Despite drastic improvements for women over the 21st century, advocates for women’s rights and promoters of equality are still globally prevalent and necessary. The last few years have been pivotal in the empowerment of women with various movements including #MeToo. A time has finally come when issues that had previously been ignored are coming to the surface and women around the world are speaking up and using their voices to demand change.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, we are taking a look at 5 incredible and inspirational women who have done so much to bring us to where we are today.
1. Emmeline Pankhurst
Emmeline Pankhurst is one of the most eminent political activists in history and has been named one of Time’s 100 Most Important People of the 20th century. Interested in politics from a young age and the daughter of two activist parents, Pankhurst was destined to make history. As the leader of the suffragette movement, Pankhurst campaigned tirelessly to achieve the right to vote for women from 1889 when she created the Women’s Franchise League to the year she died in 1928, consequently she same year that women of 21 years and over were given the right to vote. In 1903 Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) which became unstoppable in advocating for women’s rights. Led by Pankhurst, the WSPU members demonstrated and protested, leading eventually to violent altercations with the police. In a series of window-smashing campaigns by the suffragettes in 1912, hundreds of women including Pankhurst were imprisoned. The fight carried on in prison with the women going on hunger strikes which led to violent force-feedings. It was not until 16 years later that women aged 21 and over were given the right to vote. Pankhurst will be forever remembered for her integral role in gaining the right to vote for women.
Malala Yousafzai is an educational campaigner from Pakistan and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Malala’s journey started at the age of 11 when the Taliban banned girls from going to school in 2008. After publicly speaking out about girls rights to learn in her home town, Swat Valley, Malala became a target for the Taliban and its supporters. At the age of 15, Malala was kidnapped while on her way home from school and shot in the side of her head. Waking up 10 days later in Birmingham, England, she recieved lots of love and support from people all over the world. Malala and her family permanently moved to the UK, at this point deciding she needed to continue the fight until every girl has the opportunity to go to school. In 2014 Malala and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai formed the Malala Fund which hopes to give every girl an opportunity to achieve and learn. That same year Malala received a Nobel Peace Prize for her work, becoming the youngest ever Nobel laureate. Now studying for a degree at the University of Oxford, Malala regularly travels around the world visiting girls who are fighting poverty, war, child marriages, and gender discrimination to go to school. Malala continues her fight to ensure all girls can receive 12 years of free schooling in a safe environment.
3. Frida Kahlo
Master of the self-portrait, with jet black hair and a heavy monobrow, Frida Kahlo is one of the most recognisable artists in the world. After passing away in 1954, Kahlo’s legacy as a political, feminist and Mexican icon lives on. When experiencing a near-fatal experience in a bus crash in 1925, Kahlo’s life was changed forever as she spent months bedridden and in agony. It was at this time she took up painting with much of her work reflecting medical illustrations, documenting her many hospital visits and tortures. She is still known in Mexico as a ‘la heroina del dolor’ – the heroine of pain. Despite being incredibly unhappy with her appearance, Kahlo is most famous for her face and frequently painted self-portraits as she was often alone and the subject she knew best. Historian Nancy Deffebach described Kahlo as someone who “created herself as a subject who was female, Mexican, modern and powerful” in her use of painting to question Mexican society and the female identity. A national treasure of Mexico, Kahlo’s home is now a museum dedicated to her legacy.
Oprah Winfrey has achieved a lot in her many years in the spotlight, while consistently portraying a message to improve lives and improve the world. Winfrey has broke boundaries since the start of her career where she became the first African-American woman to own her own production company and was televisions highest paid entertainer. Her network has always prioritised diverse voices and stories and has donated over $400 million to educational causes. With a long list of philanthropic accomplishments, Winfrey has campaigned for women’s education and advocates for inclusivity in the entertainment industry. Winfrey is set to receive the first ever Empowerment Award at the Empowerment in Entertainment Gala this year. One of Winfrey’s most iconic moments came upon receiving an award at the 75th Golden Globes for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment. Winfrey’s speech brought tears to the crowd’s eyes as she spoke about the issues women have faced with regards to sexual harassment in the entertainment industry and looks to a day where no one will have to say ‘me too’ again, referring to the #MeToo movement. Winfrey gives women from all over the world the confidence to feel empowered and use their voice and for that we thank her!