As 2012 is her Jubilee year (bring on the bunting and G&T's!) my choice for International Women's Day is our very own Queen Elizabeth I I - a truly stoic, gracious and inspirational figure. For these six decades, the Queen has held the position as monarch, steering a careful path through a minefield of political, social and domestic crises. However, I feel her efforts for Britain before she was crowed are often forgotten or unknown, hence why I feel today is a suitable time to celebrate.
During WWII, in 1944, when she was only 18, Princess Elizabeth convinced her father to let her join the Auxiliary Territorial Service to help the war effort. Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor was trained as a truck driver and in heavy vehicle maintenance. She later attained the rank of Second Commander. She is, incidentally, the last surviving head of state to have served in uniform in World War II.
On VE day (the end of the war in Europe) celebratory crowds filled the streets of London. The two princesses mingled anonymously with that throng.
"We asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves. I remember we were terrified of being recognized... I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief."
One of her most prolific broadcasts was on her 21st Birthday in 1947, when in a clear high-pitched voice she said:
"I declare before you that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great Imperial family to which we all belong. But i shall not have the strength to carry out this resolution unless you join in with me, which i invite you to do. I know that your support will be unfailing given. God bless me to make good my vow and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it."
In 1952, she became Queen. Elizabeth began her reign as she was to continue it, with an enormous sense of duty. Throughout these 50 years she has travelled the world and met thousands of people. Each decade has presented her with new challenges, as society and the perception of the monarchy have changed immensly. Despite this, she enters her sixth decade as monarch still commanding respect and admiration the world over.
I could have spent all day writing about the many women who have shaped and inspired my life, and in fact, I intend to compile related posts throughout the year to celebrate such heroines!
I hope today has inspired many with such stories as these.
Wishing you a great weekend!