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  • Writer's pictureMike Gould

In praise of remarkable women shining brightly

Brightly burning sun

The sun is the only star in our solar system that shines. I learned that from Dava Sobel's utterly captivating podcast, 'The Sun, our Star' for The Compass podcast on the BBC World Service

I have since bought, but not yet read, her book The Glass Universe which details the remarkable achievements of female astronomers. Everywhere you look there are women shining brightly, if only we could see them. And that is of course a problem of past and present - one in which company boards overlook talented women, the Oscars overlook female directors, and scientific institutions regularly dismiss or ignore the contribution women have made or make to human knowledge and advancement.

I tweeted today about my mother's own profound impact on my learning and interests, putting aside for the moment all the other things she also offered in terms of sustenance and domestic comfort - the given maternal roles. I remember her quoting favourite Shakespeare lines and plots before I'd even heard of Shakespeare: piquing my interest by her own grammatical curiosity in the line 'this my hand will rather/The multitudinous seas incarnadine,/Making the green one red' (Macbeth, 2.ii).

As a teacher too, I must have absorbed some of the rigour and thoroughness with which she approached teaching French - and, of course, the love of that language and its people which was nourished by cheap camping holidays, with meals conjured from nowhere, and instructions to us children to go off and buy bread using the two or three phrases we'd learned.

You could say my upbringing was feminine - though that broad description is both true in the most literal sense having three sisters but no brothers, and of course untrue in that the sensibilities brought to the family by four women were each entirely individual. At age seven I cried when my mother was delivered of another daughter, upset that I wouldn't have anyone to play football with. In 1999, that same sister and I sat and watched our team, Manchester United beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. So, I got the best of both worlds, really. And of course that is also true for my other sisters who do not fit any easy categorisation - each an individual, not a species or a gender.

And yet, and yet.....with my wife and two daughters (plus one son), I have lived in a world in which the female voice resonates. I wouldn't have it other way.

For Jane, Holly, Amy, Jean, Claire, Lou and Val - Happy International Women's Day!

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