TOP 5: Inspirational Women

Here at HC Durham we want to talk about the women that leave us feeling inspired – they prove that you don’t need to be in a specific place, time, or field to make a difference to the world. No matter what, passion and persistence can get you places.

Mother Teresa

In the face of deafening criticism, Mother Teresa refused to acknowledge critics, saying ‘Give the best you have, and it will never be enough, give your best anyway’. For many, Saint Teresa epitomises inspiration. She had an unwavering focus on helping those in dire need and proved that greatness is achieved by working diligently on the small things each day, and by standing for what you believe in. Saint Teresa was founder of The Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation of women passionate about helping the poor, particularly the impoverished and destitute of India. Considered one of the 20th Century's greatest humanitarians, she was canonized in 2016 as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey is so much more than the beautiful actress from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She suffered a very difficult childhood that massively contrasted to the glamour of Hollywood in her later life. Her father abandoned her family as a child during the Second World War and became a Nazi sympathizer. While struggling with starvation and malnutrition, young Audrey began ballet dancing in secret shows to raise money for the Dutch resistance. Despite such a troubled beginning, Audrey eventually became a star of the silver screen, showing that persistence and passion make a difference. Her famous words: ‘Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible!’’ are words we can remember today. Through the face of adversity, Audrey did what made her happy: ‘The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters.’ In 1988, Audrey became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She dedicated the latter part of her life to participating in charity work to benefit children, having known the hardships of a disadvantaged childhood first-hand: As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.’

Princess Diana

Princess Diana didn’t just sit back and enjoy the luxuries associated with royalty. On the contrary, she made use of her celebrity status to raise awareness for charity, she became figurehead for many charity campaigns around the world. What Diana modelled to us was that it is important to share what you have with as many people as possible. Diana’s death in 1997 was met with worldwide mourning. One of her most famous quotes summarises her selfless attitude beautifully: ‘Anywhere I see suffering, that is where I want to be, doing what I can.’

Anne Frank

At the age of 13, Anne was gifted a diary by her father, which she used to document her life while hiding with her Jewish family from the German forces in the Netherlands. During this time she was suffering depression and lost a lot of weight. Despite this she tried to live a normal life. She said that ‘in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart’. In her diary, Anne wrote of her longing to change the harsh world of Nazi occupation that she found herself in: ‘I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I’ll be able to realise them’. Her passion for life and kindness has inspired many readers after its publication following her death, aged just 15, in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Umoja, Kenya (aka the village where men are forbidden)

The final woman in this list is in fact not a woman, but rather a community of passionate women. Umojo Uaso (“unity” in Swahili) is an all-female matriarch village in Kenya. It was founded by Rebecca Lolosoli, a Samburu woman, as a sanctuary for homeless survivors of violence against women, and young girls running from forced marriages. The women in the village do not agree with violence and the traditional subordinate position of women (and rightly so!). The village has also provided asylum for women fleeing violence from the Turkana District, and for abandoned children and children with HIV. The houses in Umojo Uaso are surrounded by fences of thorns and barbed wire; men are permitted to visit the village, but not allowed to live there, unless born and raised there. The women have created a primary school, cultural centre and camping site for tourists, who they sell handmade jewellery to. Fuelled by the matriarchal uprising, long standing traditions that threaten the women of Kenya are being challenged; these Samburu women are taking the future into their own hands for the first time in history. Rebecca Lolosoli has said, ‘when they call us ‘women’, it is like a dirty name. Let us show them that we are happy, we have to be proud we are women’.