Advent Calendar 2020

This year's advent calendar theme is Women Who Changed the World.

Each of the 12 minis is inspired by a different amazing woman that everyone should know more about.

Here you'll find more information about each of these women, which I'll update every two days throughout December. 

I'll also be posting picture updates over on Instagram, so make sure you're following @stewartyarns

Be sure to check it out! 

 

MINI NUMBER ONE - CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE

Born: 15 September 1977

Adichie is an amazing writer and activist, famous for novels like Half of a Yellow Sun, Purple Hibiscus and her essay titled We Should All Be Feminists.

She was born in Nigeria and went on to study at university in the United States. In 2008, she was awarded the Macarthur Genius Grant and is now known as one of the most influential writers, and women, in the world. 

She advocates for women's rights and the importance of equal representation across the media, particularly when it comes to race. 

Obviously, this is a tiny, tiny snapshot into an incredibly interesting woman, so I'd encourage you to look her up for yourself, particularly her TED Talk called: The Danger of a Single Story. 

It should be noted that Adichie's views on the trans community and her response to J. K. Rowling's comments about the trans community do not reflect my own views. 

 

MINI NUMBER TWO - CLAUDETTE COLVIN

Born: 5 September 1939

Colvin is an incredibly brave woman from Alabama, USA, who stood up against discriminatory segregation laws. She was only 15 when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white woman in 1955 - 9 months before Rosa Parks did the same thing.

Her actions helped lead to the end of bus segregation in Alabama.

Her case wasn't publicised at the time because she became pregnant soon after and leaders of the civil rights movement felt that this information might weaken her case. Colvin was also wrongly seen as a less desirable face for the civil rights movement due to the fact that she had curlier natural hair than Parks did, and also had darker skin. 

Colvin deserves so much more recognition for what she did, and so do the other "Bus Riders" - Aurelia Browder and Mary Louise Smith. They are all amazing women who embraced their power, and stood up for the rights and dignity that everyone deserves.

If Colvin's story resonates with you, then please consider donating to causes that are currently supporting black people:

Civil Liberties Trust

American Civil Liberties Union

Black Lives Matter

 

MINI NUMBER THREE - THE EDINBURGH 7

They're technically a group of women rather than a single woman but they were so inspirational to me, I had to include them in the calendar.

The Edinburgh 7 were the first women to attend university to get a degree anywhere in the UK.

In 1869, 

Mary Anderson

Emily Bovell

Matilda Chaplin

Helen Evans

Sophia Jex-Blake

Edith Pechey

Isabel Thorne

all joined Edinburgh University to study medicine as undergraduates.

The pushback that they experienced was unbelievable. Professors debated and decided these women weren't to be treated equally to the male students. They even took advantage of a loophole that meant they didn't have to teach female students, which meant they had to organise their own lectures.

These women were pelted with mud. They were the subject of riots at the university. They had to pay higher fees to attend than their male counterparts. They were harassed, verbally and physically. Their property was damaged.

If all this wasn't bad enough, at the end of all that they weren't allowed to graduate even though they had done all the work.  

Doing the research for this very basic write-up made me so angry and upset, I can't actually imagine how any of them managed it. They were made of the strongest stuff.

In 2019, 7 Edinburgh University female graduates were awarded degrees on behalf of the original Edinburgh 7, in recognition of their accomplishments. 

I've really only scratched the surface here, there's an awful lot more to learn so please look them up! 

And I want to say a small, personal thank you to these women. I attended university and I was allowed to graduate. It's easy to take that for granted, as something that just happens, but it's something that had to be fought for.

 

MINI NUMBER FOUR - FRIDA KAHLO 

6 July 1907 - 13 July 1954

I think it'd be difficult to not have heard of Frida Kahlo. She is, without a doubt, one of the most famous artists in the world.

She was born in Mexico but struggled a great deal as a young person. When she was very young, she suffered from polio and then before heading off to medical school, was hit by a bus when she was 18.

The accident caused serious injuries (displaced vertebrae, multiple bone breaks and fractures) and she had to take extended bed rest. It was during this bed rest that she rediscovered her childhood love of art - which ignited her extremely successful art career. 

Her work took inspiration from Mexico and its culture, exploring what it meant for Mexico to embrace its own identity. She asked questions through her work related to concepts like race, gender and class.

She often painted portraits, with autobiographical elements (like painting about her experience with the chronic pain she suffered after her accident) but mixed reality with fantasy.

Kahlo was the first Mexican artist to have a painting exhibited at the Louvre - "The Frame" was purchased by the Louvre in 1939.

Her work experienced a rejuvenated popularity in the 1970s and Kahlo became a symbol of the Chicano movement, as well as for feminists and supporters of indigenous communities. 

 

MINI NUMBER FIVE - KOMAKO KIMURA

29 July 1887 - 10 July 1980

Kimura is someone I hadn't heard of until I was doing my research for the calendar and she's definitely someone I wish I had known about sooner. 

She was one of the major figures that shaped the women's suffrage movement in Japan. 

She loved the theatre and devoted a huge portion of her life to acting in and managing performances. She was in over 500 plays! Her career was unfairly stunted in many ways because she had a baby without being married, so she had to fight doubly hard to get what she wanted.

In 1912 she launched The True New Woman's Association, as well as The New True Woman magazine, which she used to promote women's rights and empowerment. Her first speech was titled "Love and Self-Realisation for Women". 

Despite all the opposition she faced, she wanted more than just equal rights on paper for women in Japan. She wanted women to understand their own power and love themselves for everything they already were. She championed education and wanted women to be able to engage in society meaningfully and powerfully. 

Kimura's magazine was the first to talk openly about using birth control and criticised marriage - something that just wasn't done at the time. She continued to publish until 1918, when the Japanese government suppressed her work. When she went to trial over the suppression, she defended herself in court and did such a good job that Kimura actually ended up further supporting her own cause, rather than allowing the government to tear her down. 

She travelled to America in 1917 and marched through New York City for women's suffrage. She even met with President Woodrow Wilson!

Kimura was a truly amazing woman and I don't feel like she gets enough credit for the amazing things she achieved in her lifetime.

 

MINI NUMBER SIX - LIZZO

Born 27 April 1988

I don't think there's much that Lizzo can't do. She's risen to fame in the past few years and seems to have taken over the world.

She's an amazing singer, rapper, flautist and self-love advocate. 

Although she's been around since about 2013, her music career really took off with her 2019 album, Cuz I Love You. 

She's a multi-nominated, multi-Grammy award winner and all those Grammys go really nicely with her Billboard Music Award, her BET awards and her Soul Train Awards. 

What really amazes me about Lizzo though, is her commitment to using the platform and voice that she's created to achieve real change and real good.

She consistently promotes self-love and acceptance, with a refusal to let others put her down or force her to conform to something she isn't. She loves herself, she loves her body, and she loves her sexuality. 

She's also a vocal and active supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and LGBT+ rights and protections. 

Throughout 2019 and 2020, she also encouraged lots of people (particularly young people) in the US to get out and vote in what was possibly the most important election in a lifetime. 

Not only is she an amazing artist, Lizzo is just an amazing human. Her unapologetic approach to self-love has even made me stop and question the way that I treat myself. I'd say that's pretty world-changing.