At Qdai we make a point of scouting the world for inspirational women. This week takes us to South Africa where Major Mandisa Mfeka has recently become the first black female fighter pilot in the South African Air force.
In watching interviews of her I am struck by both her optimism and the significance of one moment in her life where she realized her dream was actually a possibility. She always admired aviation but did not think “a girl like me” could ever become a pilot.
Once she realized her dream to fly was possible, she put her head down and worked tirelessly to make it to the top, with a smile on her face! I am drawn to her independent positivity and charisma. Her message is that where you come from should not dictate where you are going, and that hard work and vision can take you to any heights, literally. Qdai is similarly determined, to offer practical clothes to women like Mandisa who need their hands free to change the world!
Her success doesn’t stop there; Mandisa has also started an empowerment program called Winged Spanner which teaches financial literacy and entrepreneurship to fellow South Africans. “The sky is the baseline” tagline encourages people to re-evaluate their limits and she has been quoted saying “We are 'MULTI-POTENTIALITIES' of the 21st century, unlimited beings. We no longer have to develop and focus only on one skill! Go on and explore them all!”
The first woman to take flight in Africa date back to the beginning of aviation. Audrey Fiander was the first woman to get a pilot’s license in Rhodesia in 1929, and Phyllis Doreen Hooper the first South African woman to get a pilot’s license in 1935! I wonder if they took the skies in a functional dress with pockets?
We Qdai ladies celebrate our own multi-potentialities and look to celebrate yours too. Send us your inspirational stories to share!
When I hear the name Lucy Walker I imagine a character in a Jane Austen novel with perfect hair, a fan and a dashing suitor leaving bunches of wild flowers and calling cards. What I don’t imagine is a woman mountaineer climbing one of the highest peaks in Europe, in a dress, in 1871!
The Matterhorn in the Alps is a mere 4,478 meters (14,692 ft) high, one of the highest summits in the Alps. Lucy Walker was the first woman to climb it ...again, in a dress, at age 35!
Her dress didn't have 6 secret pockets like our Beryl and La Roche dresses do. They weren't light weight or crinkle resistant either, in fact her dress most likely weighed over twenty pounds, the equivalent of carrying a small child all the way up that steep incline!!!
Lucy took up climbing as a result of a doctor’s recommendation to cure her Rheumatism; that in itself is pretty amazing. She is rumored to have lived on champagne and sponge cake while climbing and completed 98 such expeditions in her life time. The Matterhorn was not her first nor her last victorious climb. She claimed the first female ascent of the Eiger in 1864, among others.
Edmund Hillary said “It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves!” Her victories were clearly not just physical; she was an acclaimed pioneer leading the way for other female mountaineers and was elected the president of the Ladies Alpine Club in 1915.
I know you all know who Cecilia Payne was! Not! I’d never heard of her ‘till today, did you know that in 1925 she proposed that stars were comprised primarily of Helium and Hydrogen? “So what?” You say.... OK let’s rewind.
She got a scholarship to Cambridge in 1919 when her single mother couldn’t afford her tuition. She completed a degree but wasn’t awarded that degree because she was a woman (they only started dishing out degrees to ladies in 1948!). If that was my story, I may have thrown in the towel in a toddler like rage.
Cecilia was then offered a fellowship at Harvard and moved continents to further her studies. Her PhD thesis in 1925 (enter Helium & Hydrogen) disproved the current theories of the day and she was dissuaded from publishing her theory because it contradicted her male predecessors.
At Harvard she earned her promotion to professor in her field in 1956, by which time she had already published 3 books.
Years later her theory was confirmed and affirmed by fellow astronomers, and her PhD has been called “the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy.”
It was a woman who discovered what our universe is made of!
We admire Cecilia for her brilliance, for being light years ahead of her time, for not giving up when her work was not recognised. Her passionate perseverance brought acknowledgement and success in the end.
We toast another unsung hero for her strength, vision and guts! Cheers dears!
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