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GILLIAN LORD: 5 women I admire, from Tasmania to Tayside

Grace Tame is high up on Gillian's list of women to admire.
Grace Tame is high up on Gillian's list of women to admire.

You know those questions you can never answer in an instant, if ever? I was asked which women I admire.

I still don’t really know the answer, but here goes.

Women I admire – and you should too

A Vietnam Veteran friend of mine said the bravest people are usually those you would least expect. And this is true of women like Jack Monroe, the activist and writer, who I admire deeply.

Jack Monroe shamed the chains

She has almost single-handedly thrown the spotlight on food pricing and poverty in the UK, including shaming the big supermarket chains into reducing pricing on essential items.

Writer and anti-poverty activist Jack Monroe is one of the many women Gillian admires.

Despite abuse from both media trolls and right-wing press, Jack carries on, and she gets results.

Further back there’s Martha Gellhorn, the woman who arguably had more balls than husband Hemingway.

Martha Gellhorn was remarkable

It’s an insult to refer to Gellhorn simply as Hemingway’s third wife (in fact, in later life, she preferred not to hear his name). She was remarkable.

A novelist and travel writer also, she is one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th Century,  covering almost every major world conflict in her 60-year career.

She was at the Normandy landings, she was one of the first journalists at Dachau concentration camp after it was liberated.

A committed pacifist, in all her reports she told of the horrors of war and in so doing, changed the way war was reported.

The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism is named for her. It goes to those who tell the human story, from the ground, pushing aside the official versions of events to expose the true issues. As she did.

Grace Tame spoke out stridently

There’s Grace Tame, Australian Of The Year for 2021. A victim of prolonged, horrific sexual abuse from a schoolteacher as a child, Tame has fought tirelessly for abuse victims.

She got a law changed in her home state of Tasmania, regarding how victims were treated – including prohibiting them from being identified, even if they chose.

This meant people like Tame, who chose to speak out, could not.

Despite being pilloried and mis-represented by the right-wing press, and arguably sometimes the government, speak out Grace Tame did. Stridently.

She also founded the #LetHerSpeak movement, and now the Grace Tame Foundation, all aimed at changing the culture and attitudes to abuse survivors.

It can arguably be said her courage helped inspire the women voters of Australia, who played a large part in removing Scott Morrison’s neo-liberal government from power in the recent elections.

Iris Apfel is pure joy

For defiant glamour, you can’t go past Iris Apfel, who turns 101 in August. An American businesswoman, textile designer and fashion icon, Apfel’s joyful style is irresistible.

Long a shining star in America’s firmament, she was the subject of an exhibition at the Costume Institute at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art at the age of 84.

At the age of 90 she starred in a French television commercial. Mattel created a Barbie doll in her image when she was 96. At the age of 97 she signed a modelling contract with the global agency IMG.

Iris Apfel is an uncompromising inspiration, not least because of the sheer joy she evokes.

So where am I going with this?

Actually I’d be going across the Tay from where I am sitting, to a little caff in Newport.

Mary-Jane Duncan makes a difference

The award-winning café, Kitschnbake, is owned by Mary-Jane Duncan, wife and mother of three, a successful businesswoman, and popular columnist in The Courier’s Weekend Magazine.

She recently completed her 53rd cycle of chemotherapy.

Last week Kitschnbake put out a post on Facebook which said, in part:  “From this Tuesday evening, between 6-8pm, we are offering an opportunity for any local Taybridgehead Ukranian guests settled in the local area to link up with other Ukranian guests and chat – with or without hosts.”

Balloons dropped off at Kitschnbake by Party Time in Broughty Ferry, to welcome hosts and their guests from Ukraine, displaced by the war.

MJ added they were not charging for this, just offering a communal space for people to meet each week. 19,000 people saw the post.

On Tuesday, MJ and her staff were there to meet hosts and their guests, but keeping out of the way, to  people their space.

Simple and effective

“Some of the host families brought their guests and soon they were chatting away to each other in their native tongue,” she told me.

“One host said their guest had absolutely no English. It had been a fraught week of Google translate so she was thrilled to see her guest relax and converse.”

Of course her heart went out to the very young boy of around five, and a girl of around 12 trying to make her way in a new school in a new country, suddenly displaced while her home country burned.

But the thing is, Mary-Jane is doing what she can to provide comfort, social contact and a Scottish welcome to people displaced by an awful war. It’s such a simple and clever idea.

She hopes other businesses in the area will follow suit.

Mary-Jane is the last woman I’ll add to this list. She’s a woman I really admire. She’s got a heart the size of Texas.

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