Inspiring women over 80: Dr Alice Rivlin, Prof Mildred Dresselhaus, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, Prof Romila Thapar
Jenni Murray introduces a special edition of Woman's Hour comprising fresh interviews with a series of octogenarian women, each a world leader in their field. The women discuss the changes they have seen in their 80-plus years and the lessons they have learned.
The women are
Dr Alice Rivlin, 81, One of the USA's top economists, she is advisor to President Obama on debt reduction.
Professor Mildred Dresselhaus, 82, is known as the Queen of Carbon and has been awarded the one million dollar Kavli Prize in nanoscience - presented to her by the King of Norway.
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, 82, was the world's first democratically elected female President, when she became Iceland's head of state.
Prof Romila Thapar, 81, One of India's greatest historians and the winner of Kluge Award - the equivalent of the Nobel prize for historians.
Dr Alice Rivlin
Dr Alice Rivlin is one of America’s leading economists and is an advisor to President Obama on the current debt crisis. At the age of 81 she’s seen first-hand every boom and bust since the war. She rose to become the Assistant Chair of the US Federal Reserve, the country’s second most powerful position on the economy. Now she’s co-chair of an influential panel made up of business leaders, economists and politicians from across the political spectrum. It’s their job to help come up with a plan to deal with America’s ongoing economic crisis.
Professor Mildred Dresselhaus
Professor Mildred Dresselhaus is an American physicist and world expert on nanoscience and graphite. Her nickname is The Queen of Carbon. In 2012 she won the Fermi Prize, one of America’s oldest and most prestigious awards for science, which was presented to her by President Obama. She also won the one million dollar Kavli Prize, which she received from the King of Norway. She was born poor, the daughter of Jewish immigrants in New York. She was a science and music prodigy but was discouraged from a career in physics because she was female. At the age of 82 she is still at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston where she is Institute Professor – the highest honour MIT can bestow.
Photograph courtesy of Ed Quinn
Vigdis Finnbogadottir was President of Iceland for 16 years from 1980 until 1996 making her one of the longest serving leaders of any democratic country. In her fourth election victory she won 90 per cent of the vote. Vigdis as she’s known - most Icelanders use first names only - was a single mother when she first became President. She’s a champion of women’s rights and takes a keen interest in environmental issues. She’s now aged 82 and works with UNESCO. Vigdis explains how her election changed Iceland, and why the country is described as the most feminist place on earth.
Photograph courtesy of Geir Ólafsson
Professor Romila Thapar
Professor Romila Thapar is one of India’s greatest and most controversial historians. She’s an expert on early India. In her work she’s questioned whether India was exclusively founded by the Hindus and also disputed the notion that Indian history is characterised by a long series of wars between Hindus and Muslims. Both ideas have led to vehement attacks and even death threats. Professor Thapar is now 81 and is a winner of the Kluge Medal, the historians’ equivalent of the Nobel Prize. As a young woman she spent several years as a student in London in the 1950s, a period she describes as intoxicating. She continues to write and is just finishing her latest book.