A celebration of Women Who Dared at the University of Oxford

In recognition of International Women’s Day, I wanted to give a special shout out to Professor Senia Paseta, who granted me an IWD experience I’ll personally never forget.

Senia Paseta is the co-Director of Women in the Humanities and a Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford. In addition to all of this, Professor Paseta meticulously curated Sappho to Suffrage: Women Who Dared, an acclaimed exhibition commemorating the centenary of women’s suffrage in 2018.

The Bodleian Libraries inspiring exhibition marked 100 years since the Representation of the People Act. Covering 2,000 years of history, spanning ancient Greek poetry to the passing of women’s suffrage in the UK, the exhibition presented more than 80 items showcasing the stories of women who dared across the millennia.

Named one of the best European museum exhibits for spring 2018 by USA Today, Sappho to Suffrage: Women Who Dared opened on March 6, 2018 and attracted over 150,000 visitors before drawing to a close on February 24.

I’m extremely proud to have been a small part of it, thanks to Professor Paseta.

It all started with an extremely polite, and unexpected, email that landed in my inbox on February 10, 2017.

As co-Director of Women in the Humanities at the University of Oxford, Professor Paseta was planning an exhibition and a series of events to commemorate the centenary of women’s suffrage in 2018. Her email explained how she was recruiting a team of prominent women to serve as suffrage champions for the year and she wanted to know if she could persuade me to be one.

As you can imagine, the answer was an unequivocal YES!

The out-of-the-blue email culminated in my inclusion in the almost year-long exhibition at the University of Oxford as a suffrage champion.

I flew to Oxford from Los Angeles for the opening night reception, and I was fortunate to have received invitations to speak at two events at the University of Oxford during the same week. The first was for UN Women’s National Student Committee, who hosted “an evening with Octavia Goredema” (I couldn’t believe that one when it landed in my inbox either). I was interviewed by Rei See, the Founder and Chair of the UN Women NCUK Student Society and a law student at the University of Oxford.

Two nights later on IWD, I spoke at a panel event at the University of Oxford alongside Dame Pippa Harris, Chair of BAFTA; Vivienne Artz, Chief Privacy Officer at Thomson Reuters; Sarah Thomas, Vice President for the Harvard Library and Sheila Forbes CBE, Honorary Fellow of St Hilda’s College.

All in all, I spent five days at the University of Oxford (capped with a sublime acapella rendition of Destiny’s Child Independent Women by the Oxford Belles at the exhibition’s opening reception).

Thank you so much Professor Paseta for inviting me to be a part of your exhibition. It was an unforgettable experience.

Sometimes you never know what you may find in your inbox.


Post by Octavia Goredema 
Octavia Goredema is an award-winning career coach, writer and the founder of Twenty Ten Talent. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or over on Twitter.

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