Visible Women

From a politician to a pageant finalist: the women making waves this week

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Moya Crockett
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Dropping every Friday, Women Making Waves is a series highlighting the women who rocked the boat, pushed for change and made history around the world this week.  

Sara Iftekhar becomes first hijabi Miss England finalist 

On Tuesday (4 September), 20-year-old Sara Iftekhar became the first Miss England contestant to wear a hijab while competing in the final stages of the pageant.

While women wearing hijabs have previously made it through to the qualifiers of the Miss England pageant, Iftekhar is the first to have been named a finalist. The law student, who founded her own clothing business at the age of 16, was named Miss Huddersfield earlier this year.

Iftekhar was eventually beaten to the Miss England crown by Alisha Cowie, aka Miss Newcastle. However, she is still fundraising for the children’s charity Beauty with a Purpose, which was created by the Miss England organisation.

“I participated in Miss [England] 2018 in order to show that beauty doesn’t have a definition,” she wrote on the crowdfunding page. “Everyone is beautiful in their own ways, regardless of their weight, race, colour or shape.”

Politician Ayanna Pressley makes history in the US 

Ayanna Pressley on the night of her election win this week 

On Wednesday (5 September), Ayanna Pressley won an important primary election in Massachusetts. Thanks to that victory, the 44-year-old will now become the first African-American congresswoman to represent her state in US history.

A left-wing Democrat, Pressley campaigned on what she could bring to the table as a black woman from a working-class background, and openly discussed her experiences of sexual abuse and growing up with a father in prison. She also called for the impeachment of Donald Trump.

To win the primary election, she beat another Democrat who had been the US representative for districts in Massachusetts for almost 20 years. Since there are no Republican challengers in her district, she is now guaranteed to go to Congress after the US midterm elections in November.

“Change is coming and the future belongs to all of us,” Pressley said in her victory speech. She also referred to Trump as “a racist, misogynist, truly empathy-bankrupt man”. 

Astronomer donates millions to support female scientists

The extremely generous Jocelyn Bell Burnell 

In 1974, two men – Martin Ryle and Antony Hewish – won the Nobel Prize for physics, for their work discovering pulsars (a type of star formed in supernova explosions). What went overlooked was the fact that the discovery had initially been made by a young woman named Jocelyn Bell, a postgraduate student at the University of Cambridge.

That young woman is now Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, one of the UK’s most revered astronomers. On Thursday (6 September), it was announced that Bell Burnell had been awarded the £2.3m Breakthrough Prize for her contribution to the discovery of pulsars and her long career as a scientific leader.

But rather than keep the money, Bell Burnell said that she would be donating it to create a fund to support women, people from underrepresented ethnic minority backgrounds and refugee students who hoped to become physics researchers.

“I don’t want or need the money myself and it seemed to me that this was perhaps the best use I could put to it,” she said.

Read more about Bell Burnell’s inspiring act of generosity here.

Women Making Waves is part of Stylist’s Visible Women campaign to raise awareness of women who’ve made a difference. See more Visible Women stories here.  

Images: Getty Images