The celebrations for International Women’s Day is a good reminder of how far we have made it, since the days where women were treated as second category humans with no rights. International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8 every year. It commemorates the movement for women’s rights.
After the Socialist Party of America organized a Women’s Day on February 28, 1909, in New York, the 1910 International Socialist Woman’s Conference suggested a Women’s Day be held annually. After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.
Today, International Women’s Day is a public holiday in some countries and largely ignored elsewhere. In some places, it is a day of protest; in others, it is a day that celebrates womanhood.
1) Emmeline Pankhurst: 1858-1928
Emmeline Pankhurst was a founding member of a group of women called the Suffragettes, who fought incredibly hard to get women the right to vote in the UK. She was a British political activist and helped women win the right to vote.
In 1999 Time named Pankhurst as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, stating “she shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back”.
She died on 14 June 1928, only weeks before the Conservative government’s Representation of the People Act (1928) extended the vote to all women over 21 years of age on 2 July 1928. She was commemorated two years later with a statue in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament. This was a big step in equality between men and women, for a large part of this, we have Emmeline to thank.
2) Florence Nightingale: 1820 – 1910
Florence Nightingale was an English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. She was born into a very wealthy family who disliked her entering into the nursing profession.
She moved to London to work before receiving a letter from the Secretary of War asking her to put a team together to go to work, during the Crimean War, and look after British soldiers. This was the first time that women had been officially allowed to serve in the army.
Nightingale came to prominence while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War, in which she organised care for wounded soldiers. She used to walk around the hospital at night to make sure the soldiers were comfortable. This is how she became known as the Lady with the lamp.
Nightingale was also a versatile writer. In her lifetime, much of her published work was concerned with spreading medical knowledge. Some of her tracts were written in simple English so that they could easily be understood by those with poor literacy skills. She was also a pioneer in the use of infographics, effectively using graphical presentations of statistical data.
She completely transformed the quality of care in war and went on to improve healthcare all over the world, so that’s an amazing legacy to leave. She was welcomed home as a hero. Even Queen Victoria wrote her a letter to say thank you for what she’d done.
3) Marie Curie: 1867 – 1934
Marie Skłodowska Curie was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She is probably one of the most famous scientists of all time. She was born in the Warsaw, but later moved to France where she made an incredible discovery which changed the world.
Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences. She was part of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes.
She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.
4) Margaret Sanger: 1879 – 1966
She was an American birth control activist, sex educator, writer, and nurse. Sanger popularized the term “birth control”, opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, and established organizations that evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
In 1921, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In New York City, she organized the first birth control clinic staffed by all-female doctors, as well as a clinic in Harlem with an all African-American advisory council, where African-American staff was later added.
In 1929, she formed the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control, which served as the focal point of her lobbying efforts to legalize contraception in the United States. From 1952 to 1959, Sanger served as president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. She died in 1966, and is widely regarded as a founder of the modern birth control movement.
International Women’s Day 2019
by UN Women
The theme for International Women’s Day (8 March) this year, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”, puts innovation by women and girls, for women and girls, at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality.
Achieving a gender-equal world requires social innovations that work for both women and men and leave no one behind. From urban planning that focuses on community safety to e-learning platforms that take classrooms to women and girls, affordable and quality childcare centres, and technology shaped by women, innovation can take the race for gender equality to its finishing line by 2030.
It begins with making sure that women’s and girls’ needs and experiences are integrated at the very inception of technology and innovations. It means building smart solutions that go beyond acknowledging the gender gaps to addressing the needs of men and women equally. And ultimately, it needs innovations that disrupt business as usual, paying attention to how and by whom technology is used and accessed, and ensuring that women and girls play a decisive role in emerging industries. Source: UN Women
Join us to celebrate women and girls, their limitless imagination, their joyous dreams and their boundless strength.
- Statement: “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”
Statement for International Women’s Day by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women
- The UN Secretary-General’s message on International Women’s Day
We Are Innovating for Change
What does it mean to innovate? From mobile banking to artificial intelligence and the internet of things, it is vital that women’s ideas and experiences equally influence the design and implementation of the innovations that shape our future societies.
Video: This #WomensDay, we’re innovating for change.
On International Women’s Day (8 March 2019), UN Women calls on the world to “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change.”
Cover photo by Matthew Henry