Wednesday 26 August is Women’s Equality Day, which covers everything from equal rights and equal pay, to celebrating individual women who have made the world a better place through extraordinary achievements.

When you think of amazing women, the ones most likely to spring to mind are Cleopatra, Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Jane Austen, Florence Nightingale, Emmeline Pankhurst, Marie Curie, Mother Theresa, Marilyn Monroe, Anne Frank and various female monarchs. More recently, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Emma Watson, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling and Cara Delevingne could very well be role models. Hell, even Miley Cyrus might lead you to aspire to… I dunno… stick your tongue out and bend over a lot.

As with men, any woman can be an inspiration, even (or, perhaps, especially) the very, very old. Jean Bishop is a woman who lives in my hometown of Hull in East Yorkshire. I realise you shouldn’t ask a lady her age, but everyone around here knows that she’s in her nineties and has been raising money for a very worthy cause, Age UK, for the better part of two decades. For most of this time she’s been dressed in an adorable bee costume made by her daughter, which is why everyone knows her as The Bee Lady. But it’s not just locals who love Jean, as she became a national icon upon winning the title of Fundraiser of the Year at the 2013 Pride of Britain Awards, having reached her staggering target of £100,000. When you take into account that Jean raised this money on her own by simply walking around holding a tin and smiling, it really is quite incredible.

On top of this awesome achievement, Jean was a torchbearer in Hull’s stretch of the 2012 Olympic relay, has had a telephone box painted with black and yellow stripes in tribute to her hard work, joined 2,000 children in an attempt to smash a Guinness World Record for the most number of people dressed as bees in one day, and made it into the Independent on Sunday’s Happy List 2014. She’s also met David Walliams, Carol Vorderman, David Cameron, the cast of Strictly Come Dancing 2013, and even The Queen at Buckingham Palace as part of a special visit in recognition of her voluntary work.

So what’s Jean doing now, you may well ask. Is it time for The Bee Lady to hang up the antennae and retire to her hive? Of course not! Jean is still going strong and working toward her new target of £200,000. If that isn’t a truly inspirational story about a marvellous woman, I don’t know what is.


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