Becoming an Inspiring Woman


Earlier this week I received an invitation in the post. There is something lovely about getting paper post these days (that isn’t a bill!). The invitation was to participate in the ‘Seventy-Seven Women Commemoration Quilt’ project, designed to create a conversation between women living in Ireland today and women from 1916. Seventy-seven women activists were held in Richmond Barracks in Inchicore, Dublin after the 1916 Rising, and this project will tell their stories.

Myself and a group of women will each be assigned a different woman and given an opportunity to connect to her story and motivations for involvement in the Rising. Historians Mary McAuliffe and Liz Gillis will lead us through this process and then we will be invited to respond. Working with the artist Marja Almqvist we will design a panel in the Commemoration Quilt to honour 'our' woman and to reflect her spirit and contribution.

Although our first meeting is not until late September already I am scanning the faces of the women in the photo above and wondering who I will be assigned. Who was she, what was her life like, where did she work, what vision of Ireland did she imagine, and what became of her after the creation of the new state?

I am also wondering who inspired this woman, what shaped her ideologies and passions and will she inspire me? These questions got me thinking about the women I meet through my work facilitating the Inspiring Woman Programme. The feedback I consistently hear is that women are inspired by women close to them. Mothers, sisters, friends, aunts, nieces etc. Women don’t have to be political leaders, social activists, famous celebrities, or nobel prize winners to be inspiring (although those women do inspire us too!). It is often the women in our daily lives who show us how to reach for our highest goals, who encourage us to keep going against adversity, who light up our lives with their strength and enthusiasm.

That's why I launched the Inspiring Woman Programme because nothing compares with the power and creativity of bringing a group of women together, to share stories, envision futures and encourage each others flourishing. The women on the programme come from different backgrounds and life stages but each have in common a desire to express who she is, explore her passion and voice, and to create goals that will stretch her in new and exciting ways. The feedback from participants has been phenomenal:

  • ‘Inspiring Woman is a celebration of womanhood and the power of women’.

  • ‘The programme has connected me to my authentic voice and deepest calling which is to speak out about environmental issues’.

  • ‘It has re-ignited my passion for singing and I have even been approached to record a CD’.

  • ‘As a business woman I had disconnected from my artistic talent, the programme put me back in touch with my inner artist and since then I am not only drawing again but I have launched a start-up company promoting artists’ work’.

These women took time out to listen to their inner wisdom and to reconnect to a part of themselves that had become buried in the busyness of daily life. From there they are forging new and inspiring paths for themselves which will impact the lives of others.

As I reflect on the women in 1916 and the times in which they were living I am curious to know who their role models were, what kept them going in the face of adversity, how they connected with and inspired each other, and most of all...what message would they share with us if they were here today?

There are two new Inspiring Woman Programmes beginning on the 19th and 27th September.

Bookings: shirleygraham.net@gmail.com.

Information about the 77 Women Commemoration Quilt Project is available at: www.richmondbarracks.ie/women-1916/commemoration-quilt/


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