Thoughts From (Feminist) Places: The Wonderful Women of Whitechapel Walking Tour

A few days ago, I walked for hours around a part of London I’d never explored before with my Women in Britain class to learn about influential women and their contributions to modern day society—all of women I’d never even heard of before.

The tour gathered outside the Whitechapel tube station in East London. This was an important starting point given the fact that East End of London used to be the home to majority poor immigrants who were unwelcome and place in the same area as all the industry, factories, and pollution. Back then, nobody went out of their way to go to the East End like we did and nobody walked around during their leisure time. In fact, when I looked around at the sights, the shopping centers, skyscrapers, our tour guide told us that the air used to be so contaminated with dirt and ash that you wouldn’t have even been able to see the buildings in distance.

The people of Whitechapel were literally separated from everyone else.


It gave me an interesting look at the intersection of class, gender, and economic opportunity. These people—who were primarily poor immigrants—worked in poor condition in a toxic environment to produce the products and industry that benefited upper-class people.

Similar to what I noticed at the Imperial War Museum exhibit I wrote about last time, the working class women bore the brunt of the hard work in order to survive and keep the resting of London functioning.

From there, we went on to learn about the impact that women had on the lives of others around East London—something I’ve never had a chance to learn about before. Despite the impact that these women had on contemporary society, nursing, and education, they have been excluded from mainstream history lessons. For example, Princess (and later Queen) of Wales, Alexandra supported the nursing profession and set up labs to work on cures for diseases.


I hope that one day women’s accomplishments, history, and impact won’t be sectioned off as a “specialty” or “other” category that’s separate from the history we learn about in the classroom. I wish I didn’t have seek out these history lessons on my own through the internet and through taking specific gender studies classes. There shouldn’t be just “women’s history” or “women’s studies,” but the accomplishments should just be acknowledged and not overlooked.

I shouldn’t have to go out of my way to learn about these women and their contributions to mainstream society—they should be included in what we learn about history. If we learn about influential women—past and present—in institutional spaces like the classroom, it will reinforce the idea the accomplishments of women made a difference in our world and they shouldn’t be taken for granted.

For example, one woman in particular that stood out to me was Eva Luckes. Luckes was a matron at London Hospital for thirty-nine years and she made many improvements to the nursing profession and in hospitals in general. In fact, she was so dedicated to her work that she even died at her desk during a shift. Despite being the youngest one there and having to prove herself, she left a strong legacy at the hospital. For example, she came up with the idea of giving sick children spaces to keep their things to make the hospital feel a little bit more like home.

As we kept walking through the streets of London, I saw the places these women once worked at, the charities they started, the community centers they ran, the pubs they went to, and apartment complexes that were targeted during World War II.

I saw the places that facilitated their accomplishments and wished that I could have learned more. As a woman, it’s encouraging to see what young women have done to make their communities and workplaces better.

I also liked how the tour guide highlighted the ways in which the majority of these women worked together and worked for others. Furthermore, many of them looked out for those who lived more on the margins than them, those who were poorer and less privileged.

This should be the aim of contemporary feminism—to consider those who have less social power.

Being Different: Some Thoughts on Being “The Activist”

*Sorry for the delay in posting, please read some of my latest blogs for here.

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my Dad we were talking about an altercation I’d gotten into with someone via Facebook on the importance of saying #BlackLivesMatter vs. #AllLivesMatter and he said: “it seems like you have to deal with a lot of people who say ignorant things to you.”

Sadly, this is a reality for a lot of people who do social justice work. It’s common for people who express certain opinions to be boxed into being “the feminist” or “the activist,” instead of a person with valid thoughts and feelings.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone say to me: you’re upset about x because you’re a feminist. As if the fact that I’m upset doesn’t matter anymore; suddenly, it’s my problem that I’m upset and I need to get over it.

Even though I spend a lot of time sifting through ignorant conversations and I’ve gotten better at tuning them out, it can still be draining.

Sometimes when you’re at a party and you mention to someone that you care about reproductive justice and someone starts drunkenly debating with you about where life begins—it can get old. Really old.

I recently got into a pretty heated argument with someone. I’ll leave the details out but let’s just say it wasn’t so much a conversation or debate but rather one person raising their voice at me when I wouldn’t suddenly change my values and opinions to match theirs. I wouldn’t cave and I kept responding to their claims; they got angrier. I left feeling frustrated and disrespected.

There’s nothing worse than conversations with people who don’t care about you, or learning, or having a productive discussion—their only concern is to control the way you think and feel.

You’re wrong. They’re right. The end.

People can have different opinions. People can disagree with each other. That’s all fine—what’s not okay is making someone feel like shit because they disagree with you.

Remember: it doesn’t matter if someone is a “feminist,” an “activist,” or any other kind of social justice person, they are also a human being who deserves respect and validation.

When I got in the car with my Mom soon after the argument happened, she could tell I was upset. She was upset for me.

“When you’re different like you are, and you have your own opinions, you’re going to run into people like that. It’s part of being different but it’s a good thing,” she told me.

She’s right.

Being different is a good thing—even when it’s difficult.

In those moments though, it can be easy to feel singled out. It can be easy to feel like you’re being punished for caring about the things you’re passionate about, for being different.

But in the end, it’s worth it to stand out.

At the end of the day, all that matters is knowing what you stand for and sticking to it. Knowing why you care your cause and fighting for it even when some people are against you. Knowing that for every stupid comment on a Facebook post or untimely debate at a college party, there are a whole bunch of people who are on your side.