At Women of the World, we are excited to celebrate International Women’s Day, a day commemorating the achievements and contributions of women to society throughout history. Born out of the labor movement in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, the day is now recognized worldwide as one to celebrate women’s achievements, to remember and reflect on the strong women who came before us, and to relentlessly advocate for progress and empowerment.
This year’s message is “Be Bold for Change,” and that is exactly what the women profiled by Women of the World are doing. The women we interview are changing the world, changing their communities, and changing the way we see and celebrate female strength. In addition to recognizing our brave and bold women, we want to recognize and thank the women throughout history who have shown strength, courage, and integrity—and changed our world for the better.
The UN designated March 8 as a day for peace and women’s rights in 1975, International Women’s Year, now a celebrated in over 100 countries from Afghanistan to Uganda, Ukraine to Zambia. The day’s history can be traced back to the early 20th century, and in 1909, the first Women’s day in the US was celebrated as female textile workers demonstrated in New York for better working conditions. Over one million women took to the streets in 1911 to demand the right to vote, work, and attend vocational training in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, while Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day as part of protests against World War I.
The day is one for reflection on the contributions big and small that women have made to society. Without women, we wouldn’t have the life raft, the fire escape, the ice cream maker, or the modern electric refrigerator. Women also gave us the coffee filter, central heating, and Kevlar. Without Ada Lovelace, we might not have the algorithm, and without Grace Hopper we wouldn’t have the term “bug”—or Harvard’s Mark I computer. We thank Yvette Fay Francis-McBarnette for pioneering treatment of sickle cell anemia, Marie Curie for discovering radioactivity, and Rosalind Franklin for being the first to discover the DNA double helix.
Women have and will continue not only to invent and inspire, but also to create, to lead, and to constantly push the boundaries of what strength means. Last year, the American women’s gymnastics team showed their strength in Rio, bringing home 61 of the country’s 121 medals, while the first opera composed by a woman since 1903 debuted at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House. Turks and Caicos elected its first female prime minister, and the US elections featured the first female candidate nominated by a major party and the first female campaign manager. Ilhan Omar also became the nation’s first Somali-American legislator, Kate Brown was elected as the first openly LGBT governor, and the US Treasury announced plans to put women, including Harriet Tubman, on the dollar.
The bottom line? Strength comes in many forms, and women all over the world show strength everyday. Today, and everyday, we celebrate that strength, and each other.