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The Worshipful Company of World Traders, International Women’s Day Celebration, Goodenough College

Immediate Past Master Mike Shapiro and his Consort Jill organised an event at Goodenough College to mark International Women’s Day, on the evening beforehand.  The theme was unrecognised and invisible women throughout history.

The college, on Mecklenburgh Square in Camden, is a beautiful building, providing accommodation for postgraduate students, some of whom also supported the event.

We were greeted with wine and delicious (mostly vegetarian) canapes, and mingled with those with Livery connections and those wishing to support an event for International Women’s Day.  Music from piano and voice wafted round the lovely hall as we examined art work by a variety of female artists.

Following an introduction from Master Mike Larsen, the Lady Mayoress, Elisabeth Mainelli, began the more formal proceedings by embracing this opportunity to celebrate the achievement of women.  She mentioned her work on crime prevention within the City of London, lamenting that only 7% of women felt safe after dark in the City, yet rejoiced that the Guildhall has just been designated a Safe Haven, where emergency or specialist services could be contacted should the need arise.

Elisabeth encouraged people to sign up for the fascinating walks celebrating famous women, organised by City of London Guides.

The eyes, ears and mouths of women had for centuries been overlooked and underappreciated.  Now, working together, we had the power to make the invisible visible.

Dame Susan Langley then spoke about her journey to become Aldermanic Sheriff.  She adopted her father’s motto: anything is possible – how hard can it be?  Having studied for a Geography degree, she was aware of the importance of learning STEM subjects.  Following a period of travelling, Susan worked for the Home Office.  When introduced to the Livery movement, she spent a decade trying to avoid being sucked in.

More recently she has been caring for her children and her mother with dementia, which had been a trying time.  She has become very conscious that women tend to fill the roles which society in general doesn’t value.  As a result of each generation focussing on something different, people can be what they want to be; others can help, but ultimately each person is responsible for their own destiny.

Bearing in mind her humble beginnings in Essex, Susan has learnt not to make assumptions about people.  She focusses on individuality and resilience, and taking advantages of opportunities that come one’s way.

Following this “fireside chat” and answering questions, Dame Susan sadly had to leave.  A panel then took over, speaking around a variety of topics of overlooked women, including a young female assistant to Franz Hals whose work has only recently been discovered.

It was important to remember the inequality of women worldwide, in particular those who have to walk for five hours simply to bring water to the family so have no time for education.

We were all encouraged not to deprecate ourselves, thus letting the patriarchy have the upper hand!

Following these interesting talks there was further mingling, to the plaintive strains of a cello.

Many thanks to the artists – musical and exhibitionists – and to the organisers and hosts of this occasion.

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