Women we’re raving about

Black and white photo of three female strikers
14-year old striker Fola La Follette and activist Rose Livingston in New York City; from the Library of Congress digital collections.

I’m part of the Impromptue Community in Zürich, which is a platform for materialising women’s ideas into projects. To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, the group nominated a handful of inspirational women. I collected their suggestions and transformed them into the blog post below.

The women of Impromptue are a diverse group: scientists, techies, artists, writers, expats, Swiss, some mothers and others not. But one thing we all have in common is our support for women and for female-led projects. In honour of International Women’s Day today we’re raving about a few amazing women who might be unsung in the public eye.

These are a few of the women we just won’t stop talking about, the ones whose projects we keep recommending to others. A handful of women we hope will inspire us to great heights—or simply remind us to support each other.


Katie Mack
Astrophysicist and fantastic science communicator
With a boundless enthusiasm for space and physics that fills her popular Twitter account, Mack is a leading voice in promoting accessible science. Beyond entertaining and educating us in 280 characters or less, Mack researches dark matter, vacuum decay and the epoch of reionisation as Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University, writes easily-digestible science-y articles for publications like SlateThe Guardian, and Time, and gets a shoutout in Hozier’s song No Plan. We’re looking forward to her upcoming book (being released in June 2020) The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking).

Liz Neeley and Erin Barker
Science storytellers at the helm of The Story Collider
One has a background in marine biology and the other an MFA in creative writing; together they host a weekly podcast dedicated to true, science-related stories. But these aren’t lectures you need a PhD to follow. Neeley and Barker feature diverse contributors (yes, some of them are professors, but others have jobs that have nothing to do with science) and make science approachable to anyone who is curious, regardless of gender, race, or level of education. One of the episodes features Neeley telling her own story about being forgotten by her colleagues on a trip to Fiji.

Mileva Marić
Physicist, mathematician, and Albert Einstein’s first wife
We may never know the extent of her contributions to the theory of special relativity, but as outlined in ‘The Forgotten Life of Einstein’s First Wife‘ Marić and Einstein’s ideas were heavily intertwined after meeting at Zürich’s Polytechnic Institute (now ETH) in 1896. The question of how much Marić was overshadowed by her famous husband is fictionalized in Croatian journalist Slavenka Drakulić’s A Theory of Sorrow (sadly, no English translation seems to be available) as well as The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict.

Music, TV, and Film

Jessie Ware
Singer/songwriter with side of foodie podcasting
Not only does Ware create super-smooth soul with vulnerability and depth (Tough Love is on my regular rotation), she and her mother also host the charmingly informal Table Manners podcast. This food-centric pod is like eavesdropping on a celebrity-infused family dinner, with all the expected honesty and gossip that entails. A few standout episodes include Sandy Toksvig, Aisling Bee, and Carly Rae Jepsen (some of my Canadian pride might be showing through on that last one!).

Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Actor, producer, and writer of badass female characters
With a long list of award nominations and wins (BAFTAs, Emmys, Golden Globes for acting and writing), Waller-Bridge is well-known for CrashingKilling Eve, and Fleabag—all of which feature female characters who are flawed, complicated, erratic. Waller-Bridge gives audiences a glimpse of the female experience, rage and all, and has said “It’s part of the job now, to be a brilliantly articulate spokesperson for feminism.” While we’ll now have to wait until November to see the latest Bond movie, she also had a hand in the screenplay for No Time to Die.

Christine and the Queens
Singer, songwriter, producer and unassuming queer activist
If writing tracks like Tilted that move fluidly between hard and soft, masculine and feminine, English and French wasn’t enough, Christine and the Queens’ new release La vita nuova is part Italian, part-French, part English—and all amazing. The visuals for the five-song album are also incredible, although the sweeping views of Paris make them almost unapologetically all-French. And Chris is unapologetically sexual, courting controversy about the near exclusivity of male desire in art.

Literature and activism

Quote from Rebecca Solnit on the inspiration wall of Eliassons Symbiotic Seeing exhibit
A quote from Solnit on Eliasson’s inspiration wall at Kunsthaus Zürich

Rebecca Solnit
Writer, historian, activist
We’re big fans of Solnit (with twenty books and heaps of articles and essays to her name there’s a lot to be a fan of!) and she’s probably mentioned at every second Impromptue get together. There’s no Impromptue conspiracy to talk about Solnit, she’s just so damn relevant! From her 2008 essay ‘‘Men Explain Things to Me” (credited for inspiring the term ‘mansplaining’) to Hope in the Dark, her twice-issued book about the sometimes invisible power of activism, there’s something for everyone in Solnit’s writing—she even pops up in the Olafur Eliasson exhibit Symbiotic Seeing.

Ingrid Newkirk
Animal welfarist and activist
Newkirk founded PETA, serves as its president, and co-wrote Animalkind. She may be a divisive figure and an unlikely revolutionary, but, as one of our techie-er members pointed out, she’s also a visionary who saw the future of lab-grown meat long before fast food chains had even contemplated adding ‘plant-based meat’ to their menus. And it’s easy to understand Newkirk’s points about interconnectedness as she explains the basis for Animalkind on Real Time with Bill Maher.

Jan Morris
Historian, journalist, writer
Now 93, Jan Morris not only broke the story of Hillary and Tenzing conquering Everest, but also broke with convention by transitioning from male to female in the 1970s—and daring to talk openly about it. Published in 1974, Morris’ memoir Conundrum was one of the first books to discuss transsexuality without judgement or titillation. In this poignant piece from The Guardian, Morris talks about being at the end of things, the uniquely beautiful story of her marriage, and what she predicts will be her last book, Thinking Again.

These are the writers, storytellers, scientists, singers, actors, and activists the Impromptue Community are currently raving about. Here’s to the women we find inspiring, entertaining and informative, to the Impromptue women who nominated them—and to all women across the globe!

Adapted from my original post at Impromptue.ch

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