International Women’s Day is upon us again. Positioned at the beginning of Women’s History Month (in the U.S.) the international holiday, honors the contributions women have made to history, society, culture, politics and more.
Established in the early 1900s, if not earlier, International Women’s Day has had several observations throughout history, before officially landing on March 8. On that day in 1917, International Women’s Day events snowballed into a general strike against the last emperor of Russia, Nicholas II, and cemented the day into international history.
In recent years, International Women’s Day has continued to gain popularity around the world, thanks to social media. But today, we want to look back at the women who paved the way for equal rights, fair wages and continued progress for women in society.
Theresa Serber Malkeil
The Russian-born (now considered Ukrainian-born), immigrant, activist, and educator, is considered the originator of the first National Women’s Day. The day, which predates International Women’s Day, was established and organized by Malkeil, who at the time was a leader in the Socialist Party of America alongside her husband. Her activism and educational work has been credited to helping change labor laws, build awareness for equal rights and create paths for immigrants in the U.S.
A group-force, rather than an individual trailblazer, the Suffragettes were a group of activists making progress for women in the late 1800s to the mid 1900s. Known for their focus on equal voting rights for women, the group made history in 1920 by rallying in the ratification of the 19th amendment. Known as the Susan B. Anthony amendment, it reads, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on the account of sex.”
After her predecessors made progress in labor rights and voting rights, Amelia Earhart proved women not only deserve the same access to jobs but could do them just as well. Earhart became the first woman, second pilot (Charles Lindbergh was first), to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932.
Known as the first First Lady to take on responsibilities, Elanor Roosevelt’s name is synonymous with women’s rights in the U.S. Prior to her First Lady position, Roosevelt was an active voice in women’s issues and worked with the Women’s Trade Union League and the International Congress of Working Women. Her activism prior and after her time in the White House, led to her work on JFK’s Commission on the Status of Women and the signing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
Although she is considered to be one of the people to spark the Civil Rights movement, Rosa Parks impacted rights beyond race in the United States. By refusing to give up her seat to a white man on the bus in 1955, Parks ushered in the debate of equality in the United States. Her case, which focused on racial discrimination, was used to progress equality across gender, religion, race and nationality. In 1964, President Lyndon B Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act on national television, which bans employment discrimination based on race, religion, sex or nation of origin.
While these women are only a few of the names from history who have paved the way for progress, they made monumental steps that should not be forgotten. Today there is still work to be done, but International Women’s Day continues to help spark conversation in a movement for equality for all.
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