60 Over Sixty - The Results!
To celebrate International Women’ Day on March 8th this year we thought we’d do something a bit different. I’ve long thought that the rich pattern and experience of women’s lives past the age of 60 are neither sufficiently acknowledged nor celebrated. I was raised with the notion that women retired at 60, which was the age at which I was lucky enough to receive my state pension. Despite this, I had no desire to stop working at something that I loved and believed I did well, and five years later when I had the idea to start Look Fabulous Forever, I saw no practical reason not to take my life in a whole new direction.
More recently, my belief in the wealth of older women’s wisdom, power and all round fabulousness has been much bolstered by the Super Troopers, especially those I have met during our fortnightly ‘All About Me’ interviews via Zoom. The latest, last Tuesday, was an absolute delight. Wendy Jackson-Hill was ordained into ministry in Durban 2001, she subsequently left her native South Africa at 60 with her husband and found herself initially in a Vicar of Dibley-esque community in Devon. Lots of funny stories to tell and some sad ones, but what shone through were Wendy’s warmth and humanity. I bet people loved having her as their local vicar!
I see Wendy as part of a hidden army of older women who are still contributing to society in numerous ways, but we also thought it would be interesting to ask you for the names of those more prominent women aged over 60 who inspire you and for whom you feel great admiration and love.
Our long list ended up containing around 150 names! I was frankly amazed there were so many, and was very impressed with the range of women you nominated. The usual suspects were there as you would expect, but there were also many surprises and a few proposed names with whom I was unfamiliar. We then asked you to vote, and around 850 of you took the time and trouble to do so. Our final shortlist of 60 with a brief description of each can be seen in full here, and I hope you agree that it’s a wonderful representation of the breadth and depth of older women’s lived experience.
I would like to concentrate here on the top ten and make a few observations about why these wonderful women may have inspired so many of you as they do me.
1. HRH Queen Elizabeth 11
Perhaps the most famous person in the world, it is no surprise to me that the Queen topped our poll. I’m sure that many of you, like me, may remember her coronation in 1953 and so for the whole of the life that I can remember, she has been our head of state. She personifies duty, steadfastness and other values that are now seen as old-fashioned, but to me these qualities are immensely reassuring. Still working, still resolute in her role, Queen Elizabeth provokes deep admiration for her life of service.
2. Dame Judi Dench
Another queen to many of us, not least because she has actually played both Queen Elizabeth 1 and Queen Victoria so memorably. We had several phenomenal actresses on our list, but none perhaps so loved and admired or so supremely talented as Dame Judi. From comedy to tragedy, from Shakespeare to TV sitcoms, she can dance, sing (‘Bring on the Clowns’), make us laugh and make us cry. In ‘real life’ she comes across as warm, funny and naughty and a total delight.
3. Baroness Betty Boothroyd
The first and, so far, only female Speaker of the House of Commons and a true Yorkshirewoman through and through. By which I mean that she is forthright, highly articulate and commands great respect. Having once been a visitor for a session of PMQs in the House of Commons when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, I can attest to the fact that the atmosphere was a cross between a gentleman’s club and a boy’s public school. Boothroyd was a towering figure in that arena and is remembered with great respect. She is now a peer in the House of Lords.
4. Dame Jane Goodall
Throughout her adult life, Jane Goodall has lived amongst, studied and written about chimpanzees in the wild, predominantly in Tanzania from the late 1950s. At that time there were very few women working in her field of primatology whilst now, thanks to Dame Jane’s encouragement and trailblazing, there is close to parity between numbers of males and females. Her working life has been dedicated to conservation and animal welfare and at 86, she still devotes her time to advocacy on behalf of chimpanzees and the environment
5. Dame Esther Rantzen
You and I probably remember Esther Rantzen from her long running BBC TV programme consumer affairs programme ‘That’s Life’, but she has also led two brilliant initiatives called ‘ChildLine’ and ‘The Silver Line’. In 1986, concerned about the hidden problem of child abuse, Dame Esther persuaded the BBC to open a helpline for 48 hours. It was swamped with calls, many about sexual abuse and led her to found ChildLine to offer 24 hour support to children in need of help. In 2013, she set up the charity The Silver Line to counter loneliness in older people and to offer a befriending service for those isolated at home.
6. Dolly Parton
Who doesn’t love Dolly Parton? A true force of nature, this amazing woman has survived extreme poverty as a child to have a long career as a highly accomplished singer who has also composed over 3000 songs and sold more than 100 million records worldwide. Dolly is also known for her literacy programme which, via her Dollywood Foundation, mails one book every month from birth to kindergarten to every child enrolled in the programme. Around 850,000 children are currently receiving this bounty in schemes in the US, Canada, Australia and the Republic of Ireland. In response to Covid 19, Dolly donated $1m towards research at Vanderbilt University.
7.Dame Mary Beard
Mary Beard is surely one of the most famous academics in this country. Her field of study is the classics and she combines intellectual rigour with a lack of stuffiness and a great sense of mischief. She must be one of the few people to popularise the classics on TV and is now fairly ubiquitous, currently heading up a weekly arts programme on BBC 2. She has suffered the most appalling ageist, sexist and misogynistic abuse on social media for her long grey hair, but has risen gracefully above the opprobrium to show that such concerns (ie being called ‘an old witch) are beneath (her) contempt.
8. Joanna Lumley
Another national treasure in the Dame Judi mould of beloved thesps. I have a particularly soft spot for Joanna because she was one of the very few women who responded to a great many hand-written letters I wrote to accompany my book asking various well-known older women for a brief review. She replied with a really delightful quote about the book which we used on the paperback - testament to her kindness and generosity of spirit. Joanna is a wonderful actress and most recently an eloquent travel guide and since 2008 she has been the public face of a campaign to give all Nepalese born Gurkha veterans who served in the British Army before 1997 the right to settle in Britain.
9. Dr. Rose Hudson-Wilkin
I was delighted that Dr Rose has received recognition from you as the first woman of colour to become a Church of England Bishop, currently serving as suffragan Bishop of Dover. From 2010 to 2019 she served as Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons as well as priest vicar at Westminster Abbey and a Chaplain to the Queen. Rose was very popular with some in the House of Commons, whilst others were less enthusiastic when she introduced mention of topical events into the traditional daily prayers. For instance prayers said for International Women’s Day drew complaints to the Speaker from some MPs. On 19th May 2018, she was one of the religious leaders asked to lead prayers at the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle.
10. The Princess Royal
Like her mother, Princess Anne’s life has been devoted to public service and is known as the hardest working member of the Royal Family. She works tirelessly on behalf of the 300 organisations of which she is patron and last year she carried out 148 official engagements on behalf of the Queen. She’s also an extremely accomplished horsewoman who was part of the British team at the Olympics in 1976. I can remember her attempted kidnap in 1974 during which four of the people trying to protect her were shot (none fatally). When the kidnapper Ian Ball told Princess Anne to get out of the car she apparently replied ‘Not bloody likely!’ Which I think sums up what we know of her character: no nonsense, takes no prisoners and doesn’t suffer fools (or kidnappers) lightly!
The common thread in the lives of all the wonderful women in our list of ‘60 over Sixty’ is hard work, perseverance and a great deal of dedication often to a significant cause. Others are immensely talented and have used that talent to add greatly to our cultural lives. What I find so inspirational is that none has seen the age of 60 as a barrier, but a mere blip in a life that they all continue to live to the full. So, thank you for nominating so many truly wonderful older role models and I do hope that you feel that our shortlist of sixty fabulous women reflects the richness and diversity of women’s lives.
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Here is the Bright Spots Programme and links for this week:
Makeup Magic with Tricia and Sally Deung
The importance of face shape and how to look great in glasses
Day: Monday 1st March
Meeting ID (if needed): 892 4590 5309
Password (if needed): LOOKFAB
ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) Last week Sally and Tricia talked about how to have fabulous skin: https://youtu.be/RLdh8bOA4Ps
Virtual Teatime with Tricia: Gail Rolfe
Post Lockdown Fashion Ideas
Day: Tuesday 2nd March
Meeting ID (if needed): 816 1957 4954
Password (if needed): LOOKFAB
Eatwright cookery demo with Leonie Wright
Ratatouille with Beef Mince and Chocolate Ice Cream
Day: Wednesday 3rd March
Pre- Recorded Session
ICYMI Last week Leonie and Tricia talked about Apple and Oat Muffins and Chicken Pie: https://youtu.be/Zlo38KV5SWw
Tone up with Tricia and Lindsay Burrows
Strengthening your core
Day: Thursday 4th Match
Pre- Recorded Session
Film Club: The Assistant
Available on Curzon Home Cinema
Day: Friday 5th March
Meeting ID (if needed): 836 4910 4699
Password (if needed): LOOKFAB
You can also keep an eye on the weekly schedule of Events which will be updated every Friday at 5pm (GMT) here: https://www.lookfabulousforever.com/a-bright-spot-for-your-day
What Do You Think?