When I was asked to think about a woman who has inspired me, I almost immediately thought of Elizabeth I of England. To many it may seem like an odd choice, but I began learning about her amazing life in the eighth grade and have been transfixed ever since. Elizabeth’s strength, intelligence, and willingness to do something no one else has, are the same qualities we recognize in our Touchstone Awards honorees. 

A quality of Elizabeth’s that I find most inspiring is her commitment to what she believed to be right. Throughout her reign, Elizabeth faced a variety of pressure, both domestically and internationally. Perhaps the most famous example of her steadfastness is her refusal to marry. As soon as she became Queen, and even before, powerful English men were trying to convince her to marry. After her coronation the suggestions became even more urgent. The common belief was that a woman could not rule a country alone; women were too weak. Elizabeth, however, held firm. She refused to marry for that reason, and famously died unmarried. Another example that I find inspiring is Elizabeth’s commitment to her maintenance of her religious beliefs despite multiple assassination plots uncovered during her reign.

Elizabeth continued to rule, until her death in 1603, with strength, wisdom, and a certain amount of defiance of convention. In a quote that I find particularly inspiring, Elizabeth reminds us that other people’s perceptions do not have to define us: “Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak, you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind.”

Is there a historical figure that you find inspiring?