To celebrate International Women’s Day, some of the women of Universal Works share just a few of the amazing women who inspire them.
For my inspiring female, I would nominate Maya Angelou.
Maya Angelou was probably best known for her poetry and storytelling, but she was also a civil rights activist, educator and Hollywood's first black female director. At the age of 8, she was sexually abused and raped by her mother's boyfriend; she told her brother, who then told other family members. The man was found guilty but only served one day in prison, four days after his release, he was found dead.
Maya became mute for nearly five years after his death, believing that her voice killed the man that had raped her. It was during this time she developed a love of books and literature. In the mid-sixties, she started writing her biography, and it spans over seven volumes, the first being 'I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.' Throughout Maya's life, she was subjected to years of abuse, violence and racism, but that made her stronger and more determined to get her voice heard. She has received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees.
Her poems and quotes are still as relevant today as they were when she first wrote them. One of my favourite quotes is 'Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world but has not solved one yet." - Nikki
"It is a tough pick, there are so many amazing women out there, and I didn’t know what field I should choose from: politic, science, sport, the women of rock n roll, my mother!!! I’ve settled for a woman I discovered recently who embodied several identities without complying with any of them. Corita Kent was a lot of things, but first of all, she was a sister. As both a nun and woman making art in America in the 60's, she certainly wasn’t at the front of the movement she was part of.
As an artist, her primary medium was serigraphy, and it focused on activism, social commentary promoting love and tolerance. She mixed popular culture and quotes from Winnie the Pooh with text from the Bible and writing from E.E. Cummings, Albert Camus and other literary greats; she participated in the protest against the use of nuclear weapons with political pieces and was very prolific. A perfect mix of formally acknowledged art and the everyday world.
She taught at the Immaculate Heart College of Los Angeles her all life. Her classes are now regarded as an Avant-guard starting point for artists such as John Cage, Saul Bass, Charles and Ray Eames and Alfred Hitchcock. In 1966 she was awarded 'Woman of the Year' in the LA Times.
Not your regular 60's pop artist, not your traditional nun, not your ordinary teacher. She didn’t fit any stereotype and spent her life teaching that to her students, that education and art is power: inspiring.”- Silvia
"I thought very hard about whom to write about for International Women's Day, but decided it is only right to talk about my late Gran, Isla Holden.
My Gran inspired me in so many different ways, from teaching me how to bake; a skill I still use to this day and also took into my earlier career. To the endless days spent in the garden together feeding the birds, climbing trees with my sister, re-potting and planting new flowers and plants, also something I have a keen interest in today. There are so many inspirational things she did; it is hard to pinpoint one. If anything, one thing sticks in my mind, during the 70's, my Gran and Papa adopted my Dad, who is of Nigerian and British heritage, and my Aunt, who is of Indian and British heritage. During the 70's and 80's, it was unheard of for a white family to adopt a mixed heritage child, racism was at a high, and Black and Asian people were protesting consistently for their rights, suffering from abuse from others, day in day out. Despite the outrage they may have faced, they went ahead and did exactly what they wanted to do, and with great pride.
I always remember a story my Dad once told me of Gran in Victoria Centre with him in the pram as just a baby, a passer-by commented, "I bet you wish he were yours", to which she replied, "He is".
This story will stay in my head forever. What a short, sweet, powerful response to such an unnecessary comment. She always did carry herself with such poise.
The decisions my Gran made before I was even born has inspired me no end. To never judge another, to always be kind, to never base my decisions on the judgement of others, and to always make sure to measure my baking ingredients.
She was, and always will be an inspiration to me." – Charlie
“I have chosen to write about Amanda Gorman.
Amanda Gorman is a black American poet and activist who focuses mostly on oppression, feminism, marginalisation, and race.
When Gorman was a child, she had a speech impediment and also has an auditory processing disorder which leads to difficulties in recognizing and interpreting sounds. Despite this, Gorman was chosen as the first Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 when she was just 16 years old. At this time, she was also editing the first draft of her book 'The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough', which is now amongst 'bestselling' books.
Not letting her speech impediment or auditory disorder define her, Gorman has now gone on to read her poem 'The Hill We Climb' at the inauguration of Joe Biden, where she made history as the youngest poet to ever read at a presidential inauguration.
This poem was especially inspirational to me because within it she spoke about the union of different people's cultures, colours, characters and conditions, by putting our differences aside to put our future first.” - Hattie
“A woman that is a big inspiration to me especially over the past year is, Lily Wales. She is a woman who gives the finger to conformity and gender stereotypes and her previous hardships in life have only made her stronger. Lily is a visual artist based in Birmingham, in her practice she explores the impact nuclear energy has on the natural and political climate through photomontage, animation and sculpture. She gives her life to her work and is always hustling multiple jobs in order to pay the bills as a devoted artist.
Lily went into 2020 with the conviction of it being her year. She had an impressive artist residence in the pipeline with an all-expenses-paid trip in Indonesia and a 4-month residency at an art institution. It’s safe to say that with the news of the pandemic, her calendar cleared overnight and paid art opportunities, as for most artists, dried up.
Ever one to show resilience, Lily took the opportunity of more time to learn a new skill and taught herself animation. In recent years, she trained in bricklaying, joinery and over the past year began training in plumbing. Being a woman training in a male-dominated industry came with its difficulties, scepticism that she’d be able to lift brick, misogynistic comments and disbelief that she’d be able to do half of the tasks. Of course, she only proved the sceptics wrong, absolutely smashed it and this year bagged a new side hustle as a handy-WOMAN.
Lily is a woman I am lucky to call a close friend, an absolute badass and a constant inspiration to me, she shows that with dedication there are no limits as a woman to achieve your goals.” - Vix