Formidable Women

formidable – extremely impressive in strength or excellence;

 “A STRONG WOMAN VERSUS A 
WOMAN OF STRENGTH 
A strong woman works out every day 
to keep her 
body in shape… but a woman of 
strength builds 
relationships to keep her soul in 
shape. 

A strong woman isn’t afraid of 
anything …but a woman 
of strength shows courage in the 
midst of her fear. 

A strong woman won’t let anyone 
get the best of 
her … but a woman of strength gives 
the best of her 
to everyone. 

A strong woman makes mistakes and 
avoids the 
same in the future… a woman of 
strength realizes 
life’s mistakes can also be unexpected 
blessings and 
capitalizes on them. 

A strong woman wears the look of 
confidence on 
her face… but a woman of strength 
wears grace. 

A strong woman has faith that she is 
strong 
enough for the journey…but a 
woman of strength has 
faith that it is in the journey that she 
will become 
strong”.

 “Taken together, formidable women don’t always have much in common, aside from gender. Some have brought peace to troubled lands, while others have strewn discontent. Some have been competent or brilliant, others inept or corrupt. Some enormously popular, others ousted. They come from political positions ranging from arch-conservative to ultra-leftist, represent all the world’s religions, have been warmongers and peace lovers. All that can be said with certainty is that they have been women in charge”.

 Having spent time in my mother’s company recently and watched her deal with medical issues too numerous to mention and still remain impressive in strength, attitude and determination I began to think about the different formidable women I had been fortunate come across in my life. The starting point is obviously a “son’s mother”. 

 In my case my mum was the hub of our family even from an early age.  she had five boys to look after who brought her various problems and successes, she ran the house, fed and clothed us and worked full time often holding down two jobs to supplement the income of my father.  She was entrepreneurial in her approach to life and seized every and any opportunity for us to progress as a family. She was the force behind my own determination to succeed and as she pointed out in a hospital waiting room. She would never let me win at anything. We had to earn that right and as she put it. “nobody will let you win in life therefore I prepared you to succeed”.

 

She ran the first nightclub in Bradford and has recently proceeded to tell me stories about the early days of the “heartbeat” as it was called. I am not sure I needed to know all of the detail but it allowed me to see my mum in a much clearer light as someone who has been a real force in the World, have a family and remain very much a woman. 

 I must also add at this stage that being a formidable woman does not mean they do not require support from others or they are not vulnerable on certain occasions or indeed less feminine. In all of my dealings with women that I would class as formidable this is far from the case. 

 I also realize as I write this that my mother’s sisters, her mother and my father’s mother were of a similar ilk.  The only element that was detrimental to this group was that they were probably too capable and actually protected the men around them far too much.  I remember asking my mother at the age of 16 if I could leave home and move into an apartment near by.  She didn’t hesitate to give me permission but added that as soon as I move out I would have to do everything. Cook, clean etc.  Hmmm the realization that these elements of life now fell to me was indeed an experience. Learning to cook and the disasters that followed was something I can only smile at now. 

The next woman who springs to mind in my early life is Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister, and first British prime minister in the twentieth century to win three consecutive terms. Espousing conservative ideals of based on free enterprise, she advocated public spending cuts, limited money supply, and raised interest rates. Her privatization programs led to union opposition, labor unrest, and high unemployment rates. She earned the nickname “The Iron Lady” because of her hard line against the USSR over their invasion of Afghanistan, and because when Argentina challenged Britain’s right to the Falkland Islands, she went to war. She resigned as prime minister in 1990, although she stayed in Parliament until 1992. What I admired about her and still do was her strength of conviction/purpose, something I do not see in many politicians of today. 

My time in the military/Govt has also allowed me to see women in many different roles and although I do not think I will ever see a whole infantry unit of women on the front line I have seen them perform dangerous and exacting roles just as well as the men around them. Although I will not describe anyone in particular there were a couple who were similar to Odette and a little resume of her is below:

“She made a landing near Cannes in 1942, where she made contact with her supervisor, Peter Churchill. Using the code name Lise, she brought him funds and acted as his courier. Churchill’s operation in France was betrayed by a double agent, and Odette and Churchill were arrested on 16 April 1943 and imprisoned. Under torture by the Gestapo at Fresnes prison in Paris, she stuck to her cover story that Churchill was the nephew of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and that she was Peter’s wife. The hope was that in this way their treatment would be mitigated.

She was condemned to death in June 1943, although a time for execution was not specified, and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp. She survived the war and testified against the prison guards at a 1946 war crimes trial.[3] Camp commandant Fritz Suhren had brought her with him when he surrendered to the Americans in the hope that her supposed connections to Churchill might allow him to negotiate his way out of execution.

Roy Sansom had died during Odette’s imprisonment and she married Peter Churchill in 1947. She was divorced from Churchill in 1956 and married Geoffrey Hallowes in the same year. Hallowes outlived her and died in 2006”.

 My work in sport and business has also allowed me to see women dedicate themselves to their profession and achieve great success. I have been fortunate to work alongside the business woman of the year and Olympic and World champions in many different arenas. The key ingredient is always that they believed in themselves, they were confident to make their own way in the world.  

My daughter recently did a thesis on women in sport

She has found that women have made a consistent and significant contribution to sport at all levels, yet their achievements on the whole receive limited coverage by the mass media. The quality and quantity of the coverage of women’s sport by the media is not an accurate reflection of the amount of sport played or watched by women. Media coverage is generally inadequate and selective. A high media profile is essential for attracting sponsorship, spectators and other sources of financial support. 

Having worked in male dominated environments I am not surprised that this is the case. Indeed I know many men who do struggle when confronted by formidable women. 

My two daughters and their mother are also examples of women who make their own way in this World and use their talents to decide their destiny.  They are clear that their lives are decided by their own actions.  All three of them have consistently achieved success by being creating strong teams of both men and women around them, leading those teams to achieve success.

I remember one very talented woman telling me that “she was god” she smiled at my look of horror at those words and she went on to explain laughing that what she actually meant was that she decided her destiny and she alone.  How true.  

As I think about these women I realize that I am drawn towards women that are not only formidable but probably slightly rebellious in nature.  Here are a few more rebellious women who have made a mark on this World

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma

After 15 long years under house arrest in Burma, Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was finally granted freedom in November 2010, even as her country and the cause she’s been fighting for sank deeper into political imprisonment under the military junta’s repressive rule. Known as “the Lady” to millions of Burmese citizens who consider her more of a goddess than a rebel, Suu Kyi has been the foremost leader in the effort to democratize the Southeast Asian nation as well as a courageous advocate for human rights and peaceful revolution.

 

Golda Meir, Israel

David Ben-Gurion famously described Golda Meir as “the only man” in his Cabinet. Although best known as Israel’s Prime Minister during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Meir made her mark on the revolutionary Zionist movement during the pre-state period. After several influential Zionist leaders were arrested in 1946 in Palestine, Meir became the primary negotiator between the Jews and the British Mandate. Simultaneously, she stayed in close contact with the armed Jewish resistance movements. When the Arabs rejected the U.N.’s 1947 recommended partition of Palestine, Meir ensured that the young Jewish settlement would not be defeated in the imminent war.

 

Tawakul Karman, Yemen

Tawakul Karman, a 32-year-old mother of three and chair of Women Journalists Without Chains — a Yemeni group that defends human rights and freedom of expression — was filled with renewed energy watching the people of Tunisia and Egypt fight for democracy in January 2011. But her struggle to pressure Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh — who has been in power since 1978 — to step down began long before Tunisia’s revolution started a domino effect in the Arab world. Karman has been protesting in front of Sana’a University, in the nation’s capital, every Tuesday since 2007. She insists upon a peaceful approach to bring about change. Still, she has been arrested several times, including in late January, when protests broke out across Yemen, where 40% of the 23 million citizens live on $2 a day or less.

 

Harriet Tubman, the U.S.

Explaining her decision to escape from slavery, Harriet Tubman once quoted an earlier American revolutionary by saying, “There was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.” Choosing liberty, Tubman, who was born a slave in 1820, fled Maryland and followed the North Star to the free state of Pennsylvania. A year later, she returned to Maryland to help her family escape, the first of 19 missions she would make to rescue more than 300 slaves on the Underground Railroad. After an 1850 law required free states to return escaped slaves to their owners, Tubman made sure slaves could escape even farther north, to Canada. During the Civil War, she was the first woman to lead a military expedition, liberating more than 700 slaves in South Carolina. Tubman ended her life of activism fighting for women’s suffrage in New York

 

Mary Wollstonecraft, Britain

In the male-dominated, hierarchical society of 18th century Britain, Mary Wollstonecraft was a radical who publicly put forward the unprecedented claim that women were more than possessions. She went head to head with one of the most prominent political thinkers of the time, Edmund Burke. And in her two most famous works, A Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790) and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1791), she demonstrates a strong political voice, defending the rights of women as equal to those of men. In Wollstonecraft’s opinion, the way in which girls were brought up, to be “empty-headed play things,” contributed to a morally bankrupt society, ungoverned by reason. It was in this view of the world that Wollstonecraft showed her true colors as one of the earliest and most influential rebellious women.

 

Joan of Arc, France

The French peasant girl had a dream — in fact she had many dreams, visions in which Christian saints would come to her, urging her to take up the fight against the English, who occupied much of northern France. Improbably, Joan made her way to the court of the cowed French dauphin, or prince, and impressed the royals with her holy cause to the point that she was given armor and troops to command. At Orleans in 1429, Joan proved her mettle by famously leading the assault that lifted the English siege of the city. A pivotal victory, it spurred other quick successes and turned the tide against the English invaders. A few years later, though, Joan was captured by the forces of England’s French allies and burned in a public square on grounds of heresy and witchcraft. The French King Charles VII, whose crown had been secured in part by Joan’s heroics, did little to try to save her. But history and popular legend redeemed Joan, who was canonized in 1920 by the Vatican and remains one of France’s patron saints

 

Boudica, Britain

In the 1st century A.D., a native rebellion shook a backward, remote corner of the Roman Empire: Britain. At its head was an angry woman, Boudica, Queen of the Iceni, a tribe that dwelled in what is now eastern England. The Iceni had been a peaceful folk, content under the Pax Romana. But after Boudica’s husband died, an avaricious Roman official annexed her lands and had Boudica publicly flogged and her daughters raped. Not long thereafter, with the Romans distracted on a campaign in Wales, Boudica rose up, leading a coalition of tribes on a revenge mission, surprising Roman garrisons, razing cities to the ground (including ancient London) and slaughtering tens of thousands of Romanized Britons. The uprising prompted some in Rome to consider a full withdrawal from the troublesome island colony, but the better-equipped and trained Roman forces eventually defeated Boudica’s rebels. According to some accounts, much like Cleopatra, Boudica took her own life rather than risk capture. She is remembered as one of Britain’s original nationalist heroes, a righteous, vengeful mother of the land. In the 19th century, Queen Victoria invoked the spirit of Boudica to characterize her own reign, presiding, at the time, over the world’s great superpower.

Have a wonderful week……..

 

3 thoughts on “Formidable Women

  1. Floyd- what a wonderful blog. I measure a blog by the way it makes me think, the evocative memories it produces and the inspiration. First thought was a conversation I had with Jack Rowell as part of the research. He was talking about his touch of non-conformity and time at Bath. He described Mrs Rowell as formidable and formidable (pronounced the French way). Second impact my own mother born in Bradford – we must check the record of the Bradford Pals (1/6 BattalionWest Yorkshire ) her father was one of the teritorials like your Grandfather and moved to Primrose Valley where he only spoke of the war at regimental reunions. She was the first in our family to go to University and I was told by a cousin of hers an inspiration to him. As an English teacher she was a Mrs Brodie of a character.

    The other provocative observations led me to explore some of the top females I have come across. There are two that spring to mind- Anne Mulcahy and Ursula Burns http://tinyurl.com/c7atqld These are two of the most powerful female CEO’s around. What I like about Ursula’s opening is she describes she is a mother of two – probably the most important thing. I remember meeting Anne in 1995 when she was in HR. – It was then not clear she would become CEO – events proved otherwise and I have to say I doubt whether any of the male aspirants around could have rebuilt Xerox. However and whoever selected her and Ursula it was a stroke of retrospective genius .

    I then recalled a presentation with Moscow a few years ago I made. First of all I checked the translators understood the message underlying my presentation. I was astounded how quickly they picked it up – it was on the implications of change arising out of the Knowledge Economy. I then asked about the background of the translator. Turned out he had been working at the UN. Who did he most admire I asked. – Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State was the reply. There was obvious admiration about this ‘tough woman’. In fact as National Security Adviser she was the first woman to occupy the post and earned the nickname of “Warrior Princess,” reflecting strong nerve and delicate manners. (I’m not forgetting some describe her as naive ) She has a fascinating background but what is most relevant to me is that her mentor was Josef Korbel father of Madeleine Albright (the first female secretary of state) and a Czech refugee.

    More recently out in Egypt prior to the Arab spring I was compere of a management seminar in Damascus which led to an engagement with the Egyptian Cabinet Office Think Tank . There I met the most powerful Moslem female in the US (fascinating) . And out in Egypt at a seminar I ran I looked around the room and concluded the female talent was second to none. They didn’t know how good or talented they were. Finally Alvin Toffler might be seen by many as the Futurist to measure up to with Futureshock et al. I met him and his wife out in Mumbai when we sponsored a conference and he was our keynote. What we didn’t realize was that we got two for one (just as well considering their day rate) . I had a great chat with Alvin over breakfast and as he got mobbed for autographs by middle aged business men) I switched my attention to Heiddi his wife. It was an astounding conversation and it became clear she was his intellectual equal. I’d noted in al the books she got an acknowledgement as well as dedication. I asked why her name wasn’t on the front cover of all the books. It was she informed me, and it was one of those Condor moments, because all publishers were male chauvinist pigs!

    Keep the blogs coming – I’d like to tell you about an extraordinary organization set up to deal with the Olympic legacy. What I like is they have an all female first line!

  2. Floyd I kind of think our Mum’s were fantastic – call it the Bradford base. I bet they shared the same expressions. Every cloud has a silver lining.It’s darkest before dawn. nothing ventured, nothing gained’. Birds of a feather flock together’.

    Got back into he gym routine on Sunday Have programed the mind to be ready for you after your Op then i stand a chance of keeping up with your pace.(joking). Also had a weigh in at 18 stone 2 . That means I am going to have a reward and consequences if I don’t get the weight down! Had a test at a sleep clinic the other night. Guess what I am sleepy!
    Have you brought the sun from Dubai?

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