Friday, August 25, 2017

28 famous speeches by women in the United Kingdom

One impetus for this blog has been the many lists of famous speeches which list few or no women speakers--including a top 100 list of 20th century speeches published by The Guardian. On it were just three women speakers for the entire century: suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst; writer Virginia Woolf; and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, making the most recent woman's speech on the list from the 1980s. I knew we could do better.

So I'm proud that the blog now has a collection of 28 famous women's speeches from England, ranging from 1588 to 2017, and covering the worlds of sport, art, theater, politics, feminism, literature, activism, sexism, music, film, science, television, engineering, technology, and disability. And yo, The Guardian, more than half of my list occurred in the 20th century. No paucity of women's speeches there. Each of these speeches appears in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, and at the links below you will find--where available--text, audio or video, and tips you can glean from these famous women speakers, ignored no more:
  1. Elizabeth I's 1563 speech on her singlehood was an occasional type of speech she gave from time to time, explaining to her Parliament why she was still single and childless. For this one, you can see the script in her own handwriting.
  2. Elizabeth I's 1588 speech to the troops at Tilbury has a few different texts that survive, but it's still considered among the most stirring speeches of all time.
  3. Ellen Terry's lectures on Shakespeare's women, delivered between 1911-1921, took the famous actress on an around-the-world speaking tour that let her explore feminist themes in the Bard's work.
  4. Emmeline Pankhurst's 1913 "Freedom or Death" speech laid out the stakes for women suffragists in its title. She delivered it on a fundraising trip to the U.S., taking a break from being imprisoned over and over in England.
  5. Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" lectures in 1928 became a long-form essay that has inspired writers--particularly women writers--ever since. She also explored familiar themes to women speakers in these lectures and her description of them.
  6. Virginia Woolf's 1931 "Professions for Women" lecture, the follow-on to the 1928 lectures, talked about upending the view that women's work was solely in the home. She employs a powerful metaphor to make the case.
  7. Dorothy Sayer's 1947 speech on the lost tools of learning brought her back to the University of Oxford, where her own degree was delayed five years because of her gender. She argued the merits of a classical education for the post-World-War-II generation
  8. Julie Andrews's 1964 Golden Globes speech was brief and saucy, tweaking the nose of the studio head who didn't cast her in "My Fair Lady," allowing her to win the award for the role she got instead: "Mary Poppins."
  9. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's 1976 "Iron Lady" speech was really titled "Britain Awake," outlining tough defenses in the Cold War. But the Soviets dubbed her the "Iron Lady" after this speech, and the nickname stuck.
  10. Princess Diana's 1997 speech on banning landmines was delivered in London following a fact-finding mission to Angola. She was still speaking on this issue right up until her death later in this year.
  11. Elizabeth II's 1997 tribute to Princess Diana brought the frequent-speaking monarch a new challenge: A worldwide live audience on television, her first time doing a live-remote speech.
  12. Jane Goodall's 2002 TED talk on what separates us from the apes drew on the British scientist's Welsh storytelling ancestors, music, and even Shakespeare--all good influences for a talk that, in the end, is about communication.
  13. Elisabeth Murdoch's 2012 speech to the UK television industry took her audience to task for failing to invite a woman to deliver this prestigious lecture, then gave a personal and passionate speech about her work.
  14. Caroline Criado-Perez's 2013 speech on cyber-bullying followed her campaign to get an image of Jane Austen on the currency. It describes the violent, virulent cyber-bullying she enduring, recording it for history.
  15. Tanni Grey-Thompson's 2013 speech on disability memorialized the first disabled member of Parliament and told her audience it needed to "shout a bit louder" about the issue.
  16. Olympic cyclist Nicole Cook's 2013 retirement speech pulled no punches in describing the underfunding, sexism, and other challenges women in sport face.
  17. Sue Austin's 2013 TEDMED talk described her performance art diving in deep ocean in a wheelchair...and pointed out to the audience the mental cages that entrap them.
  18. Charlotte Church's 2013 industry lecture on sexism in the music industry started with a bang: Asking the audience to picture male musicians depicted as women artists are. 
  19. Tilda Swinton's 2013 "David Bowie Is" speech at the opening of a major exhibit about Bowie put her squarely in the role of fangirl...to good effect. It's a loving, thoughtful tribute.
  20. Theresa May's 2014 speech taking the UK Police Federation to task, delivered during her term as Home Secretary, is a fierce, effective reform speech that made immediate waves outside the hall. Inside, she got polite applause at the start, but at the end, her audience was all stony silence.
  21. Emma Watson's 2014 United Nations speech on being a feminist is notable because we've since learned she had been advised to leave the f-word--feminist--out of it entirely. I'm glad she thought better of that.
  22. Penny Mordaunt's 2014 loyal address in Parliament, the formal response to the Queen's speech opening Parliament, was just the second time a woman had ever been asked to deliver this high-profile speech. Let's just say she made the most of it.
  23. Mary Beard's 2014 lecture on the public voice of women is a tour de force from the classics scholar. I quote this speech often, which is so thoughtful on why and how we ignore eloquent women.
  24. Dame Stephanie Shirley's 2015 TED talk shared a lifetime of lessons from this tech pioneer, who figured out how to start a successful company on the kitchen tables of women programmers.
  25. Engineer Danielle George's Royal Institution Christmas lectures in 2015 would already be high-stakes, featured on television and featuring only the sixth woman to deliver these prestigious science talks. But to do it while pregnant was just one of the many surprises in these engaging talks.
  26. Mhairi Black's maiden speech in the UK Parliament set the chamber on fire, so to speak. It's a fiery first speech from the Scottish National Party MP whose election made her the youngest member elected since the 17th century.
  27. Prime Minister Theresa May's first PMQs in 2016 let us see a woman prime minister facing the toughest crucible of public speaking around: Prime Minister's question time in Parliament, a weekly feature. In this first salvo, she gave as good as she got.
  28. Mary Beard's 2017 lecture on women in power was a timely follow-on to the 2016 U.S. election and taught us that history is just repeating itself when it comes to how uncomfortable society is with powerful women. Another must-read.
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