A Feminist a Day: Maya Angelou

Who is she?

mayaMaya Angelou was an American poet, activist, writer and feminist, who is best known for her first memoir, Why The Caged Bird Sings. She was a cultural icon, and known as ‘black America’s poet laureate’.

Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend at age 7, and he later died – she believed her speaking up about the incident caused his death, and remained mute for six years.

She studied dance and drama, and while studying, she applied to be a cable car conductor in San Francisco, but was refused because of her colour – she sat outside the operator’s office for a month and, at 15, became the first black female conductor in the city.

Maya became a single mother at 17, and worked variously as a prostitute, madam, waitress and cook, while auditioning for stage roles. She toured Europe with a theatre company, and became heavily involved in the civil rights movement, working with Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X.

Why should we thank her?

Maya was one of the greatest feminist poets, and her work Why The Caged Bird Sing remains a classic. Her work and her civil rights advocacy had a huge impact – her accomplishments are too huge to list here.  President Barack Obama said ,when presenting her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, that she had “spoken to millions, including my mother, which is why my sister is named Maya.”

 

A Feminist a Day: Maya Angelou

A Feminist a Day: Julie Hayward

Who is she?

_45770860_julietopJulie Hayward won the first equal pay case in British history. A worker in the kitchens of the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead, Julie contested that the skills required for her job meant she should be paid the same as her male colleagues.

Julie’s case focused on the fact that while she worked in a kitchen, the skills required to do her job and the level of training she needed to have were equal to some of her male colleagues who worked in the shipyard.

Her case went on for 10 years and was finally won in the House of Lords.

Why should we thank her?

Julie’s case was the first in the UK to accept the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. While the gender pay gap around the world and in Australia is still TERRIBLE, we have women like Julie and Lilly Ledbetter to thank for continuing to highlight and challenge pay inequity.

 

A Feminist a Day: Julie Hayward

A Feminist a Day: Erin Pizzey

Who is she?

erinpizzey1Erin Pizzey is a novelist and activist who started the world’s first domestic violence refuge, in England in 1971. Called Chiswick Women’s Aid, it’s now known as the organisaiton called Refuge, the largest of its kind in the UK.

Erin is, however, a controversial figure in feminism. After starting the refuge, she claimed that her cause had been hijacked by militant feminists to demonise men. In fact, she’s received death threats due to her research into the claim that most domestic violence is reciprocal – that both partners were violent to each other.

Despite this, Erin is still active in the domestic violence sector and in 2007, she opened the first Arab refuge for victims of domestic violence in Bahrain.

Why should we thank her?

Despite her controversial views, Erin started the world’s first women’s refuge and her work was certainly pioneering for the time.

 

A Feminist a Day: Erin Pizzey

A Feminist a Day: Lesley Abdela

Who is she?

lesleyLesley Abdela is a British campaigner and journalist, who has worked as an adviser in 40 different countries to promote women’s rights.

She has worked in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Nepal, advising governments, international organisations and companies. She’s also trained journalists and editors in countries like Albania and Senegal about sex trafficking and gender based violence.

In 1980 she founded the 300 GROUP campaign to increase the number of women MPs and local councilors in the UK (300 is roughly half the number of seats in the House of Commons).

Why should we thank her?

Lesley has helped to raise the profile of women in the UK, particularly in the political sphere, while her advisory work has no doubt impacted many women around the world.

 

 

A Feminist a Day: Lesley Abdela

A Feminist a Day: The Miss World flour-bombers

Who are they?

miss world protestA group of British women who, in 1970, protested the Miss World beauty pageant at the Royal Albert Hall, in London.

In the middle of the contest, around 50 women and some men started throwing flour bombs, stink bombs and leaflets while chanting “we’re not beautiful, we’re not ugly, we’re angry” and “ban this disgraceful cattle market!”.

With a worldwide audience of millions watching, their protest was definitely noticed and caused a furore.

Host Bob Hope tried to flee the stage, but was persuaded to go back out  and said ” anybody who wants to interrupt something as beautiful as this must be on some kind of dope”.

Why should we thank them?

The protesters raised worldwide awareness of the exploitation and inherent sexism of beauty pageants, but it seems sadly that little has changed – Miss World and Miss Universe pageants are still in existence.

 

A Feminist a Day: The Miss World flour-bombers

A Feminist a Day: Edith Cowan

Who is she?

edith cowanEdith Cowan was Australia’s first female MP.

Edith had a tough life as a child – her mother died in childbirth when she was seven, and her father killed his second wife, and was hanged for the crime. Edith was sent to boarding school and as an adult became concerned with issues concerning women and children. In 1894 she founded the Karrakatta Club, which was dedicated to women educating themselves, and she campaigned for women’s suffrage.

She turned her efforts to helping prostitutes and disadvantaged children – she believed that children should not be tried as adults and founded the Children’s Protection Society, which was active in the foundation of children’s courts.

Edith stood for parliament at the age of 59 and was elected – she defeated the Attorney General at the time. While in Parliament she pushed through legislation which allowed women to be involved in the legal profession. She also won mothers the right to an equal place with fathers when their children died without having made a will.

Why should we thank her?

Edith opened the door for other women to enter Australian parliament and used her role to advocate for the rights of women and children.

Fun fact

Edith is on our $50 note and Edith Cowan University in Perth is named in her honour.

 

A Feminist a Day: Edith Cowan

A Feminist a Day: Aphra Behn

Who is she?

aphraAphra Behn was a British playwright, poet and fiction writer in the mid 1600s and is recognised as the first English women to earn a living from writing.

Aphra was a spy for King Charles II before becoming a writer, and she became part of a group of writers and libertines.

Her novel Oroonoko, published in 1688, is the story of an enslaved African prince, and is considered an important work in the development of the English novel. She was known as being unusually independent for a woman of her time.

She is mentioned in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own – “all women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.”

Why should we thank her?

Aphra’s breakthrough as a female writer would inspire and influence women writers who followed her.

Best quote

“That perfect tranquillity of life, which is nowhere to be found but in retreat, a faithful friend and a good library.”

A Feminist a Day: Aphra Behn