This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BeBoldforChange. In this spirit and light, we remember 17 exceptional women gamechangers who stood up in their own way and pasture against the injustices towards their gender. Today is a great celebration of the fact that we have come a long way, and how we’ve broken down walls previously impossible to conquer. Moreover, this is a steadfast reminder that there is more to be done, said and understood.
We go through this list to acknowledge the great accomplishments of women around the world. The list may be finite in its capability to recount the many women of courage across time and space, however the thought behind this feature resounds beyond this inventory. This is a salute to all women who strive every day for equality, for a life fairly lived, and for a better world for those to follow.
Happy International Women’s Day! Here are some of the great women who weren’t afraid to #BeBoldforChange:
Simone de Beauvior (1908 – 1986)
Simone de Beauvior was a French writer, philosopher, and political activist. Her book Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex) was a ground-breaking analysis on the oppression of women and has become a foundational treatise for contemporary Feminism. Her theories also explored the relationship between Existentialism and Feminism – anchoring on arguments that challenged the purpose and being of a woman. Perceived as quite scandalous during her time, de Beauvior continued on with her work without succumbing to misogynist critique, she truly serves as an inspiration for courage.
Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005)
Sitting on a bus has never been so controversial until Rosa Parks refused to give her seat to a white passenger which led to her arrest in 1955. Her resistance to bus segregation led to her becoming a symbol and icon for the Civil Rights Movement. Her arrest and resistance impacted her life deeply having been fired from her job straight after and receiving death threats consistently the following years. This did not stop her however, as she continued in her activism working with the likes of Edgar Nixon and even the great Martin Luther King, Jr.
Margaret Thatcher (1925 – 2013)
Known widely as the “iron lady”, Thatcher was the first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and served in that position from 1979 to 1990. She advocated for financial discipline, free markets, regulation of public expenditure and in some ways, Populism. Her work even inspired a continued philosophy called “Thatcherism” that could be said as similar to economic rationalism. As a staunch purveyor of these ideals, Thatcher earns a spot in this list because of her strength and resolve against insurmountable odds during her time and service.
The born Polish physicist and chemist was the very first woman to ever win the Nobel Prize and the only woman to win it twice. In 1903 she won the Nobel in Physics which she shared with her husband Pierre Curie and physcist Henri Becquerel. Come 1911, she won the prize in the field of Chemistry. Her theories contributed to the development of radioactivity – a term coined by Marie herself. She also discovered two elements, Po (Polonium) and Ra (Radium). Needless to say, her work in the field of science is immense and truly remarkable. Although extremely criticized during her time, she continued on with her research relentlessly.
Known as Saint Teresa of Culcatta, the Albanian-born missionary graced the world with her fearless field work helping the ‘poorest of the poor’. She received the Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize in 1962 and went to grab the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Her great work inspired the world-over which eventually led the Catholic church to canonize her as a saint on September 4, 2016. An international icon of compassion, service, and love, Mother Teresa is a true heroine.
The Mexican painter has been labelled as a surrealist, however she has been known to reject this description. She cites that her works reflect her life rather than her dreams, the latter of which was the main ideology behind the Surrealist movement. She suffered lifelong health issues due to a traffic accident which made her miserable in her pain. She makes it to this list because she braved the art world with her self-portraits and her activism which she fought for all throughout her life.
This American TV Personality and journalist makes it to our list as she paved the way for the likes of Oprah and Ellen De Generes in the field of television. She has been known for her ‘women’s interest stories’ on NBC. She has always been a popculture icon as the voice of women, as a career go-getter, and a headstrong reporter. Although she is known for many things like her fashion sense and incredible style, today we recognize her as a feminist icon – a true gamechanger.
Who doesn’t love Oprah? From her generous stints on her show all the way to her philanthropic pusuits – she makes it on the list as she has been a popular icon for kindness and fairness especially in the world of Television and broadcasting.
Known for her spirited personality and feisty character, this American actress has won the coveted Academy Award for Best Actress four times, the most for anyone. A true progressive during her time she was widely criticized for her wardrobe choices like wearing pants and masculine cuts of clothing. Despite being a social pariah at times, Hepburn proved to be a versatile actress and true artist.
Diana Vreeland (1903 – 1989)
Vreeland was a noted columnist and editor in the field of Fashion. She worked for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue and as a special consultant at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A true visionary in her field, she has made the world of Fashion an artistic platform and a reflection of society and culture.
Maria Callas (1923 – 1977)
“La Divina” – Callas is a famous Greek-American Soprano who wowed the world with her musical prowess and bel canto technique. Her performances were moving, beautiful, and transcendent. A true treasure of the opera world, Callas is a truly inspirational woman.
Ellen has been a household name for some time now with the popularity of her talk show and her comedic skits going viral on the internet. Today we tip our hat to DeGeneres for her continued activism for the LGBTQ community. With her braveness with coming out in 1997 as lesbian, she began voicing her frustrations about the community’s lack of acceptance and how this had to change. Her advocacies for those who aren’t treated fairly makes her a pick on this list as she truly inspires us to #BeBoldforChange. Her work continues to this day, not only leading as an example but being an enduring activist.
Malala Yousafzai (1997 – Present)
Malala is the youngest on the list at 19 years old. Having received the Nobel Peace Prize on October 2014, Yousafzai proves to be a woman beyond inspiration. She has been an advocate for female education in Pakistan where the Taliban explicitly banned women from getting an education. Beyond this, she has survived an assassination attempt – the bullet went thorugh her head and neck and ended in her shoulder. Despite this, she continues on with her work for the rights of not only women, but of all children to education and safety.
Lea Salonga (1971 – Present)
We would be remiss if we didn’t include some of our country’s most iconic women. Here, we begin with the wonderfully talented Lea Salonga. Salonga put the Philippines on the map with her international success as a singer and performer on Broadway. She was the very first Asian woman to ever win a Tony Award. Some of her unforgettable roles were as Eponine and Fantine in Les Miserables and her voicing of Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin and Mulan in the eponymous film. Truly inspirational, Salonga serves as a game changer in the world of the performing arts.
Reyes is a recipient of the National Artist Award for Dance in 2014 for her extensive work in the field of ballet and theatre. She founded Ballet Philippines which caters to both young and professional ballet dancers alike. She now teaches and directs ballet performances and continues to hone aspiring dancers.
Carpio-Morales is the current Ombudsman of the Philippines. She recently received the Ramon Magsaysay Award citing her "moral courage and commitment to justice". Her steadfast resolve serves as a precedent for future generations of lawmakers and public servants to aim toward fairness, justice, and honourable tenacity.
Miriam Defensor-Santiago (1945 – 2016)
Miriam Defensor-Santiago served the Philippines in all three branches – judicial, executive, and legislative – throughout her long career as a lawyer and judge. She was more widely known during the latter years of her life as she ran for President and graced the Senate floor. However, this can be seen as the tip of the iceberg in her long years of service. In 1988, she was named laureate of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service, with a citation "for bold and moral leadership in cleaning up a graft-ridden government agency". Known for her fierce resolve as a senator, she serves an inspiration to young women with a passion for governance.
International Women’s Day is celebrated every March 8 of the year and has been a practice since the early 1990’s. It continues to grow internationally and promotes advocacies for women’s rights and opportunities. To know more, you can click here: International Women’s Day.