Guts image (c) Georgii, Flickr

Shall I study Japanese, train for a marathon, set up an NGO,  join an ashram, or hitch-hike to Timbuktu?  If your head is teeming with possibilities and you’re unsure what to do next, stop and do nothing.

Make a cup of tea.

Be inspired by the achievement of Saray N’kusi Khumalo ‘… the first African woman to summit Mount Everest, in support of her cause of promoting access to education for African children.’

“My dream is to go higher and go further for as long as I breathe.

Or Justice Fathima Beevi, India’s first woman Supreme Court judge on breaking the glass ceiling.  Although she was keen to study for an MSc in Chemistry, she bowed to her father’s wishes, ‘No, you have to join the law college.’

Or by Anita Corbin, who has spent the past decade in the UK photographing 100 trailblazers. Her interviewees may work in fields a million miles from your own beliefs, values, or aspirations but at some point, each one of them will have faced the question, what shall I do with my life?

Shall I… climb Mount Everest, row solo across the Indian Ocean, motorcycle around the world, take part in Formula One, command a military academy, row the Atlantic, fly with the ‘Black Cats’,  become something high up in the Church, or the Police,  learn to defuse IEDs, govern a prison, play darts competitively, become a stage and screen flight director, train dogs, write novels, ski solo across Antarctica, become a stand-up comic, a surrogate, an Ultra-Marathon swimmer, a chaplain, a musician, a female beatboxer, a Dame, a Yeoman Warder in the Tower of London, a goldsmith, or president of the Institution of the Structural Engineers?

Each trailblazer that Anita Corbin photographed also ‘happens to be’ a woman.  She said of 100 Portraits

I wanted to celebrate the impact women have had on society over the last 100 years.

Her project is the source of the quotes, below, such as Elspeth Beard, who aged 23 years, became the first woman to motorcycle around the world: 

I’m not saying go to the Sahara on your first outing, but take small, regular steps over your edges. Most people can do extraordinary things when life pushes them to it. It’s about learning how to push yourself.

Formula One

You have to handle kneeling on the tarmac in the pit as an F1 car comes at you at 60mph trusting that they will stop.

Helicopters

We go into schools and the girls start out saying ‘I want to be a dancer/hairdresser’ and by the end, after being inside a helicopter and meeting our winch-woman they realise what else is actually on offer to every single one of them.

Defusing Improvised Explosive Devices

What’s the strangest thing I’ve ever thought before walking towards a potentially hazardous item? ‘What shall I have for dinner?’ It helps me stay connected to the norm.

Engineering

… why should I laugh it off’? It wasn’t funny. It wasn’t me that had a problem, it was the contractor.

Prison Governor

The phrase, ‘well, we have never done it like that before…’ is ridiculous. Let’s change a rule if it doesn’t work.

Professional Darts

Championship prize money for men’s darts is 100k. For women, it’s 12k. I often play then go and work a ten-hour shift. To be a female Darts player in this world you have to really love the sport.

Bishop

I trained as a dancer for 15 years, so I bring an embodied aspect to all I do.

Chief Constable

Take a risk – it’s likely it will turn out well.

Stage and screen fight director

Follow your gut and you’ll have no regrets and blame nobody.

The Mongol Derby

‘You ride twenty-five ponies over 1000km… I often respond to any sexism with – ‘have you ever considered that you had a 50% chance of being a woman?’’

Novelist

The work that you do in your 20’s that doesn’t seem to pay off may in fact realise itself as much as 30 years later.

Skiing solo across Antarctica

‘Imagine; walking through a storm – a total white-out, you know there’s a crevasse nearby, help isn’t anywhere close.  Half your brain is in terror… and the other half is going, ‘wow! Look at this!! I’m in Antarctica … and I’m a polar explorer – woo hoo!’

Comedian

It was something I wanted, regardless of being female.

Surrogate mother

Do a job you love.

Ultra-Marathon Swimmer and environmentalist

My body’s job is to endure in 7-degree water. And I absolutely relish feeling its strength and capabilities.

Chaplain

I have been asked to do things that fill me with trepidation but there is also a curiosity – can I do this…? And I say to myself – ‘yes! Rose, you can do this! You go girl!’

Musician

When I was a kid, I saw Elvis on TV in Detroit and thought, “I will be like him.”

Beatboxer

What could every woman learn from a man? How to grow a beard.

Dame

I always keep more than one thing on the boil. Failures don’t crush you so easily and it’s easier to let something go if you have other projects to immediately shift your focus onto.

Row solo across the Indian Ocean

‘I was surprised that no woman had attempted to row the Indian Ocean before me.’

Silver and goldsmith

I saw it as very freeing to have no one to have to live up to.

And finally:

‘…no, make your own tea… I’ll make it next time.’

(First woman president of the Institution of Structural Engineers)


Further Information

Gender Studies degree programmes

Law degree programmes

Justice Fathima Beevi:  In 1949 she made history as the first woman to top the bar council exam and win the bar council gold medal, and in this filmed interview ‘reflects on the lack of gender diversity in the judiciary and her journey to the top’.

Law:  first 100 years
‘In 2019 the project will mark the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 which paved the way for women to become lawyers for the first time.’

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