, an opinionated, well-traveled, feminist socialist woman. Tracey also smiles a lot.

One Comment

  1. “One of the other reasons why I personally feel that Sophia Bush is inspirational for the younger generation is because she is young, talented, beautiful…”

    Is this a poll about inspirational women or a beauty contest?

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