As International Women’s Day is approaching, I am very honoured to have been asked to speak at a celebratory event and share my experiences of being a woman entrepreneur. This got me thinking about what International Women’s Day is really about.
What is International Women's Day?
For me, it is a day to respect, acknowledge and be grateful for the sacrifices and efforts made by so many amazing women who came before us and who made the lives we have today possible. It is also about celebrating the incredible women of today whose work and efforts continue to make our world a better place.
From the big deals to the small contributions, women are incredible. I admire the working women who are also mothers (not having children myself), how on earth do you manage to juggle home, careers and little people! I struggle to remember to feed my cat! (don’t worry, my cat isn’t neglected bless her little cotton socks). Seriously though, your lives must be a logistical nightmare, you must have to work to such tight timescales and deadlines and how on earth do you have the chance to be creative, in control and together whilst juggling so many responsibilities? I applaud each and every one of you!
International Women's Day History
So how did it all start, I did some delving and here is a brief history:
The first Women’s Day was organised by the Socialist Party of America and was held on 28th February 1909. In 1910, the 100 delegates from 70 countries in attendance at the International Socialist Woman’s Conference in Copenhagen suggested a Women's Day be held annually as a strategy to promote equal rights.
The following year on March 19, 1911, International Women’s Day was acknowledged for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
In 1913 the first International Women’s Day took place in Russia and then in 1914 International Women's Day was held on March 8 in Germany. Since then it has been held on March 8th in many countries although largely ignored in others. It is considered a day of protest in some although generally considered a day that celebrates Womanhood.
It’s seriously much more than this but you get the idea.
So who are some of these remarkable women that came before? In 2018, the BBC History Magazine asked experts in different fields to nominate 100 women they felt had the biggest impact on world history and gave their readers the opportunity to vote for their favourite. Here are the top 5;
1. Marie Curie
Photo credit: MLA style: Marie Curie – Photo gallery. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2019.
The first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win a second. She was the first female professor at the University of Paris She founded radioactive science and her work resulted in effective cures for cancer. She continued in her determination despite becoming ill from the radioactive materials she worked with and her legacy continues to help terminally ill people worldwide.
2. Rosa Parks.
Photo credit: National Women's History Museum. Womenshistory.org. Rosa Parks 1913-2005.
From Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa defied race segregation by refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. This protest gained the support of other African Americans and played a big part in sparking the civil rights movement.
3. Emmeline Pankhurst
Photo Credit: The History Press. Thehistorypress.co.uk. Emmeline being arrested after protesting.
Founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903, Emmeline campaigned for the parliamentary vote for women. She encouraged thousands of women to demand their democratic right in the biggest movement in British history, despite being sent to prison numerous times.
4. Ada Lovelace
Photo Credit: Ada Lovelace painted by Margaret Carpenter. The Stylist. Stylist.co.uk
Ada, the only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron, was a gifted mathematician. At the young age of 17, she wrote an algorithm for the world’s first computer. Although her code was never tested, she made substantial notes around this work and her code is now considered the world’s first computer program.
5. Rosalind Franklin
Photo Credit: Rosalind Franklin - The scientist who gave shape to DNA. wlv.ac.uk.
In 1953 Rosalind and fellow student Maurice Wilkins were working on solving the structure of DNA at King’s College London. Rosalind’s expertise in X-ray crystallography enabled them to obtain the first photograph of DNA diffraction patterns. However, Maurice and Rosalind didn’t get on and without her permission, Maurice showed a student from Cambridge, James Watson, the images. James had also been working on the structure of DNA with his fellow student Francis Crick. This was one of the most significant discoveries in science and the 3 men were later jointly awarded the Nobel Prize. Rosalind was never acknowledged for her crucial role in providing the key piece of evidence, the famous photograph 51, and the woman whose work had made it all possible sadly died from ovarian cancer age 37.
All of these women, and many more, faced untold challenges and discrimination during their incredible labours. Their determination to continue and succeed should be remembered when we are having ‘tough’ days, how tough can it get really in comparison? I applaud them, I applaud all the working mothers out there, in fact, all mothers full stop and I applaud every woman that has achieved something in their life, who battle different obstacles and curveballs yet still persevere; which is pretty much all of you in reality.
Happy International Women’s Day to each and every one of you superstars!