The final countdown to our Scotswoman of the year

HERE are our six of the best - the women vying to become the 50th Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year.

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Clockwise from top left, Julie Love, Erin McNeill, Lisa Stephenson, Blanche Nicolson, Katherine Grainger, and Isabel McCue are our six finalists in the running to be Scotswoman of the Year
Clockwise from top left, Julie Love, Erin McNeill, Lisa Stephenson, Blanche Nicolson, Katherine Grainger, and Isabel McCue are our six finalists in the running to be Scotswoman of the Year

Over the past few months we have been inundated with e-mails, calls and letters from readers keen to tell us about their inspirational women.

Dozens of worthy candidates have been whittled down to this shortlist of six sensational contenders for the title.

The winner will be crowned in front of around 300 women from all walks of life, at a glittering ceremony in Glasgow City Chambers on February 7.

Evening Times editor Tony Carlin said: "Our six finalists are remarkable women who have each in their own way make a positive difference in the world around them.

"Some do it with their leadership and determination, others inspire and challenge. But all of them are exceptional.

"Producing a shortlist of just six people has been an incredible challenge and I feel humbled and privileged to have had the opportunity to find out more about these magnificent women each of whom would be deserving of the title Scotswoman of the Year."

Susan Nicol, General Manager of St Enoch Centre said: "At a time when the economic climate is creating challenges for so many people, it's more important than ever that we recognise all the nominees for their fantastic dedication to helping others.

"The work they do is tremendously valuable and The Scotswoman of the Year Awards provide a terrific platform for raising awareness of the support these individuals provide for their local communities."

JULIE LOVE

WHEN 23-year-old Colin Love drowned on holiday in Venezuela, his devastated mother received little support from the authorities and was left with many unanswered questions.

Determined that other families should not suffer in the same way, Julie campaigned for an extension to Fatal Accident Inquiry legislation as she felt it should cover the deaths of Scots abroad. In 2011, an inquiry agreed with her and the law will now be changed.

Coping with her own grief, Julie – of Glasgow's Maryhill – also reached out to other people in the same situation and set up a support group.

ERIN McNEILL

Erin, from Menstrie, Clackmannanshire, nearly died in a fire which left her with horrific burns to her arms and chest and a severely damaged vocal cord.

In the past year, determined to change perceptions of 'beauty', she has won beauty pageant titles in the US, Portugal, France and Jamaica, including Miss Scotland International and Miss United Nation International.

Erin has also dedicated her life to educating people about the dangers of fire and has raised more than £100,000 to help firefighters.

Last year she won a British Red Cross Humanitarian Citizen award for her inspirational work with young people.

LISA STEPHENSON

High-flying career woman and devoted mother of two Lisa had her whole world turned upside down when she was diagnosed with a rare and incurable form of cancer.

Far from letting it stop her in her tracks, however, Lisa – who is from Edinburgh – threw her energy into fundraising for Maggie's, the charity which helps her cope with her illness.

In just over a year, she has raised an incredible £250,000 - all the while coping with rounds of treatment, battling ill-health, and juggling the demands of work and family.

BLANCHE NICOLSON

Blanche is director of client services at Hansel Village in Ayrshire, a charity which supports people with learning and physical disabilities.

Her parents set up the charity 50 years ago, because Blanche's sister Lindy had learning difficulties and they were keen to change the way disabled people were viewed and treated.

Since she took on a directorship, Blanche has breathed new life into the way Hansel works.

Regularly working above and beyond her 'day job', Blanche is driven by a fierce belief that everyone is equal, and people should have access to the best care possible.

KATHERINE GRAINGER

Glasgow-born rower Katherine delighted and inspired a nation at last year's Olympics in London, when she triumphantly claimed a gold medal to add to her silver medals from Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004, and Beijing in 2008.

With six world championships titles in her collection too, Katherine is Britain's most successful female rower.

She was appointed MBE in 2006 for services to rowing, and her Olympic achievements make her the first female British athlete – in any sport – to gain medals in four consecutive Olympic Games.

ISABEL McCUE

Isabel, from East Kilbride, established pioneering drama group Theatre Nemo a year after her son's suicide, following his battle with schizophrenia.

For nine years, she ran it on a volunteer basis, working closely with prisons and hospitals to encourage people with mental health problems to get involved, boosting confidence and self-esteem.

Her innovative work has been commended by senior prison service officials, leading health experts and MSPs and a recent review praised Theatre Nemo for the role it plays in helping to reduce re-offending.

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