International Women's Day!

I am surrounded by so many inspiring women. Throughout my life I've had so many to look up to - friends, aunts, cousins, teachers, mentors, bosses, artists, musicians, playwrights, actors, writers, entrepreneurs, philosophers, doctors; women I know, women I read about, women I aspire to be like, and mostly my own mother - you only have one, and mine is pretty darn amazing so I feel pretty lucky.  

I've decided to narrow down three women in history that I have come across over the past few years and who I thought I'd share little tidbits about. There are so many to count (an endless list - alive and not alive) - but only gave myself three so I could try and diversify. Each one has a incredible story attached behind them, so if you feel like it I'd recommend reading up about them!

Jane Digby (1807-1881, Aristocrat-turned-Adventurer)

I found out about Jane Digby through one of my favourite books by Lesley Blanch, 'The Wilder Shores of Love' - which is tells about the lives of 4 very different women who were all very ahead of their times. Jane Digby's story was so fascinating, like something out of someone's imagination and something you'd not expect out of a women in that day and age. In (very) short: She was the daughter of an Admiral, and ‘promiscuous’ for her time - married to a Baron who became the Governor of India, had two children, one of which survived, had affairs with her cousin, then a prince, was divorced from the Baron, became the lover of Ludwig I of Bavaria, then married different Baron, found another lover, this time a Greek Count, whom her husband then challenged to a duel, then was divorced again, then converted to be Greek Orthodox faith and married the Count, had a kid who then died really young falling off a balcony, they divorced, she had an affair with the King of Greece, then with a hero of the Greek Revolution, and spent the next few years living in caves, riding horses, and hunting in the mountains, and after many years he turned out to be unfaithful and at the age of 46 she travelled to the middle east and fell in love with Sheikh Abdul Medjuel el Mezrab, 20 years her junior, and thus begins a happy 28 year long marriage.  Lots of other fascinating adventures between there. Apologies for the run on sentence.

Clara Schumann (Pianist, Teacher, Composer - 1819 -1896)

I love this quote by Clara Schumann:

"Composing gives me great pleasure... there is nothing that surpasses the joy of creation, if only because through it one wins hours of self-forgetfulness, when one lives in a world of sound"

For a long time after she died, Clara Schumann was not widely recognized as a composer, but was better known as a pianist - having given concerts from as early as 13, one of the first to perform from memory. She was the main breadwinner for her family, and the sole one when her husband, Robert Schumann, died. Never accepted charity, even when a group of musicians offered to have a fundraising concert for her and her family. She had a very tragic life, four of her eight children and her husband died before her, and when one of her sons died, took on his children to raise as well. A brave women, she was famous for walking through the front lines of the city of Dresden in 1849 during the May uprising, defying an bunch of armed men, rescuing her family, then walking back the same way again.

Francesca Woodman (Photographer - 1938-1981)

I really love Francesca Woodman's work - I find her imagery really similar to what I think about when I'm writing. As some of you may know, I love ghost stories, and find a lot of inspiration in abandoned buildings, so I was immediately drawn to her when I first heard her name. I was then drawn in by her story which is equally fascinating. Comitting suicide at the age of 22, she lived a short, intense, prolific life.  Never famous in her lifetime, she had an incredible collection of evocative portraits that has influenced an entire generation of artists. She was usually the subject of her photographs, one time saying only because it was a matter of ‘convenience’ as she was always available. Her pictures are simple, sophisticated, in stark, empty settings, and frequently appears in the nude – the long exposure times cause a lot of blurredness, resulting in really haunting imagery. Sadly, she suffered from depression, and, rarely satisfied with her work, she fell from a window of her New York apartment. Not leaving a note, she wrote this in a letter to a friend a fews before her death: 'My life at this point is like very old coffee-cup sediment and I would rather die young leaving various accomplishments, ie some work, my friendship with you, some other artefacts intact, instead of pell-mell erasing all of these delicate things.’

 

And there you have it! I'd love to hear from you: women you find interesting and why. Always looking to be inspired.