Inspiring Women by Rosalind Jana

It was one of those gorgeous, free evenings: the kind where work had been finished, dinner cooked, and I could subside with a glass of wine. As I sat in the living room, Kate Bush blaring out (who else?) I began thinking about all the brilliant women who inspire me. Kate BushKate has been a presiding influence in my life for years. I adore her keen creativity. The theatricality and continual reinvention. The songs that reach the nerves.

She always leaves me wanting to do, and be, more. More imaginative. More assertive. More willing to carve my own path.

I grabbed a pen and paper, and began scribbling down other names. All the extraordinary women who’ve affected me on one way or another. The list grew and grew. In fact, I think it may be never-ending. That evening was several months ago, but I’m adding in new names all the time. Some of them make me want to grab life by the handful. Others write such astonishing words that I’m left reeling after reading. Others still I admire for their empathy, their compassion, their never-ending interest in others. I wanted to share a few of them here. I’ve written before about the significance of celebrating others, but this goes beyond mere celebration. It’s about acknowledging how we all, in our own way, owe a debt to so many others. In fact, less of a debt and more an acknowledgment of countless riches: of a multifaceted set of influences we all assemble for ourselves. So, here are just ten women who currently inspire me.

Rosalind’s Women.

 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Her prose is poised and crafted, whether it’s a sharp-talking essay or beautiful, aching portrait of the Biafran war in Nigeria. She’s also someone I love for her unashamed celebration of being smart AND reveling in dressing well (and telling off anyone who thinks there might be an incompatibility between the two).

Diana from my village

Diana is in her seventies. I occasionally visit her house for mum, which will involve a cup of tea, a tour of the greenhouses, and a return home with an armful of whatever is currently in season: whether it’s the tongue-curling tang of tomatoes straight from the vine, or wind-fall apples.

Diana is curious, vivacious, and full of life. That’s how I want to be.

Tahmina Begum  images-1

I bumped into Tahmina by chance at a book event. We met a fortnight later for a very enthusiastic, drawn-out chat over ice-cream. She’s the same age as me and, alongside doing her degree, is the editor in chief of XXY magazine.

Meeting other driven young women is always exciting, especially when the conversations spiral from feminism to fashion and back again.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo 'The Crumbling Column’When I first saw Frida’s painting ‘The Crumbling Column’, I cried.

The image tapped directly into how I felt about my own spine (read Rosalind’s beautiful piece about Scoliosis here).  It was a visceral, gut-punching reaction.

From her ability to explore her own trauma through her art to her always fabulous outfits, Kahlo is someone I think about a lot.

Louise O’Neill

Louise writes books that can be difficult to read, and I mean that as the highest compliment. Louise O'NeillShe tackles the kinds of things we need to talk about more (body image, pressures placed on women, rape culture, feminism), and her YA books Only Ever Yours and Asking for It are both compelling, disturbing works. This list is rather biased towards writers (given that it’s my own career too), but Louise ranks highly because she leaves me feeling braver and more willing to tackle challenging subjects. Plus, she’s hilarious on Twitter.

Virginia Woolf

I wrote my dissertation on Woolf. Virginia-WoolfSpending several months in the company of her words was both a privilege and a pleasure. Her sentences fizz and sparkle. Whether it’s a deft observation in an essay, or the galloping rhythm of life passing by in The Waves, I always surface from her works wanting to read, write, and live vividly.

Katharine HepburnKatharine Hepburn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Inspiring Women

Hepburn purely makes the list for looking so damn good in wide-legged trousers. Also for her brimming wit and sass in every movie I’ve seen her in. I always feel a little more assertive after watching her act.

My mum

Where to begin? My mum is steel-strong. Despite being the smallest member of our family, she exerts the most power by far. She’s a ruthless editor, spying stray split infinitives and telling me off for using too many adjectives. She’s a gorgeous, gorgeous writer. She’s a red-headed, well-dressed, always-organized, ever-thoughtful woman who somehow manages to keep our family glued together. I have endless respect for her, and endless love.

Alice Oswald

Alice OswaldI could write an entire list alone composed of the female poets I adore (hey Kate Tempest, Elizabeth Jennings, U.A Fanthorpe, Mina Loy, Greta Stoddart, Sarah Howe, Greta Bellamacina and countless others!) but Alice Oswald is particularly special.

Her sense of craft and music astounds me. Her poems are so alive to space, to landscapes, to bodies, to intensity.

Every time I put down one of her collections, I have to grab my notebook and begin scribbling.

Sonia Delaunay

Artist, textiles designer, clothes maker, multimedia goddess – Delaunay’s imagination manifested itself in so many forms.

Sonia_Delaunay,_Rythme,_1938

Sonia Delaunay      

Artist, textiles designer, clothes maker, multimedia goddess – Delaunay’s imagination manifested itself in so many forms.

Moving between different fields and ways of thinking/ creating is such a wonderful skill to have. Delaunay said that colour was “the skin of the world”, and her bright, beautiful work – whether it’s a poem dress or a patchwork quilt – gets me itching to pull out paints, fabric, and needle and thread.

 

As I said, this is but a handful.

My original list also included people like Erin O’Connor, Janet Mock, St Vincent, Flo Morrissey, Cindy Sherman, Angela Carter, Grace Jones, Ida Kar, my great-great maternal grandma, Anne Fadiman, Amandla Stenberg, Jeanette Winterson, Mara Clarke, and many, many others.

I want to keep adding to it month on month, year on year. So much left to discover. So much left to learn from.

NPG x88604; Ida Kar by Ida KarTop pic: Photographer Ida Karr. Top row: Model Erin O’Connor, trans author Janet Mock, Singer Flo Morrisey, Grace Jones

Bottom row: Writer Angela Carter, Abortion Support Network founder Mara Clarke, Writer Jeanette Winterson, Actress Amandla Stenburg, Artist Cindy ShermanTop pic: Ida Karr. Top row: Erin O'Connor, Janet Mook, Flo Morrisey, Grace Jones, Bottom row: Angela Carter, Mara Clarke, Jeanette Winterson, Amandla Stenburg, Cindy Sherman

Rosalind’s first book ‘Notes on Being Teenage’ is being released by Wayland on June 9th. Available for preorder on Amazon and Waterstones.

Follow Rosalind’s brilliant blog for more exquisite musings Clothes, Cameras and Coffee

 

 

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