Over the centuries there have been outstanding women who've succeeded, persevered, resisted and shone bright. Here are our top 5 most inspirational women from history and the invaluable lessons they taught us.
1. Elizabeth "Lee" Miller (1907-1977) - Model, Photographer and Iconic War Photojournalist
Our heroine of wartime photojournalism. From a fashion modelling career in New York to a move to Paris to pursue a passion for Surrealism, Lee Miller never let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something.
She was living in the UK at the outbreak of WWII and rather than returning home to the USA, Miller embarked on a new mission: to become a frontline war correspondent for British Vogue.
She ignored those who told her it wasn’t possible and succeeded in convincing the Condé Nast publication to print her work; her images went on to become some of the most iconic taken during the war.
Miller constantly fought to be recognised and respected as an equal to the men around her. She once said that "the personality of the photography […] is really more important than technical genius" and we thank you for that.
She reminds us that success is not all about what we have learnt. So remember… your skills may land you the interview but your personality will win you the role.
2. Edith Cavell (1865-1915) - Heroic Nurse
A beacon of hope and an angel of the nursing bed. During the First World War Edith Cavell nursed soldiers of all nationalities, enemy or allied, and helped some 200 allied soldiers escape German-occupied Belgium.
This year marked 100 years since her death and we celebrated the life of this brave and resolute woman who put care and aid above all else including her own personal safety. Even after her arrest by the German forces and in the face of the death penalty, never once during her trial did she deny the accusations led against her.
Saving lives and securing your graduate role may not seem comparable but Edith taught us a lot. Stick to your guns, be brave and stand up for the people that matter. Certainty gives you confidence, confidence makes you brave and bravery will help you achieve your goals.
Edith famously declared "someday, somehow, I am going to do something useful" and you too have that opportunity ahead of you.
3. Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007) - First Female Prime Minister of Pakistan
How many women have been the Prime Minister of Pakistan to date? Precisely one and that makes Benazir Bhutto both exceptional and a record holder.
It takes a certain presence, power and political prowess to be elected into power once; Bhutto did it twice. Famously charismatic and politically shrewed, she sought to strengthen Pakistan’s economy and national security.
Her passion for Pakistan so touched her people that her assassination propelled her political party back into power due to an overwhelming vote of compassion and sympathy.
Benazir's determination to lead her country and transcend gender barriers is a lesson to us all. Dare to dream big and let nothing stand in the way. Decide what you want to achieve and face every obstacle head on.
If you have the courage, the possibilities are endless because in her words, “ultimately, leadership is about the strength of one’s conviction, the ability to endure the punches, and the energy to promote an idea”.
4. Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel (1883–1971) - Pioneering Fashion Designer
Founder of the now iconic fashion house Chanel, Coco is so much more than just a fashion designer. She is the only one of her profession to be credited in the Time’s 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century.
Famous for her ambition and visionary style, Coco created the new female style and liberated women’s fashion from the traditional corseted silhouette. She often used men’s clothing and adapted it for the feminine form to give the clothes a sense of masculine power.
Notoriously difficult to work for with unwavering belief in her creative ideas, Chanel proved that determination and uncompromising innovation are the key to success.
Her innovation changed the face of fashion; it was no longer only a way to look good but a statement, a weapon, a superpower. She helped redefine what clothing meant to women and she did it looking good.
“In order to be irreplaceable” she once said, “one must always be different” and we’re sure she’s onto something.
5. Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) - Revolutionary Writer
It’s likely that other names come to mind first when thinking about feminism, including some of the women above, but Mary Wollstonecraft may perhaps be the woman who started it all. Her Vindication of Rights of Women, published in 1792, is considered one of the first feminist philosophical tracts of the movement.
She lived an unorthodox life which broadened her mind and promoted liberated thinking about the perception of her gender. She concluded that women were not naturally born inferior to men but that society moulded them that way through an unequal education. This radical kind of thinking was so ahead of her time that it exposed Wollstonecraft to social distain, mockery and rejection.
She dared to take on the big issues – so big that parts of the world are still tackling the same problems – and she never feared the consequences.
She believed “the beginning is always today” and she was right. When better to start creating your future than right now.
Mary Wollstonecraft you belong in our top 5 for being one awesome lady. Plus her daughter Mary Shelley would go on to write the iconic gothic fantasy novel Frankenstein. What a family!