Which two women have inspired you recently? #IWD


by Guest    
2:39 pm - March 8th 2012

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Today is International Women’s Day and we’ve been reflecting on which women inspire us.

For me, two women in particular come to mind. Both have contributed to work at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently, and inspired me personally as well as professionally.

The first is Alison Wood, who passed away very recently at the age of 98. I got to know Alison in the past couple of years as she was a contributor to the Advisory Group for My Home Life (MHL), which JRF supports to promote care homes as a positive option for older people.

Almost blind, Alison lived in a care home for ten years and was passionate about the importance of relationship-centred care. When she spoke, everyone listened, and her reflections have had, I’m sure, enormous influence. You can watch her talking in the MHL short film.

Alison’s continued activity and commitment throughout her old age was extraordinary, but her earlier life is even more remarkable, as I only found out from the Guardian obituary written by her friend Judith Kramer. As a child she was confined to bed with TB for 10 years, and as a young woman worked with the Quakers helping refugee families fleeing from the Nazis.

She subsequently trained volunteers to go into concentration camps after the war and supported the team that entered Belsen after it was liberated in 1945. Later in life she worked as a psychiatric social worker with disturbed children.

My second inspiring woman is Agnes Houston. Since her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s Disease, Agnes has become a highly effective campaigner. She is a member of the Alzheimer Scotland Council and chairs the Scottish Dementia Working Group (SDWG).

Today, she and other SDWG members are running a workshop at the 27th International Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International, and in two weeks time another at the Scottish Caring and Dementia Congress.

Ten years ago, how often did we see people with dementia attending conferences, let alone running workshops? The SDWG has done an enormous amount to challenge perceptions and stereotypes and Agnes’ passion for life has made her a role model for those working on JRF’s Dementia and Society programme.

They are both ‘international’ women as they have worked across borders and their influence extends well beyond the UK, but essentially they are ordinary women who have responded positively to life’s challenges in an extraordinary way.

As Alison put it: “You’re the sum of all the things that have happened to you in your life that have brought you to where you are now”.

I’d love to know which women have inspired you…


Philippa Hare works as a Programme Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. A longer version of this blog-post is here.

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Reader comments


Let me be the first to say, “My Mum”.

2. Torquil Macneil

And let me be the first to say ‘my wife’. And not just for being my wife (which is impressive enough to anyone who knows me) but because she is having her first novel published next year by Penguin, an achievement she pulled off despite holding down a challenging job and two children (quite literally quite often).

Prof Diane Ravitch the fearless campaigner against charter schools and education privatisation in the US

“Livvy” the brave 11-year-old transgirl who stood up for herself against abusive transphobic adults.

Generally, the women who are strong, that I meet every day in the face of fierce provocation/opposition, and who remain strong and still smile.

My girlfriend, because she made me a sandwich when I asked her to.

Marie Colvin – not only a brave and dedicated journalist but with immense style.

Padmasree Warrior – Chief Technology Officer of Cisco Systems and the former CTO of Motorola.

Because, as an asian woman she succeeded with dual diversity challenges.

And for having a very fitting surname as a role model!

8. So Much For Subtlety

Ten years ago, how often did we see people with dementia attending conferences, let alone running workshops?

Attending conferences? We saw them presiding on the Bench, sitting in Parliament.

OK, cheap shot perhaps. But it is sad that there are so few women doing anything of any particular note.

My big sisters (five of them). Two of the five, randomly sampled.

Five smart women (and we six are different) have grown up with me, a (male) contrary individual. Did they become contrary by association with me?

10. Chaise Guevara

@ 5 Wyatt

OK, that was pretty funny.

11. Paul Newman

Jessica Maximus

Jenny Tonge, for her courage and integrity in the face of institutionalised injustice.

The fragrant and wonderful Nadine Dorries, for keeping on keeping on despite all the abuse (sometimes from her own party leader).

And let me be the first to say ‘my daughter’, magnificent monstre sacrée that she is.

I forgot to mention the sadly forgotten Paskwâwimostos, the eighteenth century Cree Indian princess buried in Gravesend.


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