As a female blogger, I would be remiss if I didn’t write a piece in honor of Women’s History Month. (I admit I totally couldn’t get the writing juices flowing in time for International Women’s Day. I blame the dark and depressing winter that Just. Won’t. Go. Away).
But now I’ve compiled a list of ten women from the past and present who I admire for a number of reasons. In no particular order . . .
Queen Elizabeth I: You’ve seen her portraits a million times. But do you know her story? She was the daughter of Henry VIII, a man so obsessed with producing a male heir that he married six women! Despite Henry’s efforts, a healthy son was not to be, and Elizabeth inherited the throne anyway. Her forty-five year reign was one of the most successful monarchies England has ever seen. Elizabeth was a bad ass woman centuries before it was cool. She slayed her role as queen, despite an entire kingdom of naysayers and endless pressure from, like, everybody to marry – which she never did.
A true icon of the age that carries her namesake, Elizabeth was a force to be reckoned with.
Catherine of Aragon (Catalina of Spain): The first of Henry VIII’s six wives, Catherine was originally married to Henry’s older brother Arthur. Arthur died unexpectedly after the two had only been married for a few months, but Catherine believed with every fiber of her being that she had only one purpose– to be Queen of England. Catherine refused to be sent to a convent after she was widowed. Instead she remained vigilant, willing to do whatever was necessary to step into her role as queen. Years after Arthur’s death, Catherine fulfilled her destiny and married Henry VIII.
Sadly, as Catherine did not provide a son, Henry annulled their marriage in 1533. Through she was eventually sent to a convent to live out the rest of her days in isolation, Catherine maintained that she was the true Queen of England and refused to acknowledge Henry’s new wife as such. Her unwavering beliefs showed incredible strength during what must have been a lonely and heartbreaking journey.
Interested in learning more about Catherine’s story? Read about what some historians call “The greatest lie in history”
Joan of Arc: I’m not religious at all, so this one may come as a surprise. But the fact is that Joan died for what she believed in – at the tender age of (approximately) nineteen. Anybody who puts their lives at risk for the greater good earns serious kudos from me. Some believe that Joan was on a crusade to unveil the truth behind women’s importance in Catholicism (think Kathleen McGowan’s The Book of Love). And if any of these theories are remotely true, it makes her an even bigger bad ass in my book.
Ashley Graham: As a curvy girl myself, I admire anybody with as much self-confidence and drive as this woman, regardless of size. Not only has Ashley shattered the taboo that comes along with being “plus sized,” but she is a body-positive advocate for all women, whether you’re a size 2 or 20. And if her stunning magazine covers and beauty campaigns aren’t enough, she is also an incredibly successful businesswoman. Ashley designs jeans, lingerie, and swimsuits and has had incredible success in each of these ventures. She is truly someone to admire, not just for her looks, but her personality and ambition.
Kate Winslet: I first fell in love with Kate when I saw Titanic at age twelve. Not only did she end up becoming my first “girl crush” because of her stunning beauty and voluptuous body, but her talent was apparent from the get go. She is another woman who is driven to success and is not afraid to take control of any situation, especially when it comes to her career. Despite losing her first love to cancer at an early age, going through multiple divorces, and being ridiculed by Hollywood for her appearance, she has always come out on top. Her confidence and focus make her an awesome role model for any woman.
Michelle Obama: Sigh. What can I say about the gorgeous and groundbreaking FLOTUS? I admire Michelle for so many reasons – the least of which is her ability to carry herself with dignity and respect while balancing it with humor and empathy. Her muscular 5’11” frame and sometimes no-nonsense expression certainly has the ability to intimidate, but her strong physique is balanced by her undeniable beauty and femininity. Talk about a “girl who can do both” – Michelle managed to raise two beautiful girls, raise awareness for poverty, nutrition, and physical health, and became a fashion icon during her eight years in the White House – all while dealing with the tumultuous life that comes with being under the magnifying glass that is the Presidency. My favorite thing about Michelle has to be how she maintained such a high level of class during her time as FLOTUS. Regardless of the scrutiny or insults thrown her way, she handled herself and her family with dignity.
J.K. Rowling: Need I say more? This woman is the single most successful writer – EVER. So not only do I admire her from a creative standpoint, but also because of who she was before and after that success. Jo lost her mom, endured an ugly marriage, struggled to survive as a single parent, and battled depression before penning Harry Potter. And after her little ship came in, she never forgot where she came from. She has given so much money to charity that that she was dropped from Forbes “billionaire” list and downgraded to a millionaire. Her earnings and philanthropic ways are only the beginning. Jo has somehow maintained a relatively private life for herself and her children, wanting to make their childhood as normal as possible. She is another no-nonsense woman who is not afraid to speak her mind or defend herself or anyone who needs it. She is kind, giving, and caring, but has such a way with words that if someone pisses her off – Look. Out. I see you, Jo. Droppin’ mikes and shit.
Need a cry or some inspiration? Watch Jo’s Harvard Commencement Speech I cry Every. Time.
Oprah Winfrey: Now I’m not endorsing her for president or anything, but Oprah’s contributions to the (broadcasting) world are undeniable. For a little girl raised by a single mother who was fired from her first reporting job, her success is astounding in every aspect of the word. In addition to her wildly popular talk show, she has founded non-profits, a magazine, a book club, a food line, and a freaking TV network. Talk about an entrepreneur! Oprah is a prime example of someone more than capable of landing on your feet and slaying every aspect of life regardless of the opinions of others.
Jennifer Weiner: Another female writer that I couldn’t leave out. Jen’s book Good in Bed was one of the first fabulous “chick lit” books I read in my early twenties, and it made me realize that not only were there girls “out there” like me (chubby, awkward), but I could write books like this too! Jen is an inspiration in so many ways – as a writer and as a woman. She holds nothing back and refuses to conform to society in her private life or in the publishing world. If there were an equivalent of Ashley Graham for the writing world, Jennifer Weiner would certainly be it.
Malala Yousafzai: I hope to God this woman needs no introduction. But just in case you don’t know, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban when she was fifteen years old for being an advocate for girls’ education in Pakistan. She miraculously survived, and continues to work towards providing all young people access to education. The only thing that may overshadow Malala’s incredible work is her amazing spirit. She is not afraid of the Taliban. She does not fear for her life. She harbors no anger towards the men who attempted to kill her. She is fearless in the face of not only terrorism, but hate and prejudice. I think there is something the entire world can learn from this young woman. I think a spirit like hers graces this earth once in a great while, and we should all consider ourselves lucky to get to share the planet with her.
Who are the women you admire?