8th March is International Women’s Day, which exists to celebrate the achievements of women across the world and raise awareness of the issues still facing them today. Like the fact that the majority of the world’s 1.3 billion absolute poor are women and on average, women receive 30-40% less pay than men for exactly the same work.
In spite of these struggles and slow advances towards true gender equality, there have been extraordinary women in Europe throughout history who have stepped out of their expected roles and challenged the status quo to create a better future for the generations that followed them. Here we celebrate 6 of those women who changed the world:
1. Emmeline Pankhurst
[responsive-image id=’4635′ align=’center’ caption=’Pankhurst addressing a meeting in London’s Trafalgar Square (1908)’ alt=’Pankhurst addressing a meeting in London’s Trafalgar Square, 1908′]
(Photo courtesy of Radio 4)
Leader of the British Suffragette movement, inspiring feminist and political activist, Emmeline Pankhurst campaigned ruthlessly to give women the right to vote. Her fight for equality led to her being arrested, going on hunger strikes, committing arson and much more. The defining moment of the suffragette campaign being when Emily Davidson threw herself under the King’s horse at the Derby in 1913 and was sadly killed. You can see how it all unfolded in the film ‘Suffragette’, a powerful depiction that’s definitely worth a watch.
2. Marie Curie
[responsive-image id=’4637′ align=’center’ caption=” alt=’Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize’]
(Photo courtesy of The Best You)
Polish physicist and chemist Marie Curie paved the way for women in science. Married to Professor Pierre Curie, in 1895 they worked together and discovered the element polonium, which saw her awarded the Nobel Prize – the first time the prize was awarded to a woman. After the death of her husband in 1906 she took over his post and became the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne. In 1911 she gained a second Nobel Prize for the discovery of radium, which lead to the development of the X-ray.
3. Marie Stopes
[responsive-image id=’4639′ align=’center’ caption=’Marie Stopes in her laboratory (1904)’ alt=’Marie Stopes in her laboratory, 1904′]
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Marie Stopes was a Scottish advocate for women’s rights and leader in the field of family planning. She gained attention in 1918 by writing a book that openly discussed women’s sexuality, birth control and marriage. The book was widely condemned but still sold 2000 copies in a fortnight, finally giving women that boost of freedom to talk about the issues affecting them. In 1921 following her second book publication, she opened the very first family planning clinic in North London, and set up a foundation that still helps women today.
4. Coco Chanel
[responsive-image id=’4643′ align=’center’ caption=” alt=’Coco Chanel’]
(Photo courtesy of alux.com)
Feminist Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was the talented French designer behind the brand Chanel and one of the pioneers of freedom in fashion for women. Blurring the lines between male and female clothing, she popularised trousers, sportswear and suits for women in Europe and throughout the world, liberating them and proving no garment was exclusively male. She also completely abandoned the corset, a symbol of women’s oppression for centuries, as well as chopping her hair short.
5. Amelia Earhart
[responsive-image id=’4645′ align=’center’ caption=’Earhart next to a Lockheed Electra 10E before her last flight from Oakland to Honolulu (1937)’ alt=’Earhart next to a Lockheed Electra 10E before her last flight from Oakland to Honolulu (1937)’]
(Photo courtesy of AP/ThingLink)
Amelia Earhart was an American pilot who became an inspiration to women everywhere when she became the first woman – and only second person – ever to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932. She received a Distinguished Flying Cross from President Herbert Hoover – she was also the first woman to receive this! After attempting to fly around the world in 1937, she mysteriously disappeared never to be seen again. In the letter she left for her husband she reportedly wrote: “Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”
6. Valentina Tereshkova
[responsive-image id=’4648′ align=’center’ caption=’Valentina Tereshkova prepares for launch (1963)’ alt=’Valentina Tereshkova prepares for launch (1963)’]
(Photo courtesy of NY Daily Times)
From a humble beginning as a textile factory worker, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman, and first civilian, to fly in space in 1963. During her 70-hour flight she made 48 orbits of the earth. After her flight she studied to become a cosmonaut engineer, ending up with a doctorate, and also became President of the Soviet Women’s Committee. In 1977 she was awarded the UN Gold Medal of Peace for her inspiring work.