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From Meghan Markle to Serena Williams - The women who made 2018

PUBLISHED: 11:47 30 December 2018

Meghan Markle has had a very impressive 2018.  Picture: PA Wire/PA Images

Meghan Markle has had a very impressive 2018. Picture: PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

Placards at the women’s vote centenary celebrations read: “Let’s finish what the Suffragettes started”, and there is certainly plenty of progress still to be made in the ongoing fight for women’s equality. Fortunately, there are plenty of brave and inspiring women leading the way.

Serena Williams who has made headlines on and off the court in 2018. Picture PA Wire/PA Images.Serena Williams who has made headlines on and off the court in 2018. Picture PA Wire/PA Images.

From Hollywood to the Hague, women around the world are finding their voice and wielding their influence, and are now playing a bigger role in changing our world than ever before. Here, we are taking the time to recognise and celebrate 15 local, national and international women who helped to shape 2018.

15. Millicent Fawcett

She might have died 89 years ago, but Millicent Fawcett remains an important feminist figure for 2018. A statue honouring the impassioned suffragist was erected in Parliament Square this April, making Millicent the first women to join the all-male line up of statues, finding her place among Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln. The Aldeburgh-born campaigner worked tirelessly during the early 20th Century to secure votes for women, leading Britain’s largest suffrage group in non-violent protest.

14. Jodie Whittaker

Reactions to the latest series of Doctor Who have been mixed to say the least, but there’s no denying that the introduction of a female time lord has been a landmark moment in television history. Jodie Whittaker’s appointment was met with the expected backlash from the not-so-subtly sexist fan message boards, but she has quickly proved the naysayers wrong by driving the show to its best ratings since 2010. While some have taken issue with the plot – grumbling that the show has become boring with no real villains and ‘overly-PC’ storylines – Whittaker’s performance has been widely praised as a breath of fresh air.

13. Lauren Steadman

The paralympian has danced her way into the nation’s hearts this year with her show-stopping performances on Strictly Come Dancing. Forming a heart-warming friendship with professional dancer AJ Pritchard, the plucky triathlete lit up our screens every week, winning scores of loyal fans who voted her all the way through to the semi-final. If that wasn’t enough for one year, Steadman has also found success away from the dance floor in 2018, scooping a gold medal at the ITU World Championships in Australia.

12. Serena Williams

Serena Williams is a powerhouse of a woman, and each year seems to bring the tennis star an even more impressive set of achievements than the last. This year, Williams gave birth to her first child, suffering an extremely traumatic childbirth which almost killed her. Following the birth, she also struggled with post-natal depression, and she has been open and candid about both of these difficult experiences, hoping to encourage other new mothers to speak out and seek help. Since returning to her day job as the world’s greatest athlete, Williams has faced a barrage of sexist critiques, from objections to a catsuit she wore during the French Open, to the misogyny-tinged denouncements of her so-called ‘outburst’ at the US open. Whatever has been thrown at her, Serena has fired back, showing that she is a true champion.

10. Adele Bellis

Another local woman, Adele Bellis is a campaigner from Lowestoft. In 2014, Adele was the victim of an horrendous acid attack, after her ex-boyfriend ordered an accomplice to douse her in sulphuric acid. Since the attack, Adele has become a strong voice and campaigner for fellow acid attack victims, and has been advocating for tougher, more consistent sentencing for the perpetrators of these horrific crimes. Adele has made numerous television appearances to speak out about her experiences, and has also penned her own book, Brave, which details how she went about rebuilding her life after the attack.

9. Sally Rooney

Heralded as the ‘Salinger for the Snapchat generation’, Sally Rooney has earned a reputation as one of the most important millennial voices. The 27-year-old’s second novel Normal People – a love story following a young Irish couple from different class backgrounds - was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and was later crowned Waterstones’ Book of the Year. Rooney is the youngest author to ever win the prize, cementing her place as one of the most exciting novelists writing today. With Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson lined up to direct a BBC adaptation of the novel, the Rooney buzz shows no signs of abating in 2019.

8. Viola Davis

Viola Davis’ acting credentials are simply unmatched. The Oscar, Emmy and Tony Award winner is a seasoned professional, delivering some of the most memorable screen and stage performances of recent years, from the bold and confident Annalise Keating in ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder to the gentle and maternal Rose Maxon of Fences. While her recent performance in Steve McQueen’s Widows is currently generating Oscar buzz, it is Davis’ activism that stole headlines in 2018. In January, she delivered a stirring speech to crowds at the Los Angeles Women’s March, calling for women to speak out about their experiences of sexual harassment and commenting on the intersection of racism and sexual violence. Davis has been a quiet champion of underprivileged for years, but in 2018 she truly found her voice.

6. Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Fans of Killing Eve have got the talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge to thank for penning this year’s must-see series. The genre-bending thriller gave us two unforgettable female characters – the villainous Villanelle (a contract killer) and the obsessive Eve (the M15 officer hot on her heels). The script is hugely original and perfectly executed, showcasing the dark humour of the writer who also created the award-winning Fleabag. With a second series of Killing Eve already in the works, it’s clear that audiences can’t get enough of Waller-Bridge’s killer-and-detective duo. Bold, flawed and endlessly entertaining, Eve and Villanelle defy all stereotypes of feminine behaviour, making them some of the most compelling characters to appear on the small screen in years.

5. Dina Asher-Smith

The 23-year-old athlete has had a simply sensational year. The sprinter has entered the record books as the fastest woman in British history, setting new times for both the 100m and the 200m. She stormed to three gold medals in Berlin in August, with her winning time of 10.85 seconds making her the fastest woman on the planet this year. Despite these tremendous achievements, the record-breaking athlete was beaten to the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award by cyclist Geraint Thomas. A woman hasn’t managed to scoop the award since 2006 – but Asher-Smith could well be the one to break this spell if she continues on her impressive winning streak.

4. Theresa Cossey and Gaye Youngman

Lifelong friends Theresa Cossey and Gaye Youngman are an unstoppable fundraising force. Since creating the Ladies in League Against Cancer - or Lilac for short – some 13 years ago, the women have raised an extraordinary amount of money for Norfolk-based cancer charity Big C, donating over £20,000 in 2018 alone. By next year, the 400-member strong Lilac group will have made approximately £400,000 for the charity – a truly remarkable achievement. In addition to hosting their famous lunches, the ladies of Lilac also raise money through fashion shows, trips out, garden tours, talks and afternoon teas, with these events also helping local women to forge lasting friendships.

3. Rose McGowan

The actor and activist was one of the first women to openly accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, emerging as one of the most prominent voices of the Me Too movement. Since McGowan spoke out about her encounter with Weinstein, over 75 women have come forward to make allegations against the disgraced film mogul. After publishing her memoir, Brave, McGowan has continued to condemn the rampant culture of sexism that still permeates the film industry, calling for a complete overhaul of how Hollywood treats women. In recognition of her activism, McGowan was awarded GQ’s Inspiration Award for 2018 – marking the first time the men’s magazine has given the award to a woman.

2. Nadia Murad

This year, Nadia Murad became the first Iraqi to win the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2014, Nadia’s village was attacked by Isis militants, who took her captive along with several other Yadizi women from her community. During her captivity, she was regularly beaten and raped, as well as being repeatedly sold for sex as part of Isis’ slave trade. She eventually escaped and has gone on to become a remarkable activist for the Yadizi people, fighting to bring an end to human trafficking and calling on world leaders to take a tougher line on the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. At just 25, Murad is the second youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (after Malala Yousafzi), showing the power of young female voices in changing the world for the better.

1. Meghan Markle

What a year it’s been for the new Duchess of Sussex. Just seven months ago, Meghan married Prince Harry, bringing the country together with the most diverse and inclusive royal wedding in history. Since saying “I do”, Meghan has continued to make her mark on the monarchy, 
doing away with outdated traditions and breaking Royal protocol on more than one occasion – she was spotted shutting a car door by herself 
in September. Simply scandalous! The Duchess’ official bio on the Royal Family website states that she is proud to be a feminist, making her the first Royal to publically identify as such. Opinionated, socially conscious and dedicated to empowering women, Meghan is bringing the Royal Family into the 21st century. We salute her and all women who fight to make their mark.

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