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Women who inspire us

On International Women’s Day 2021 VIBE members and staff put forward women who provide inspiration in their lives.



Steve’s chosen creative is Artemisia Lomi or Artemisia Gentileschi who was an Italian Baroque painter. Artemisia is considered among the most accomplished seventeenth-century artists, initially working in the style of Caravaggio. She was producing professional work by the age of fifteen.

Her achievements as an artist were long overshadowed by the story of her rape by Agostino Tassi when she was a young woman and her participation in the trial of her rapist.[11] For many years Artemisia was regarded as a curiosity, but her life and art have been re-examined by scholars in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and she is now regarded as one of the most progressive and expressive painters of her generation. Now she is being given recognition for her talents alone and major exhibitions at internationally esteemed fine art institutions, such as the National Gallery in London.



John chose Abbess Hildegard of Bingen

Accounts written in Hildegard’s lifetime and just after, describe an extraordinarily accomplished woman: a visionary, a prophet (she was known as “The Sibyl Of The Rhine”), a pioneer who wrote practical books on biology, botany, medicine, theology and the arts. She was a prolific letter-writer to everyone from humble penitents looking for a cure for infertility to popes, emperors and kings seeking spiritual or political advice.

Her character was steely, determined and overbearing at times. But the nuns who flourished under her unorthodox regime were allowed extraordinary freedoms, such as wearing their hair long, uncovered and even crowned with flowers.

Nevertheless, Hildegard commanded the respect of the Church and political leaders of the day. She was a doer: she oversaw the building of a new monastery at Rupertsberg, near Bingen, to house her little community, and when that grew too large she established another convent in Eibingen, which still exists today (though the present building dates from 1904).



Alison put forward Shirley Collins

Shirley Collins grew up in a family which kept alive a great love of traditional song. She became a successful folk song performer and recorded many albums and releases from 1958 to 1978. She also worked with the world-renowned Alan Lomax to document folk song traditions across America.

After a successful career Shirley would retire from music at an eary age, following a painful divorce she lost the ability to sing entirely. After receieving many different forms of medical treatment for the condition she was still not able to recover from the loss of her voice. This led her to leave her passion behind and concentrate on bringing up her family as a single mother.

The mark she left in recordings and performances of traiditonal music over her 20 year career inspired many other contemporary artists. After much persuasion from a number of musicians in November 2016 Shirley returned to recording music and released Lodestar, her first new album in 38 years. Earning two BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominations for the work, considered her best by some, she found this late success highly improbable, saying: “I never believed it could happen. It’s a bit of a miracle, really."

Shirley has continued to record and release music into her later years and is an inspiration to many musicians.



Tracey Chapman was chosen by Seamus

Along with an audience of more than 70,000 people crammed into Wembley Stadium on 2nd September 1988 I was blown away by a young woman with a guitar.

The show was the start of the Amnesty International World Tour entitled “Human Rights Now!”. After an opening song Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band had performed 15 songs, the mood was upbeat, and the stadium was very loud. To follow that a small, young looking woman walked onto the, now empty stage, with a guitar in her hand. Nobody seemed to know who she was, just a name on the programme, Tracy Chapman.

The massive crowd greeted her with polite applause and little expectation. She said a few words of hello and started to sing, just her and the guitar, no backing musicians or singer, “Don’t you know, they’re talkin ‘bout a revolution….”. The power of this woman’s voice and the power of the messages in her first song had the whole audience enthralled, nobody talked, nobody made any noise, this truly massive crowd fell silent. As she finished the song, she had surely gained 70,000 fans and followed up with “Fast Car”, “If now then, when?” and “Baby can I hold you”.

Sting, Peter Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour each performed, and the concert closed with more from Springsteen and a couple of songs before all of the performers sang “Get up, Stand up”. It had been 6 hours of amazing music and we all sang along to big numbers like “Biko”, “They Dance alone” and the closing “Get up, Stand up”.

So why did I come away thinking that I’d witnessed something genuinely special? That was because Tracy Chapman had sung about the things she knew, with absolute belief and with a power that comes only from heartfelt experience and conviction. She might have been a small, little known, black woman who had experienced poverty, bullying and racism from a young age, but she walked off that stage a giant.

Tracy chapman, singer/songwriter is a hero (heroine is never the right word because it diminishes a person to less than a hero). She has belief and a voice that reminds all of us that we can talk, sing or shout, we can keep telling our stories. I don’t sing but every time I step up to a microphone, I can thank Tracy Chapman for reminding me of the power of words.



Emma finds inspiration from Melissa de la Cruz

I liked this woman because she really has a great way of changing how you see the fairy tale characters that we know so well and letting us see how differently the situation could be from what was written

Melissa de la Cruz grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. At Columbia University, she majored in art history and English. She lives in West Hollywood with her husband and daughter.

Melissa de la Cruz is the #1 New York Times, #1 Publisher’s Weekly and #1 IndieBound bestselling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for readers of all ages. Many of her more than fifty books have also topped USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists and been published in over twenty countries.



Colin put forward The Women’s Co-operative Guild

The first branch was established in Hebden Bridge followed by others in Rochdale and Woolwich before the close of 1883.

The co-operative movement in England had its origins in the writings of Robert Owen from the 1820s. The practical expression of his ideas came in 1844 with the foundation of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society, which was fully established by the 1850s. This society opened stores and workshops and was based on the principle of working people linked together in a system of manufacturing, distributing, selling, and buying goods in a way that was co-operative and would, therefore, protect their interests.

A tour of factories in Northern England by Mrs Alice Acland during 1882 sowed the seeds of the Women's Co-operative Guild. Co-operation had passively excluded women. Witnessing its success Mrs Acland decided this should be changed. Persuading Samuel Bamford, editor of the Co-operative News, to allow her some space, the edition of 6 January 1883 contained the first 'Women's Column'. She used this to print recipes, papers on health and report on classes available to working women on economical cookery. In the issue of 14 April 1883, it was announced that 'The Woman's League for the Spread of Co-operation' had formed, and all interested should contact Alice Acland. Her cofounder was Mary Lawrenson. By June there were fifty members and a year later there were 235 and a number of branches had formed, the first in Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire.



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