Women Who Changed the World: Celebrating International Women’s Day and Their Impact

February 22, 2024

March 8th, International Women’s Day. 

A day when the entire world comes together to recognize and celebrate the advancements women have made to change the world as we know it. It goes beyond the stereotypical divisions of ethnicity, culture, economic status, or political gain. It’s one day when the world celebrates the achievement of women in its genuine entirety.

So, how did International Women’s Day emerge? 

The evolution of International Women’s Day and its emergence date all the way back to the beginning of the 20th century. Oppression and inequality prompted women to become more vocal about an increasing need for change. And that’s exactly what happened.

New York City 1908: Where It All Began 

15,000 women gathered on the streets of New York City to demand better pay, shorter hours, and voting rights. 

February 28th 1909: The First National Women’s Day 

The day that will forever go down in history, February 28th, 1909, was officially declared National Women’s Day by the Socialist Party of America. It was a monumental occasion that set the course for women's rights. 

1910: Clara Zetkin

In 1910, during the second International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen, something that can only be described as audacious occurred. 

Clara Zetkin was the leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany. During the conference, Zetkin proposes the idea of an International Women’s Day. One single day, every year, around the world, be dedicated to women and their rights. 

A conference that had over 100 of the world’s most influential women from 17 countries, all representing unions and socialist parties, and even the first three women ever elected into the Finnish Parliament, did what women do best. They came together and unanimously agreed. And thus, International Women’s Day emerged. 

1911: The First International Women’s Day 

Following the events of Copenhagen, over 1 million men and women marched the streets of Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland on March 19, 1911, to fight for women’s rights to work, vote, hold public office, and be trained in the same professional manner as men. 

1913-1914: Russia & The Eve Of World War I 

Right before World War I, Russia celebrated its first International Women’s Day on February 23, 1913, as part of a peace movement. A year later, many European countries followed Russia’s initiative, demanding peace by campaigning against the war and expressing women’s solidarity.  

1917: Bread & Peace:

On the last Sunday of February 1917, Russian women went on strike for Bread and peace as a response to the deaths of over 2 million soldiers in World War I. The strike lasted four days before the Czar abdicated and an interim government granted women the right to vote. 

1975: The UN

In 1975, the United Nations officially declared International Women’s Day on March 8 for the first time. In December 1977, the UN’s General Assembly initiated a resolution that marked a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace that would take place on any day of the year.

Stories Of Women Who Changed The World: 

If International Women’s Day has taught us anything, it’s that women have the ability to continuously push the boundaries of and redefine what it means to be “a WOMAN”. Let’s take a moment to appreciate some of the women who have helped change the world as we know it. 

India: Ela Bhatt

Founder of India’s Self-Emploed Women’s Association of India, Activist Ela Bhatt was appointed by Nelson Mandela to The Elders in 2007- a highly prestigious group of world leaders. 

Bhatt is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Right Livelihood Award for helping people organize their welfare and self-respect.

Liberia: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Johnson-Sirleaf became President of Liberia in January 2006. During her presidency, she signed a Freedom of Information Bill, an unprecedented move in West Africa by any head of state. Furthermore, in an effort to investigate crimes that occurred during the Civil War, she established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

Johnson-Sirleaf also became a global icon for her commitment to fighting corruption and poverty by empowering women and girls. 

Pakistan: Malala Yousafzai 

Youngest Nobler Prize Winner, Yousafzai, came into the limelight in 2009 due to her blog about life under the Taliban. At just 11 years old, Yousafzai spoke out directly against their threats to close schools for girls. 

Four years later, in 2013, she founded the Malala Foundation, a non-profit organization that advocates for the importance of girls' education and empowers women. 

England: Emmeline Pankhurst

In 1889, British activist Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Franchise League. Pankhurst led the fight and ultimately won British women the right to vote in 1928. This was a major stepping stone towards equal pay and rights for women.  

Iraq: Nadia Murad

After she was kidnapped in 2014, Murad became the first person ever to give a speech on human trafficking to the United Nations Security Council. She also founded the Nadia Initiative, an organization that helps those affected by trafficking and genocide. 

In 2018, Murad and her partner Denis Mukwege were both awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts “to end sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” 

Iran: Shirin Ebadi

Lawyer and activist, Ebadi, became Iran’s first female judge. After the Khomeini revolution in 1979, she was dismissed and stripped of her judgeship title. However, this didn’t stop her. She opened a private practice to defend people being prosecuted by the regime, proving what a formidable woman she is. 

In 2003, she won the Nobel Peace Prize for her pioneering efforts for human rights and democracy, thus making her the first Iranian and Muslim woman to win the prize. 

The Bottom Line:

International Women’s Day is a day to not only honour the struggles women have faced in the past but also celebrate their triumphs. And if the day has taught us anything, it’s that it’s no longer a man’s world that we live in. Women are just as much at the forefront of change as men. In the spirit of celebration, visit our blog on unique gift ideas for her and consider expressing your admiration for the special woman in your life by visiting thoughtful gifts.

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