editor's choice



celebrating that which is noble, wonderful and honourable in all of us


That we, in the twenty-first century, still need some acknowledgement, some recognition, some celebration to say we matter is wrong. And yet, it is what it is. And, I type that with absolutely no intention of being flippant, but just to state it is the reality. I hope there will come a point in my lifetime, where gender is irrelevant to the degree that it impacts on social and economic position or progression – in the same way that I hope race, sexuality, colour, disability and every other factor on which we’re discriminated against and discriminate, in turn, just disappears. But, we’re a long way off from that.

So, here are more than 150 women who are far from invisible. And, because this is my list, I include my mother among them. She was the product of a matrilineal society, in which women rocked, but, like many, she took on so many different forms during her far too short life, including as a single mother of five young children. A job well done, but not an uncommon one.

We’d love to hear your comments on the list. And, please do check out our Pinterest boards, which complement this list and celebrate all manner of things, many joyous.

And finally, may the world be a more gentle, more accepting and more joyful place for us all.

We have it in our power to make it so.


Agatha Christie – writer; Queen of mysteries, ‘I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.’
Alice Munro – Canadian writer; winner of Nobel Prize for Literature, 2013, ‘Naturally my stories are about women — I’m a woman … I think I’m a feminist as far as thinking that the experience of women is important. That is really the basis of feminism.’
Alice Walker – extraordinary writer; the first person, apart from my mother, to teach me that women are great and divine beings, ‘The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.’
Amelia Earhart ­­– aviator; first woman to cross the Atlantic, ‘Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace with yourself.’
Anaïs Nin – writer, who celebrated women’s sexuality, ‘How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself?’
Angela Carter – inspiring writer; feminist, ‘If women allow themselves to be consoled for their culturally determined lack of access to the modes of intellectual debate by the invocation of hypothetical great goddesses, they are simply flattering themselves into submission (a technique often used on them by men). All the mythic versions of women, from the myth of the redeeming purity of the virgin to that of the healing, reconciliatory mother, are consolatory nonsenses; and consolatory nonsense seems to me a fair definition of myth, anyway. Mother goddesses are just as silly a notion as father gods. If a revival of the myths gives women emotional satisfaction, it does so at the price of obscuring the real conditions of life. This is why they were invented in the first place.’ (The Sadean Woman)
Angelina Jolie – actor; human rights and women’s health advocate, ‘I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.’ (The New York Times; on her decision to have a preventative double mastectomy)
Anne Frank – writer; truly inspirational young woman, ‘Women should be respected as well! Generally speaking, men are held in great esteem in all parts of the world, so why shouldn’t women have their share? Soldiers and war heroes are honored and commemorated, explorers are granted immortal fame, martyrs are revered, but how many people look upon women too as soldiers? … Women, who struggle and suffer pain to ensure the continuation of the human race, make much tougher and more courageous soldiers than all those big-mouthed freedom-fighting heroes put together!’
Annie Besant – theosophist; human rights activist, ‘Never forget that life can only be nobly inspired and rightly lived if you take it bravely and gallantly, as a splendid adventure in which you are setting out into an unknown country, to meet many a joy, to find many a comrade, to win and lose many a battle.’
Annie Liebovitz – influential photographer, ‘I didn’t want to let women down. One of the stereotypes I see breaking is the idea of aging and older women not being beautiful.’
Annie Oakley – groundbreaking folk hero; renowned markswoman, ‘Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally, you’ll hit the Bull’s Eye of Success.’
Aretha Franklin – musician, ‘I sing to the realists; people who accept it like it is.’
Audrey Hepburn – actor; style icon; influential human rights advocate, ‘For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.’
Aung San Suu Kyi – inspiring human rights activist; leader, National League for Democray (NLD), Burma, ‘Human beings the world over need freedom and security that they may be able to realize their full potential.’
Barbra Streisand – actor; singer; filmmaker; social and political activist, ‘Why is it men are permitted to be obsessed about their work, but women are only permitted to be obsessed about men?’
Barbara Castle, Baroness Castle of Blackburn – Labour politician; one of the longest serving women MPs in the House of Commons, who arguably should have been the first female British PM, ‘In politics, why throw away your womanly assets on being an honorary man? You should have the strength that women have and to call it a man’s strength is an insult.’
Bette Davis – Hollywood actor; cultural icon, ‘I never wished I’d been a man. I always felt like a woman and wanted to be a woman. I wanted to be fulfilled professionally and personally, as a woman. There are some who might say I had penis envy, but I only had penis admiration.’
Betty Friedan – writer; feminist; author of The Feminine Mystique, ‘Men are not the enemy, but the fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves.’
Beyoncé Knowles – musician; cultural icon, ‘We need to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. We have to step up as women and take the lead.’
Billie Holiday – influential musician; cultural icon, ‘You can be up to your boobies in
white satin, with gardenias in your hair
and no sugar cane for miles, but you
can still be working on a plantation.’
Billie Jean King – Influential international tennis player; advocate gay rights, ‘The main thing is to care. Care very hard, even if it’s only a game you are playing.’
Björk – influential Icelandic singer–songwriter, who got me through my late teens, along with Neneh Cherry, Plath and Billie, ‘There are certain emotions in your body that not even your best friend can sympathize with, but you will find the right film or the right book, and it will understand you.’
Boudicca – Warrior Queen; Queen of the Celts; Freedom Fighter, ‘I was whipped by the Romans when they tried to take our lands — and now I am fighting for my freedom. Think how many of us are fighting and why. We must win this battle or die. Let the men live as slaves if they want. I will not.’ –Boudicca’s last speech, as recorded by historian Dio Cassius.
Catherine the Great (Catherine II) – Mistress of the Universe; longest reigning female leader of Russia, ‘I beg you take courage; the brave soul can mend even disaster.’
Charlotte Brontë – English writer; sister of Emily; author of Jane Eyre, ‘Conventionality is not morality.’

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Nigerian-born writer, feminist and activist. Her TED talk, ‘We Should All Be Feminists‘ has been turned into a best-selling book, her words sampled by Beyoncé in one of her songs. ‘Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.’

Christabel Pankhurst – English Suffragist; founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union, ‘Trust in God – She will provide.’
Cleopatra – Egyptian Queen; great historic leader; cultural icon, ‘For her actual beauty, it is said, was not itself so remarkable that none compared with her, or that no one could see her without being struck by it, but the contract of her presence, if you lived with her, was irresistable, the attraction of her person… and the character that attended all she said or did, was something bewitching.’ (Plutarch on Cleopatra)
Coco Chanel – designer; cultural icon, ‘The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.’
Condoleezza Rice – first African American female Secretary of State, United States; diplomat; academic. ‘Life is full of small victories along the way. If you ever start feeling, “I’ve achieved everything I’m going to achieve. I’ve mastered this. I’ve mastered my life,” I think you cease to live. You stop caring. You stop striving. I think that’s what living is really all about.’
Diana, Princess of Wales – human rights advocate, ‘Everyone of us needs to show how much we care for each other and, in the process, care for ourselves.’
Diana Athill – writer, editor, brilliant woman, one of the reasons I became an editor. ‘Looking at things is never time wasted.… When I was marvelling at the beauty of a painting or enjoying a great view it did not occur to me that the experience, however intense, would be of value many years later. But there it has remained, tucked away in hidden bits of my mind and now it comes, shouldering aside even the most passionate love affair.’
Dolly Parton – influential musician; cultural icon, ‘You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.’Dorothy Dandridge – influential African American actress, ‘It [prejudice] is such a waste. It makes you logy and half-alive. It gives you nothing. It takes away.’
Dorothy Parker – writer; critic; cultural icon, ‘Women and elephants never forget.’
Dorothy L. Sayers – eminent crime-fiction writer; playwright; essayist; contemporary of Agatha Christie’s, ‘Death seems to provide the minds of the Anglo-Saxon race with a greater fund of amusement than any other single subject.’
Edith Wharton – American writer, ‘There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.’
Eleanor Roosevelt – human rights advocate; head of the UN human rights commission; former First Lady, ‘You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.’
Ellen Degeneres – broadcaster; comedian; ‘Laugh. Laugh as much as you can. Laugh until you cry. Cry until you laugh. Keep doing it even if people are passing you on the street saying, “I can’t tell if that person is laughing or crying, but either way they seem crazy, let’s walk faster.” Emote. It’s okay. It shows you are thinking and feeling.’
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross– psychiatrist; leader in the study of death and bereavement, ‘People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.’
Elizabeth I – English monarch; Warrior Queen, ‘A clear and innocent conscience fears nothing.’
Elizabeth II – reigning British monarch; world leader, ‘When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.’ (Christmas message, 2008).
Elizabeth Barrett Browning – influential poet; suffragist; abolitionist, ‘You’re something between a dream and a miracle.’
Elizabeth Taylor – British-born American actress; cultural icon, ‘I’ve been through it all, baby, I’m mother courage.’
Ella Fitzgerald – music legend; inspiring woman, ‘Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.’
Emily Brontë – English writer; sister of Charlotte; author of Wuthering Heights, ‘She burned too bright for this world.’ From Wuthering Heights.
Emily Dickinson – influential poet, ‘Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.’
Emmeline Pankhurst – Leading suffragist, ‘I know that women, once convinced that they are doing what is right, that their rebellion is just, will go on, no matter what the difficulties, no matter what the dangers, so long as there is a woman alive to hold up the flag of rebellion. I would rather be a rebel than a slave. I would rather die than submit;and that is the spirit that animates this movement … I mean to be a voter in the land that gave me birth or they shall kill me, and my challenge to the Government is: kill me or give me my freedom: I shall force you to make that choice.’
Enid Blyton – hugely influential children’s writer; creator of Noddy and The Famous Five, among other great characters, ‘You’re trying to escape from your difficulties, and there never is any escape from difficulties, never. They have to be faced and fought.’ From Six Cousins At Mistletoe Farm.
Estée Lauder – entrepreneur; hugely successful founder of beauty empire, ‘If there is a message at all, it’s probably that we have to recognize in ourselves how we feel morally about certain things and make sure we follow that up with our actions.’
Eva Perón – politician; activist; cultural icon, ‘I demand more rights for women because I know what women have had to put up with’.
Eve Ensler – playwright; performer; creator, Vagina Monologues, ‘When you rape, beat, maim, mutilate, burn, bury, and terrorize women, you destroy the essential life energy on the planet.’
Florence Nightingale – the ‘Lady with the Lamp’; nurse; advocate for better medical care, ‘I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.’
Frida Kahlo – artist; cultural icon, ‘Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.’
George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) – influential 19th-century English novelist, journalist and essayist, ‘It is never too late to be what you might have been.’
George Sand – writer, ‘You can bind my body, tie my hands, govern my actions: you are the strongest, and society adds to your power; but with my will, sir, you can do nothing.’
Georgette Heyer – writer, ‘Is it not unsupportable to be held down to a canter when you long to gallop for miles?’ From The Grand Sophy.
Georgia O’Keeffe – artist; cultural icon, ‘I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.’
Germaine Greer – feminist; social commentator (who once chucked me off a computer at the British Library. No hard feelings…), ‘Yet if a woman never lets herself go, how will she ever know how far she might have got? If she never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run?’
Gertrude Stein – American writer; cultural icon, ‘One must dare to be happy.’
Gloria Gaynor – American singer and disco Queen; probably most famous for ‘I will survive’, the anthem of many a challenged person, ‘Well, we all know that self-esteem comes from what you think of you, not what other people think of you.’
Gloria Steinem – influential feminist, ‘Don’t worry about your background, whether it’s odd or ordinary, use it, build on it.’
Golda Meir – Israeli politician; fourth Prime Minister of Israel, ‘Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.’
Grace Kelly – Hollywood actor; Princess Grace of Monaco; benefactress, ‘I never say never, and I never say always.’
Greta Garbo – Hollywood actor; cultural icon, ‘I never said, “I want to be alone.” I only said, “I want to be left alone.” There is all the difference.’
Gwendolyn Brooks – influential poet, ‘I am interested in telling my particular truth as I have seen it.’
Harper Lee – writer, ‘Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.’ From To Kill a Mockingbird.
Harriet Beecher Stowe – writer; anti-slavery advocate; suffragist, ‘So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why don’t somebody wake up to the beauty of old women?’
Harriet Tubman – abolitionist, ‘You’ll be free or die!’
Hattie McDaniel – first African American actor to win an Academy Award, ‘You can best fight any existing evil from the inside.’
Hedy Lamarr – alluring actor (day job); inventor of anti-jamming device for controlled torpedoes, thereby saving lots of lives in World War II and beyond. ‘Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.’
Helen Gurley Brown – editor of Cosmopolitan; writer Sex and the Single Girl; advocate of sexual freedom ‘How could any woman not be a feminist? The girl I’m editing for wants to be known for herself. If that’s not a feminist message, I don’t know what is.’
Helen Keller – leading advocate for blind/deaf rights, ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’
Helena Rubinstein – entrepreneur; philanthropist, ‘Nothing that is worthwhile comes easily…’
Hillary Clinton – politician; Secretary of State; former First Lady, ‘There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives. There cannot be true democracy unless all citizens are able to participate fully in the lives of their country.’
Ida Lupino – Hollywood actor and director, ‘I’d love to see more women working as directors and producers. Today, it’s almost impossible to do it unless you are an actress or writer with power… I wouldn’t hesitate right this minute to hire a talented woman if the subject matter were right.’
Indira Gandhi – first female PM of India, ‘The power to question is the basis of all human progress.’
Ingrid Bergman – Swedish-born actor; cultural icon, ‘Be yourself. The world worships the original.’
Jacqueline Kennedy – former First Lady; editor/publisher; style icon – ‘I am a woman before anything else.’
Jane Austen – Regency writer; influential social commentator, ‘Our scars make us know that our past was for real.’ (Pride and Prejudice)
Jane Goodall – primatologist, ‘Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.’
Janis Jopin – music legend; cultural icon, ‘Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.’
Jeanette Winterson – writer; cultural icon, ‘It’s hard to remember that this day will never come again. That the time is now and the place is here and that there are no second chances at a single moment.’
JK Rowling – writer, best-known for ‘Harry Potter’ books ‘It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.’
Joan of Arc – fifteenth-century French leader, burned at the stake for alleged heresy, ‘One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.’
Joan Baez – folk legend; activist, ‘Action is the antedote to despair.’
Josephine Baker – African American dancer and singer; cultural icon, ‘You must get an education. You must go to school, and you must learn to protect yourself. And you must learn to protect yourself with the pen, and not the gun.’
Judi Dench (Dame Judy Dench) – much-loved British actor of screen and stage, ‘The more I do, the more frightened I get. But that is essential. Otherwise why would I go on doing it?’

Kamala Harris – US politician, lawyer, civil rights advocate. ‘What I want young women and girls to know is: You are powerful and your voice matters. You’re going to walk into many rooms in your life and career where you may be the only one who looks like you or who has had the experiences you’ve had. But you remember that when you are in those rooms, you are not alone. We are all in that room with you applauding you on. Cheering your voice. And just so proud of you. So you use that voice and be strong.
Katharine Hepburn – actor; influential and inspiration woman, ‘We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.’
Katherine Bigelow – first woman to win Best Director Academy Award, ‘I don’t believe in censorship in any form.’
Lady Gaga – American singer–songwriter; cultural phenomenon, ‘Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.’
Lee Miller – photographer; war correspondent. ‘Other people tend to value you the way you value yourself.’
Louisa May Alcott – much-loved writer of Little Women, ‘I like to help women help themselves, as that is, in my opinion, the best way to settle the woman question. Whatever we can do and do well we have a right to, and I don’t think any one will deny us.’
LM Montgomery – Canadian writer of the wonderful Anne of Green Gables series, ‘Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.’ From Anne of Green Gables.
Lucille Ball – actor; comedian; first woman to own a TV network (the reason why Star Trek was broadcast) ‘Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. Your really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.’
Madame CJ Walker – first African American millionaire; entrepreneur, ‘I got my start by giving myself a start.’
Madeleine Albright – first woman to be Secretary of State, ‘There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.’
Madonna – musician; cultural icon, ‘I stand for freedom of expression, doing what you believe in, and going after your dreams.’
Mae West – actor; singer; comedienne; the original ‘Blonde Bombshell’, ‘Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.’
Malala Yousafzai – human rights advocate; inspirational young woman, ‘We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.’

Margaret Atwood – writer, ‘ We think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.’
Margaret Fuller – writer; influential feminist, ‘The especial genius of women I believe to be electrical in movement, intuitive in function, spiritual in tendency.’
Margaret Mead – cultural anthropologist, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’
Margaret Sanger – leading advocate in sex education; female contraception, ‘A free race cannot be born of slave mothers.’
Margaret Thatcher – influential world politician; love her or hate her very influential; first female PM Britain In politics, ‘If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.’
Margery Allingham – crime writer extraordinaire,‘The optimism of a healthy mind is indefatigable.’
Marianne Faithfull – singer–songwriter; chanteuse; style icon, ‘Bad behaviour makes men more glamorous. Women get destroyed, thrown out of society and locked up in institutions.’
Marie Antoinette – French Queen; cultural icon, ‘ Courage! I have shown it for years; think you I shall lose it at the moment when my sufferings are to end?
Marie Curie – scientist; first woman to win the Nobel Prize and first person to win it for two different categories ‘Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.’
Marilyn Monroe – style icon, yes, actor, yes; advocate for civil rights, ‘I don’t mind living in a man’s world, as long as I can be a woman in it.’
Mary Quant – fashion designer; icon, ‘Risk it, go for it. Life always gives you another chance, another go at it. It’s very important to take enormous risks.’
Mary Stopes – women’s rights advocate; founder of first birth control clinic ‘That girls can reach a marriageable age without some knowledge of the realities of sex would seem incredible: but it is a fact. One highly educated lady whom I know intimately told me that when she was about eighteen she suffered many months of agonizing apprehension that she was about to have a baby, because a man had snatched a kiss from her lips at a dance.’ (Married Love; 1918, we haven’t really moved on that much since then.)
Mary Wollstonecraft – writer; philosopher; advocate for women’s and human rights ‘I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.’ (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman)
Mata Hari – spy; temptress; historic icon, ‘I am a woman who enjoys herself very much; sometimes I lose, sometimes I win.’
Maya Angelou – writer; civil rights activist; actor – ‘I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.’
Meryl Streep – award-winning American actor, ‘Integrate what you believe in every single area of your life. Take your heart to work and ask the most and best of everybody else, too.’
Michelle Obama – lawyer; civil rights advocate, former First Lady, ‘Strong men, men who are truly role models, don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerfult.’
Millicent Fawcett – suffragist, ‘To women as mothers is given the charge of the home and the care of children. Women are therefore, by nature as well as by training and occupation, more accustomed than men to concentrate their minds on the home and the domestic side of things. But this difference between men and women, instead of being a reason against their disenfranchisement , seems to me to be the strongest possible reason in favour of it; we want to see the home and the domestic side of things to count for more in politics and in the administration of public affairs than they do at present.’
Mother Teresa – human rights advocate, ‘It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.’
Nadine Gordimer – Nobel Prize-winning South African writer; very important in anti-Apartheid struggle, ‘Nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction.’
Nancy Astor – first woman elected to House of Commons, ‘We’re not asking for superiority for we have always had that; all we ask is equality.’
Nancy Mitford – English aristocrat; essayist; biographer; writer, ‘To fall in love you have to be in the state of mind for it to take, like a disease.’
Naomi Wolf – feminist, ‘A cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty but an obsession about female obedience.’
Neneh Cherry – extraordinary musician, who resonates on every level, ‘When you lose a parent, you realize how vital they are to the foundation of your life. It’s impossible to understand what it means until that curtain is pulled. You’re an orphan. But then I think that life is kind of remarkable, and the thing that causes the biggest pain can also bring amazing energy.’
Nina Simone – musician; cultural icon, ‘You don’t have to live next to me / Just give me my equality.’
Nora Roberts – writer; philanthropist, ‘If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.’
Oprah Winfrey – media; philanthropist; entrepreneur; actor, ‘Turn your wounds into wisdom.’
Patricia Cornwell – American writer who arguably began forensically based crime-fiction writing, ‘The greatest gift is our own eyes, sense of smell, and abilities to deduce.’
Rachel Carson – leading environmentalist, ‘The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.’
Rajama Pillai Vasudevan – exemplary woman; matriarch; mother. Born into the Brahmin caste, she believed and taught us that everyone is equal and equally extraordinary. ‘You can do anything, be anything, but be kind.’
Rosa Luxemburg – Marxist theorist and philosopher, ‘Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.’
Rosa Parks – civil rights advocate; refusal to give up her seat to a white person sparked Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955), ‘The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.’
Rosalind Franklin – groundbreaking scientist; discovered double-helix structure of DNA before Crick, Watson and Wilkins. ‘In my view, all that is necessary for faith is the belief that by doing our best we shall succeed in our aims: the improvement of [hu]mankind.’

Ruth Bader Ginsburg – associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1993 to her death in 2020. ‘I … try to teach through my opinions, through my speeches, how wrong it is to judge people on the basis of what they look like, color of their skin, whether they’re men or women.’
Sappho – great Greek lyric poet from the island of Lesbos, ‘Although only breath, words which I command are immortal.’
Shirin Ebadi – human rights activist; lawyer; former judge; winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 2003, ‘The idea of cultural relativism is nothing but an excuse to violate human rights.’
Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby – influential British politician; daughter of Vera Brittain, ‘There are hazards in anything one does but there are greater hazards in doing nothing.’
Simone de Beauvoir – hugely influential writer and philosopher; feminist, ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.’
Sojourner Truth – abolitionist; writer. ‘’Ain’t I a Woman?’
Sophia Loren – Italian actor; Hollywood star; cultural icon, ‘You have to enjoy life. Always be surrounded by people that you like, people who have a nice conversation. There are so many positive things to think about.’
Susan B. Anthony – suffragist, ‘Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.’
Susan Sontag – cultural commentator, ‘Silence remains, inescapably, a form of speech.
Susie Orbach – psychotherapist (who we love); author Fat is a Feminist Issue, ‘Today “fat” has become not a description of size but a moral category tainted with criticism and contempt.’
Sylvia Plath – leading American poet and writer; author of The Bell Jar and Ariel, ‘Can you understand? Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that – I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much – so very much to learn.’
Tanni Grey-Thompson, Baronness Grey-Thompson – decorated paralympian; parliamentarian; broadcaster, ‘Don’t mess about, don’t turn up for things half-prepared. If you want to do it, do it, and if you don’t want to do it, don’t do it – but don’t turn up and moan about doing it.’
Toni Morrison – influential writer, ‘You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.’ (Song of Solomon)
Valentina Tereshkova – first woman in space, ‘If women can be railroad workers in Russia, why can’t they fly in space?’
Victoria, Queen of England – 19th-century ruler of the British Empire and one of the longest reigning monarchs, ‘We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat. They do not exist.’
Virginia Woolf – influential British writer; cultural icon, ‘For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.’
Vita Sackville-West – writer; cultural icon; gardener, ‘I worshipped dead men for their strength, forgetting I was strong.’
Vivienne Westwood – influential designer, celebrating women; cultural icon, ‘It’s a philosophy of life. A practice. If you do this, something will change, what will change is that you will change, your life will change, and if you can change you, you can perhaps change the world.’
Wangari Maathai – Kenyan civil rights activist; first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, ‘It was easy to persecute me without people feeling ashamed. It was easy to vilify me and project me as a woman who was not following the tradition of a ‘good African woman’ and as a highly educated elitist who was trying to show innocent African women ways of doing things that were not acceptable to African men.’
Yoko Ono – cultural icon; artist, ‘A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.’
Zora Neale Hurston – influential writer, ‘Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.’


Also of interest: ‘Thanking Ms Angelou – a voice that we shall never lose’; ”We should all be feminists‘; How Penguin learned to fly…

Pinterest: ‘The not-so-invisible woman – celebrating that which is..‘; ‘Meeting Ms Angelou – Maya Angelou in pictures‘; ‘A–Z of crushes

See also: All about my mother, a life in words



Notice: Please note that any images and quotations are intended to be for promotional purposes only. In no way, have we have intentionally breached anyone’s copyright.

This article is ©The Literary Shed, 2017. All opinions expressed are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments so please do contact us or fill in the form below. If you wish to reproduce the list, please credit us fully. Thank you.