Women Who Inspire – Part IV

I hope you missed this series as much as I did. This is already the 4th part of the miniseries presenting inspirational women, true role-models for your daughters, sisters, mothers and BFFs. I hope them to be inspirational also for boyfriends, husbands, sons and fathers. Let’s show as many badass and brave women to the world as possible. Let’s inspire ourselves to dare for more and pursue our own way.

Peggy Whitson: the American astronaut with a PhD in biochemistry from the Rice University in Houston. She joined NASA in 1988 and worked on space medicine experiments and research since then. In 1996 she started her training to become an astronaut and flew to the ISS for the first time in 2002. She was the first female chief of the International Space Station (2007-2008). In 2016, at the age of 56, she became the oldest woman who took a space flight. Peggy Whitson is one of the world’s most experienced astronauts, i.e. when the length of time in space is taken into account. No American astronaut and no world’s female astronaut has broken her record yet (665 days 22 hours 22 minutes 59 seconds). She holds the record for the longest single spaceflight conducted by a woman (290 days) and has also achieved the third best length of cumulative EVA (Extravehicular activity) with 60 hours 21 minutes. And she hasn’t said the last word yet.

Tammy Duckworth: I try to stay away from politics and active politicians in this series. I just have to make an exception for the American Senator Tammy Duckworth though. She graduated from three universities: Hawaiian, George Washington and Northern Illinois. During the Iraq war, she was a helicopter pilot of the United States Army in the range of lieutenant colonel. Tammy Duckworth received the Purple Heart Medal for her service but lost two legs and severely harmed her arm whilst in combat. Despite that, she joined the Illinois Army National Guard as soon as she recovered. When she retired from the Guard, Tammy Duckworth joined the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs and later the US Department of the Veteran Affairs as the Assistant Secretary. In 2013 Tammy Duckworth was elected to Congress as the first disabled woman. She served two terms in the House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate in 2016. She is the second Asian-American female Senator. If this is not enough of being “the first”, in 2018 Tammy Duckworth became the first US Senator to give birth while in office when her second daughter, Maile, was born (Abigail, the first girl, was born in 2014). In reference to her experience, the Senate changed its internal regulations and allowed female senators to bring children to the Congress and breastfeed them. Where there really regulations banning that? Who-hoo!

Susan Wojcicki: the CEO of YouTube and a Silicon Valley mogul, the STEM sector personality. Susan Wojcicki was brought up on the campus of the Stanford University due to her Polish-American father’s occupation – he worked as the physics professor there. Her mother is an acknowledged educator in Palo Alto (Susan went to schools there), a journalist at the Huffington Post and the vice-president of the Creative Commons advisory council. Susan’s sisters: Janet (who holds a PhD in anthropology and epidemiology) and Anne (the founder of the 23andMe) should also be acknowledged here, as the whole family is outstanding and, yes, adorably nerdy. Susan Wojcicki has graduated from the Harvard University and the UCLA (two diplomas). She started her career in technology as the marketing consultant at Intel and the Bain and Co. but most of all in… her garage, where Google was literally set up by Larry Page and Sergey Grin in 1998. Next year she became Google’s first marketing manager. She co-created Google Doodles, Google Images (<3) and Google Books. As the vice president of Google, she has managed the introduction of development of AdWords, AdSense, Double Click and Google Analytics. Kudos to Susan, yall online entrepreneurs! Susan Wojcicki managed also the Google Video, a competitor to YouTube. At one point, she proposed to purchase the latter (for 1.65 billion United States Dollars) and in Feb 2014 has become the CEO of YouTube and l the biggest internet/marketing mogul on Earth. Oh, btw, she has five children and a loving husband for 20 years.

Björk (or rather Björk Guðmundsdóttir): when I first heard her “Play Dead” at the age of 14 or 15, I totally lost it and fell in love with her music. Mindblowing! “Human Behaviour”, “Big Time Sensuality”, “Violently Happy”, later “Army of Me”, “It’s Oh So Quiet”, “Hunter”, “Joga”, “Unravel”, “Hyperballad” and many more songs made her very important to me, accompanied me in my adolescence, shaped my sensibility. I somehow trusted this tiny Icelandic artist with a voice like a knife that cuts ice (as Bono of U2 described it) that is hard to confuse with anyone else’s tone. Björk started her career when she was just 11 and pursues her own way ever since. She is genuine and genius in her musical experiments. She crosses the borders of expression and never gives up her search for new forms and sounds. I love her passion for freedom and the fact that she engages in causes that she truly believes in, including the care for the environment and climate. Whoever saw her in “Dancer in the Dark”, a movie directed by Lars von Trier featuring Björk’s songs (“Selmasongs” album was nominated to Oscars), will never forget and underestimate the power of expression of this artist. I was very happy to experience (a perfect word!) her concert in Gdynia in Poland in 2007.

Nawojka: It is not quite clear whether her story is 100% true. As in almost every medieval example, there are probably a few drops of a legend in Nawojka’s life. She is said to be the first ever Polish woman to study at a university, then the Cracow Academy, later and now know as the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. She lived in the early 15th century. As her father was noble and well educated, she learned how to write and read and became passionate about studying. Since girls were not allowed to attend universities (until the late 19th century on the Polish soil), Nawojka disguised herself as a boy and managed to pursue her studies for three years. She studied under the name of Jakub (Jacob) or Andrzej (Andrew). At the time of her final exams, she was exposed and avoided being burnt thanks to her professors who acknowledged her high-quality performance and outstanding notes. Later she was obliged to join a monastery though. Even there she proved to be super smart and became a prioress.

Kazimiera Iłłakowiczówna: I dare you to pronounce it 🙂 She was orphaned at an early age but this did not stop her excelling in education. She studies at the University of Oxford and the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. As a poet, writer, translator and also a playwright, she was an important and influential figure in Polish intellectual and cultural circles. A deeply devoted Catholic, she was simultaneously fascinated by the feminist ideas of Emeline Pankhurst and other British suffragettes. She is praised in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland as the first woman to be employed there at a specialised, professional position already in 1918 – the year we regained independence (and also the voting rights for women were granted – so much to celebrate this year!) – who paved the way for other women later in time. For the last ten years of his life, Kazimiera Iłłakowiczówna was the secretary of Józef Piłsudski, the father of Poland’s independence. After his death, she joined the ministry again as a councillor in the office of the minister. She spent the war in Romania. After 1945 she wanted to come back to the ministry but the communist diplomats did not want her. She focused on literature and translated to Polish the works of such artists as Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Leo Tolstoy.

You🙂 You, who care for your families, your relationships, yourselves every day. You, who sometimes have to fight for people and things that are dear to you. Single mothers who bring up children on their own and bravely make ends meet. Professionals struggling with the impostor syndrome. Scientists not discouraged in fulfilling their dreams despite being constantly unappreciated and underrated at work. Teachers, nannies, nurses who do priceless jobs but their salaries do not reflect that. Journalists and activists speaking up about women’s issues that are so uncomfortable for the guards of the status quo. You don’t have to make the headlines to be role-models. We – your friends and colleagues – are watching you 🙂


Are you searching for more content on inspirational women? Check out these articles from the #girlpower series:

Podcast #1 Women Who Inspire – Nerds

Podcast #2 Women empowerment

Women Who Inspire – Part I

Women Who Inspire – Part II

Women Who Inspire – Part III

Women in Political Science

Female Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

Where to search for data about women?


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