lizbrownlee – poet

Poems, animal info, extraordinary women, my books!

Z for Zaha Hadid – extraordinary architect, #AtoZ Blog Challenge

Dongdaemun Design Plaza at night, Central Seoul, by Warren Whyte

Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid was a fabulously futuristic architest – one tutor at her architectural school, Professor Koolhaas, described her at her graduation as “a planet in her own orbit’, another as being the most talented pupil he had ever taught, and as ‘having spectacular vision’.

She was born on the 31st October in Iraq in 1950, and died in March 2016 from a heart attack while suffering from bronchitis.

She studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before moving to London in 1972,  to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture.

She was described by the The Guardian as the ‘Queen of the curve’, who ‘liberated architectural geometry, giving it a whole new expressive identity’.

And her designs really are spectacular.


Sheikh Zayed Bridge – Abu Dhabi, UAE by Mohannad Khatib


I love this next one – it must be like being inside a womb of flowing, pleated material!

Auditorium of the Heydar Aliyev Center, Azerbaijan, by Khalilov


Zaha Hadid portrait, 2010 © Simone Cecchetti


An amazing woman – and our last A-Z! I hope to see you all next year (and if you have followed, through the year!). Thank you all very much for reading.

If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan – link below, press on book!

Y is for Malala Yousafzai, #AtoZBlogChallenge

Wikimedia Commons

This entry is by my guest blogger Michaela Morgan,  one of my fellow authors of Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, also by me and Jan Dean, published by Macmillan. This poem and the entry are found in the book.


Malala Yousafzai was born on 2 July 2 1997 in the Swat district in Pakistan. She is known because on the afternoon of 9 October 2012, she was seriously injured after a Taliban gunman attempted to murder her. After extensive medical care Malala eventually recovered.

She has since continued to work for education and rights for girls. On 12 July 2015, her 18th birthday, she opened a school in the near the Syrian border, for Syrian refugees. The school, funded by the Malala Fund, offers education and training to girls aged 14 to 18 years. Malala called on world leaders to invest in “books, not bullets”.

She believes in the power of books to change the world.


On the afternoon of October 9, 2012, Malala boarded her school bus in the northwest Pakistani district of Swat. A gunman asked for her by name, then pointed a pistol at her and fired three shots into her head. She survived, recovered, and continues her fight for rights. She is now the youngest ever winner of the Noble Peace Prize.




A girl with a book.

A girl with a book.

That’s what has scared them –

A girl, with a book.


They get onto the bus.

They call out my name.

They aim. And they fire.

A shot to the brain.


Because a girl with a book,

A girl with a voice,

A girl with a brain,

A girl with a choice,

 A girl with a plan

To have rights, like a man.

That’s what they’re scared of

One girl, with a book.


A girl who has words.

A girl with a pen.

A girl to be heard

With support of her friends

Who want to live free –

That’s what they fear

a girl just like me.


© Michaela Morgan




Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls

Image: By DFID – UK Department for International Development (Malala Yousafzai: Education for girls) via Wiki Commons.

X is for X Ray – Marie Curie, #AtoZ Challenge

By Nobel foundation [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


This entry is taken from my book, Reaching for the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, written with Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan, published by Macmillan.


Marie Curie was born Marie Sklodowska in 1867in Poland. She went to Sorbonne University, Paris, when she moved in with her sister.

She was fascinated by physics, and when she met her husband, Pierre Curie, she began working with him looking into the invisible rays given off by the newly discovered uranium.

Marie realised there was something even more radioactive then uranium in the mineral samples she was studying.

She went on to discover polonium and radium, which led eventually with a treatment to kill cancer cells – but inadvertently caused cancer in herself while working consistently with the radioactive substances.


Marie Curie-ous


If something was radioactive,

would you want to find out why?


Scientists like Marie Curie

are curious, they have to try.


“There’s nothing in life to be feared,

just understood,” she said.


But she didn’t realise the danger

would mean ill-health ahead.


She spent long hours toiling

with hands inflamed and raw,


found polonium, and radium,

both unknown before,


which helped begin the search

for the world’s most wanted answer –


a radioactive treatment

to help with a cure for cancer.


© Liz Brownlee


If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan – link below, press on book!



Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls.

W is for Madam C. J. Walker, First Female Self-Made Millionaire in U.S., #AtoZ Challenge

By Scurlock Studio (Washington, D.C.) (photographers). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Madam C. J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove, the last of six children, on December 23rd, 1867, in Louisiana.

Sarah’s parents and four older brothers and one sister were slaves on Robert W. Burney’s Madison Parish plantation, but Sarah was born a free child, as the Emancipation Proclamation was signed before her birth.

Her mum died when she was 5 and her dad died when she was 7 – she lived with her older sister Louvenia, and brother-in-law Jesse Powell in Mississippi, and became a domestic servant at the age of 10.

She married at the age of 14, and had one daughter, Lelia, who was 2 when her husband died – she remarried but left this husband and moved to Missouri. There she married again, Charles Joseph Walker, a newspaper advertising salesman. Although she eventually divorced him in 1912, she kept his name and became known as Madam C. J. Walker.

In 1888 she moved to Saint Louis, Missouri, where three of her brothers, who were barbers, lived. She learned about hair care from them, and ended up selling hair care products for an African hair care entrepreneur, Annie Turbo Malone.

Sarah began to adapt the products and develop her own product line. From there, she started her own career.

Between 1911 and 1919, during the height of her career, Sarah and her company employed several thousand women as sales agents for its products, and employed 20,000 women selling products door to door. She also understood the power of advertising and harnessed this to advertise in African American newspapers and magazines.

She encouraged her employees by giving prizes to the best sales agents – helped other black women build their own careers, and rewarded those who made the largest contributions to charities in their communities.

She became a political activist, promoting black interests, and donating money to black causes. Profits from her business helped her donate to many causes and in 1918 the National Association of Coloured Women’s Clubs honoured her for making the largest individual contribution to help preserve Frederick Douglass’s Anacostia house. She pledged $5,000 to the NAACP’s anti-lynching fund. At the time it was the largest gift the NAACP had ever received. She also bequeathed nearly $100,000 to orphanages, institutions, and individuals and her will directed two-thirds of future net profits of her estate to charity.

She was one of the wealthiest African American women in the US, the WORLD’S MOST SUCCESSFUL FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR of her time, (let alone most successful black woman!) and one of the most successful African-American business owners ever.

She died on May 25th, 1919.

Eventually, by the 1920s, her empire expanded as far as Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Panama, and Costa Rica, carried on by her daughter.

The firm is still going today strong today as evidenced by their reply to my tweet of this post! Hooray!



If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan – link below, press on book!




V is for Remedios Varo – anarchist, philosopher, feminist, para-surrealist painter! #AtoZ Challenge


Remedios Varo was born in 1908 in the small town of Angles in Spain, and developed a style of painting that was a wonderful para-surrealist excursion into her imagination.

Surrealism is a a style of art and literature which started around 1924, after the first world war. Surrealist painting often contains images that are non-rational; arrived at by using unexpected juxtaposition of chance effects and objects.

Her father mentored Remedios and encouraged her first artistic endeavours, helping her to become proficient in technical drawing, and also grow into an independent and philosophical thinker.

Her mother was a devout Catholic and sent her to a convent, which made her critical of religion and opposed to religious ideology.

Her feminism, anarchist political views, anti-religious views, and philosophical thinking all influenced her unique (hence ‘para’ surrealist) paintings.

She died from a heart attack, aged only 45, in 1963.


Remedios Varo

Exquisite painter of

Myth and alchemy,

Ecstasy and agony

Dreamlike canvases of

Illusion, colour, novelty

Original thinker using

Symbols and absurdity


Visions excursively

A journey into


Observational odyssey.


© Liz Brownlee


If you enjoy reading about feisty women, and have young female relatives, perhaps you would like to buy Reaching the Stars by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan, written with 9-11 year olds in mind. Available by clicking the link image below:


All material © Liz Brownlee




Image from Wiki under fair use:

The photographical reproduction of this work is covered under the article 35.2 of the Royal Legislative Decree 1/1996 of April 12, 1996, and amended by Law 5/1998 of March 6, 1998, which states that:

Works permanently located in parks or on streets, squares or other public thoroughfares may be freely reproduced, distributed and communicated by painting, drawing, photography and audiovisual processes.

See Commons:Freedom of Panorama#Spain for more information.

U is for Ursula K Le Guin, Author, #AtoZ Challenge


Ursula Le Guin image by Gorthian, by CC Licence.


This special entry is again by one of my fellow authors of my new book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls – the wonderful and talented Jan Dean! The Wizard of Earthsea was one of my favourite books.


Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, and lives in Portland, Oregon. As of 2015, she has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many honours and awards including Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, and the National Book Foundation Medal.  In 2003 she was made a Grandmaster of Science Fiction, one of only a handful of women writers to take the top honour in a genre that has come to be dominated by male writers.

This poem springs from UKL’s ideas in her book ‘The Wave In the Mind’.  Its title refers to her famous children’s trilogy ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ where magic works through the power of understanding the real names of things and speaking them purposefully.




she makes worlds

from words and mindspit

knows that what she speaks

first rises in the soft machinery

of brain cells


flows through rivers of nerves

to become clicks sighs of speech

understands the science of sound

the bash of air molecules

thumping against an eardrum

the pulse of eardrum

flicking noise back up

into another brain

which reads those quick electric ticks

as words

as meaning


all that stuff – the way sound moves

the way it is one thing

that joins the speaker to the listener –

she knows that

and so she makes worlds

with words and the sudden explosions

of ideas in her head

(let’s call it mindspit)


she does it because it matters

that we join together

it matters that together we imagine

how things could be

if we were kinder

if we were more human

more like family ought to be


© Jan Dean


Ursula Le Guin is extraordinary. So is Jan Dean.
If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan – link below, press on book!




Ursula Le Guin’s Website

T is for Sister Rosetta Tharpe #A-Z Blog Challenge

Sister Rosetta Tharpe – AMAZING!

She was born Rosetta Nubin on a cotton plant in Arkansas, on the 20th of March, 1915, and died in Philadelphia after a long career as a musician, in 1973. Her parents were cotton pickers. Little is known about her father except he was a singer – her mother also was a singer and mandolin player, evangelist, and preacher for the Church of God in Christ, a church that encouraged musical expression.

Rosetta soon began playing the guitar and singing, and by age six was touring with her mother in an evangelical troupe.

By the mid 20s, she and her mother had moved to Chicago, performing religious concerts and also travelling to perform at events all over the country.

Rosetta became famous as a musical prodigy. Black, female guitarists were rare.

When she was 19 she married  Thomas Thorpe, a COGIC preacher, who accompanied her and her mother on their tours, but the marriage did not last – however she kept the name ‘Tharpe’ for her stage name, Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

She had a unique style, a mixture of spiritual lyrics and rhythmic accompaniment that was a prelude to rock and roll… she has been referred to as the original ‘soul sister’ and influenced such greats as Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Jerry-Lee Lewis.

The video above was taken when she visited Manchester, England in 1964 – I chose this recording because it’s a song I have sung in choir. But not like this!

It gives a taste of an extraordinary woman.

If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan – link below, press on book!




S is for Murasaki Shikibu, author of first novel ever in 1021 #AtoZ Challenge

Amazingly, this is part of the original manuscript of the first novel EVER to be written, in 1021.

It was written by Japanese noblewoman and lady-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu. The story contains 400 characters, whose lives are followed as they grow older, without an actual plot but with events, rather like a modern soap opera, showing the lifestyles of high courtiers during the Heian period in Japan.

It only calls the characters by their position in court, as court manners of that era would have meant it was unacceptably familiar to mention a person’s name.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that The Tale of Genji was translated into modern Japanese, by the poet Akiko Yosano.

How incredible is that – writing over 50 chapters containing 400 characters of remarkable consistency without reference to any technology whatsoever…

Many painted depictions of Murasaki and the Tale of Genji have been made in the inimitable and beautiful Japanese style. Here is one of them:

An interior court scene from The Tale of Genji by Utagawa HiroshigeJapan’s National Diet Library


And here are some quotes from the book:

There are as many sorts of women as there are women.”

I certainly agree with that.

One ought not to be unkind to a woman merely on account of her plainness, any more than one had a right to take liberties with her merely because she was handsome”

This sounds as if it could be Jane Austen writing centuries later!

It is indeed in many ways more comfortable to belong to that section of society whose action are not publicly canvassed and discussed”

This could be one of the Royal Family, or any celebrity now.

It’s amazing to see into her mind like this – and see how very little some concerns have changed!

What an extraordinary woman!


If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan – link below, press on book!

R is for Ruby Bridges, first black child in a white school, #AtoZ Challenge

By Uncredited DOJ photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s blog is by the other fellow author of my book, Reaching for the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, the wonderful and talented Michaela Morgan:


The poem My First Day at School, by Michaela Morgan, commemorates Ruby Bridges, who, at the age of six, made the historic walk towards her local elementary school as the first black child to enter a school previously denied to black children.

She had to be marched in surrounded by US marshals to protect her from the angry mob, and for some time was the only child taught in the school, as other parents kept their children out of school rather than send them to a non-segregated establishment.

Ruby Bridges is now a grandmother. She continues to make her voice and presence felt in the fight for human rights.


My First Day at School


I remember . . .

Momma scrubbed my face, hard.

Plaited my hair, tight.

Perched a hopeful white bow on my head,

Like a butterfly hoping for flight.

She shone my shoes, black, shiny, neat.

Another hopeful bow, on each toe,

To give wings to my feet.

My dress was standing to attention, stiff with starch.

My little battledress.

And now, my march.

Two marshals march in front of me.

Two marshals march behind of me.

The people scream and jeer at me.

Their faces are red, not white.

The marshals tower above me, a grey-legged wall.

Broad of back, white of face and tall, tall, tall.

I only see their legs and shoes as black and shiny as


They march along, stern and strong. I try to march in


One hisses to another, ‘Slow down it ain’t a race.

She only take little bitty girlie steps.’

I quicken my pace.

Head up.

Eyes straight.

I march into school.

To learn like any other kid can.

And maybe to teach a lesson too.


© Michaela Morgan

Appears in Reaching for the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls.


If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan – link below, press on book!


The above facts and poem appear in Reaching for the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women  and Girls, Pub. Macmillan Books.

Image – Wikipedia

Q is for Queen Æthelflæd first female ruler in England #AtoZ Challenge

Image by Hel-Hama, by CC licence.


Æthelflæd (pronounced Ethel-fled) was an Anglo-Saxon princess born around 870, the eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, who was the King of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex. In those days there was no overall ruler or Monarch of England. The map above shows Wessex as it was being claimed back from the Vikings.

The Vikings has invaded from Denmark and held a fair portion of southern England – in 1877 they took over Mercia, throwing out the King of that region, Burgred. They then halved Mercia and ruled the east themselves and they appointed a King Ceolwulf to rule the west with their support.

Æthelflæd was well-educated, and as she grew up, while her father Alfred the Great was at war with the Danish Vikings, taking back huge parts of captured territory, she witnessed a lot of military action. In her teenage years she saw Alfred claim back parts of captured Wessex and parts of Mercia.

In 882, Æthelred (pronounced Ethel-red, rather a similar name to Æthelflæd!) became King of the west of Mercia after Ceolwulf, and it is thought that he asked Alfred to help him regain the rest of his territory.

Alfred agreed to help, and managed to win back London from the Vikings and Æthelred acknowledged Wessex as the dominant power over Mercia.

It is not known exactly when, but Æthelflæd at some point married Æthelred, even though he was much older than her. This may have been when Alfred won London back or afterwards – what is sure is that it was a tactical move on both Alfred and Æthelred’s part, strengthening ties and making strong army allegiances.

Æthelflæd and Æthelred proved to be a good team – they fought over the years to regain more of Mercia, and it is thought that Æthelflæd helped by suggesting tactics and carrying them out – such as fortifying borders after they had been regained. Among the towns where she built defences were Bridgnorth, Tamworth, Stafford, Warwick, Chirbury and Runcorn.

Æthelred was quite sick and elderly, and in 911 he died – leaving Æthelflæd the ruler of Mercia as it now stood, with the title Lady of Mercia. This was a unique position, Wessex did not recognise female rulers, and she was the only known case of a female ruler in Anglo-Saxon history.

She continued to fight the Vikings using her considerable tactical expertise along with her brother Edward, as they both believed the same as their father – in a united England. They came some way towards that goal.

She died on 12 June 918.

Æthelflæd was a heroine in her own time, and thereafter. In the twelfth century, Henry of Huntingdon paid her a rather touching tribute in this poem, saying she was as good as a man:


Heroic Elflede! great in martial fame,

A man in valour, woman though in name:

Thee warlike hosts, thee, nature too obey’d,

Conqu’ror o’er both, though born by sex a maid.

Chang’d be thy name, such honour triumphs bring.

A queen by title, but in deeds a king.

Heroes before the Mercian heroine quail’d:

Caesar himself to win such glory fail’d.


Extraordinary woman!


If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan – link below, press on book!