Living Red

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The Woman introduces you to eight women who have fought against all odds to make the unthinkable happen… From time immemorial, the colour red has been closely associated with courage. It has been the symbol of sacrifice and martyrdom during wars and the banner of defiance and immeasurable fearlessness to do that which seemed impossible. While back then courage was a quality most attributed to men, there have been women who have lived some of the most daring, adventurous lives. Meet eight women who have lived life in RED

Ann Bancroft – First woman to complete a number of expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic

As a child, Ann was very fond of the outdoors, jumping at every opportunity to go camping or take trips to the wilderness. After graduation, she became a gym teacher and wilderness instructor at a school in Minneapolis. In 1986, she bowed out of her teaching career to be part of a five-member team on an expedition to the North Pole. After 56 days, using dogsleds, she became the first woman to reach the North Pole on foot and sled. An explorer at heart, Ann was the first woman to reach the North Pole and South Pole and the first woman to ski across Greenland. Seven year after her first expedition, she led the first all-female expedition to the South Pole. Her extraordinary achievements led to her induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame for the US.

Hilary Lister – Record breaking quadriplegic sailor

At the age of 15, Hilary Lister was diagnosed with quadriplegia which slowly limited her use of her body as she grew older. As a child, Hilary was very sporty and enjoyed swimming, hockey and rugby in particular, but as she battled with her worsening condition, she was afraid she had lost everything she ever cared about. In 2003, she was introduced to sailing through Westbere Sailing Opportunities. “It turned a light back on inside me,” was how she described discovering sailing; she uses a sip-and-puff technology to control the ship for steering and sails. On August 31, 2009, Hilary Lister became the first specially-abled woman to sail solo around Britain. She has currently teamed up with Omani sailor Nashwa Al Kindi on a project to sail from Mumbai to Muscat.

Junko Tabei – First woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest

It was when she was in fourth grade that Junko first experienced mountain-climbing when her teacher led her to the summit of Mt. Nasu in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. After graduating with a major in English & American Literature, she devoted herself completely to mountaineering. In 1969 she established the Ladies Climbing Club: Japan and as sub-leader of a Japanese Women’s Everest Expedition, she succeeded in becoming the first woman to have climbed the world’s highest peak. Since then she has gone on to climb the highest peaks on each continent and presently travels around six to eight times a year to climb the highest peaks in each country. As of March 2008, she has successfully climbed the highest peaks of 56 countries.

Amy Purdy – Paralympic 2014 bronze medallist

When she was 19, Amy was rushed to the hospital upon displaying flu-like symptoms. En route she suffered with multiple organ failure and the doctors estimated just two per cent chances of her survival. After a series of tests, blood transfusions and surgeries, Amy was diagnosed with Meningococcal Meningitis. Due to lack of blood circulation, doctors amputated both her legs below the knee and she later received a donated kidney from her father. Determined to overcome her disability and to attain goals she had set for herself, Amy entered the USASA National Snowboarding Championship just three months after her kidney transplant and won medals in three events. Armed with her never-give-up attitude, Amy has gone on to achieve much in life and today, she is a motivational speaker, model, actress, one of the top-ranked adaptive snowboarders in the world and the 2014 Paralympic Bronze Medallist.

Valentina Tereshkova – First woman to have flown in space

Valentina is a retired Soviet cosmonaut. At a very early age she became interested in parachute jumping and her expertise in the same was what led to her selection as a cosmonaut. She was one among the four women selected to be trained for a special woman-in-space programme under the direction of the then Soviet premier Nikita Krushchev. Of the four women, she was the only woman to have completed a space mission when on June 16, 1963 she was propped aboard the Vostok 6. It made 48 orbits around the Earth during the 70.8 hour flight and upon the completion of the mission Valentina was awarded with the title Hero of the Soviet Union. The Vostok 6 was her first and last space mission, after which she became a spokesperson for the Soviet Union and went on to be honoured with the United Nations Gold Medal of Peace.

Marla Runyan – First legally blind athlete to compete in the Olympics

At age nine, Marla was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a type of macular degeneration that causes progressive visual impairment. During her college years, she participated in several track and field events such as high-jump, heptathlon, shot-put and 100m hurdles. Having graduated with a Master’s degree in Communicative Disorders, she went on to pursue a career in running. She qualified for the 1996 Olympic trials in the heptathlon but fell short of making the Olympic team. Refusing to give up, she won a gold medal at the 1996 Paralympic Games. Owing to her undying spirit, she marched towards her next goal and made it to the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team in the 1500m event and was the first legally blind athlete to have ever achieved such a feat. Marla holds two Master’s degrees in in Special Education and teaches assistive technology at Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts.

Diana Nyad – First person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark-cage

It was back in 1975; Diana made a splash with a long distance swim around Manhattan Island. Known then as the greatest long distance swimmer in the world, she lapped across the 102.5 mile distance between the Bahamas and Florida which led to her being inducted in the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. In 2010, she began training vigorously and a year later she made her first attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. However, she faced several issues during her first few attempts such as jelly fish stings, asthma attacks, forces of the wind and currents and muscular pains. On August 31, 2013, Diana began her fifth attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida and on September 2, 2013, at age 64, she reached Key West, Florida, 53 hours after she began her journey.

Shannon Galpin – Mountain biker, humanitarian and activist

An avid mountain biker, Shannon is best known for her continuous efforts to break barriers and connect communities through Mountain2Mountain, a non-profit organization she founded in 2006. For years she had worked in Afghanistan, but it was only during her time in the Kandahar prison when she was faced with the stories of women dealing with terrible injustice. Determined to make the voices of women heard and focussed on breaking gender barriers, in 2009 Shannon became the first woman to mountain bike in Afghanistan, a country where women are not allowed to ride bikes. In 2010, she became the first person to ride across the Panjshir Valley, along the way spreading awareness about the rights of women and the need for opening up communication channels among communities through art, music and sport. In 2013, she was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.