International Women’s Day

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History of International Women’s Day

Women have been fighting for equal rights throughout history, from the start of the women’s suffrage movement in 1848, to the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015. For years, decades, and even centuries, women have challenged oppressive social and political systems within society and have made demands for change in the areas where they faced – and continue to face – tremendous inequalities. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that women fighting for their rights were finally recognized with a national holiday. International Women’s Day was established to acknowledge the growing international women’s movement, to build support among communities of women and to promote universal suffrage for women around the world.

Red-headed woman with hair blowing in the wind.
A woman should be two things: who and what she wants. – Coco Chanel

The first International Women’s Day, then commonly known as Women’s Day or National Women’s Day, was celebrated on February 28th, 1909 and was organized in honor of a garment workers’ strike in New York around the same time. On March 8th, 1908, thousands of workers in the garment industry rallied together in an act of protest, demanding higher wages, a shorter workday and the end of child labor. They chanted the infamous battle cry “We’d rather starve quick than starve slow” in order to emphasize the dire conditions they faced. This groundbreaking event became the foundation for International Women’s Day, and we continue to celebrate today.

International Women’s Day makes a great time to celebrate the women throughout history who have made monumental strides in seeking equality and creating change for all women. Female pioneers like Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean, Jane Goodall, esteemed female primatologist who made significant contributions in wildlife research, and Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady to President F.D. Roosevelt and women’s rights activist, are among the trailblazers who have made it possible for women in the 21st century (and beyond) to pursue what they’re passionate about. These women have also paved the way for those who continue to seek social and political change in the world today.

Two women making peace signs in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Never think you can’t do anything because you’re a woman; everything is open to you as a girl. The future is yours. – Christine Amanpour

Women Winning in Life

In today’s digital world, we tend to find inspirational women on social media, various blogs, or on our favorite TV shows. We are exposed to women taking advantage of their beauty and youth while traveling the world, or maybe they’re conquering health and wellness in new and innovative ways. Women on these platforms have not only been taking control of their lives, but more specifically their mindset around their bodies. All shapes and sizes are now being described as unique and beautiful. Women are feeling more confident than ever. We have a lot of people to thank and celebrate who are responsible for this movement which has allowed us to walk with a more confident demeanor. Plus size models like Simone Charles, Sonny Turner, and Iskra Lawrence have made huge achievements in the body positive movement. Covering high profile magazines, and now even making it to the runway, these influential women have been taking it stride by stride, with their ultimate goal to be as relatable as possible. This has allowed for a world-wide promotion of a healthier relationships with our bodies, and it’s let women decide for themselves what ’sexy’ means to them.

Blonde woman typing on a laptop with left hand and writing notes with right hand
Whatever you do, be different – that was the advice my mother gave me, and I can’t think of better advice for an entrepreneur. If you’re different, you will stand out. – Anita Roddick

Women Winning in Business

Women continue to fight for what they believe in each and every day, especially in the business world. Thanks to those who established International Women’s Day, we have the opportunity to recognize the women who have made significant achievements in a society that was at one point deemed a “man’s world.”

Business is another area where women are making waves. Now more than ever, women are working in what were once male-dominated career fields, taking on more leadership roles in global business, and even starting their own companies. Though progress has been made for women in business, there are still a few areas where women face inequalities when compared to men. On average, women earn 66% less than men, they make up less than 50% of the labor force, and they make up less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs. But what about the women in business who are rising up? On International Women’s Day, it’s important not only to recognize the accomplishments that women have made throughout history, but to acknowledge those who are winning at life today! Continue on to learn about four inspiring business women who started their own companies from the ground up, regardless of the challenges and hardships they may have faced along the way.

A standing woman's feet in beige pumps.
It’s important to be willing to make mistakes. The worst thing that can happen is you become memorable. – Sara Blakely

1. Sara Blakely

Named as one of Time magazine’s “Time 100” list of the most influential people in the world in 2012, Sara Blakely is the billionaire businesswoman behind Spanx, the American intimate apparel company that has become synonymous with shapewear and leggings. Forced to wear pantyhose in the Florida heat for a sales job, Sara spent the next two years and $5,000 of savings researching and developing her idea for hosiery that made the body firmer, but didn’t ride up or roll down under clothing. Using a credit card, she registered “Spanx” as a trademark for $150 and arranged meetings with Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Saks, and Bergdof Goodman. Her hard work and determination has ensured that Spanx continues to go from strength to strength. In 2006, she established the Sara Blakely Foundation to help women through education and entrepreneurial training.

Blonde girl in front of the ocean looking to the side as the wind blows
I believe all women should feel beautiful in their own skin. – Michelle Lam

2. Michelle Lam

Most women have experienced the struggle that comes along with searching for a new bra and trying it on in hopes of it fitting perfectly. More often than not, women also experience the frustration that comes along with a bra not fitting at all. That’s where innovators like Michelle Lam come in. In 2012, Michelle founded True&Co., a company that strives to create comfortable, stylish and form-fitting undergarments for women of all shapes and sizes. The bras and underwear at True&Co. help empower all women to feel comfortable and confident in their own skin wherever life takes them – whether they’re running errands on the weekend, leading a business meeting, or enjoying a night out on the town. Michelle established True&Co. to help women embrace their true self and to love the body they’re in. As a female founder of a company designed for women, Michelle serves as a role model and inspiration.

Woman facing a city from a hilltop and photographing the skyline
Hair doesn’t make the woman, but good hair definitely helps. – Anonymous

3. Maegan Scarlett & Liora Dudar

Have you ever thought of an idea for a company? Did you decide to pursue the idea? And if so, did you launch it in less than 30 days? Perseverance and dedication are only a few of the qualities that female entrepreneurs Maegan Scarlett and Liora Dudar, co-founders of the hair care company oVertone embody. Sharing similar passions and backgrounds in business, Maegan and Liora established oVertone in order to provide cruelty-free pigmented conditioners to those looking for a healthy, low-maintenance hair color solution. This isn’t just your average hair color. Maegan and Liora provide bright, vibrant colors like purple, pink and green. oVertone isn’t just for women looking to add a pop of color to their lives – Maegan and Liora are highly supportive of gender equality and the LGBTQ+ community and have designed their brand to promote inclusivity and acceptance. Since the initial launch of oVertone in 2014, Maegan and Liora made tremendous strides in expanding their company from a small team of two to a business that encompasses two offices in the United States.

Blonde woman facing the distance with hair braided
Leadership belongs to those who take it. -Sheryl Sandberg

4. Sheryl Sandberg

As a technology executive, author, billionaire, and chief operating officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg has a lot on her plate. But, these roles don’t stop her from doing more, especially when it comes to advocating for women’s rights, gender equality, better public policies and other initiatives. In addition to her position at Facebook, Sheryl founded Lean In, an organization that seeks to help people of every gender follow their dreams and achieve their goals without being held back by social injustices, inequalities and other barriers. Lean In is based on the belief that the world would be a better place if “women and girls were valued as equal to men and boys.” Turning this ideology into a reality becomes a priority everyday. Comprised of many different facets, programs and campaigns, Lean In ultimately strives to empower all women to rise up together and achieve their goals. Thanks to dedicated female leaders like Sheryl and organizations like Lean In, women are able to hone their sense of self, develop their confidence, and feel empowered to promote social change for themselves and all women.

A mother and daughter with their arms around each other
When women support each other, incredible things happen. – IWD 2019

What Now?

Today, International Women’s Day is a widely celebrated holiday for acknowledging all of the accomplishments women have made over time. So now you might be thinking, how can I show my support? Or, how can I give back to the women in my community? Luckily, there are a variety of ways you, your friends, family, co-workers, and community members can celebrate International Women’s Day. Try joining a local rally or march to show your support for women’s equality and help to create social change. Then, take your support to social media by using the 2019 campaign hashtag #BalanceForBetter to connect with others, share your own stories and spread the word.

Woman sitting and looking down a city street
I am a woman. Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s me. – Maya Angelou

Another way you can recognize International Women’s Day on March 8th (and throughout the year) is by reading feminist literature by notable female authors like Audre Lorde, Simone de Beauvoir, Angela Davis and Sylvia Plath. You can also give back to the community by donating your time or unwanted clothing to your local women’s shelter or refuge.

Ultimately, the most important way you can show your support for women is by staying up-to-date on female-focused topics in politics, the media, and in your own community. Learning more about issues that many women face everyday can help you develop your own opinions and rhetoric, so that you can take a stand on March 8th, and on International Women’s Days in the future.

Mother holding a baby that is looking ahead
Here’s to Strong Women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
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Natalie Seale

Natalie Seale is a writer, researcher, and editor for keepinspiring.me. She holds an MA, MSc, and PhD in History from the University of Edinburgh, and has started two businesses since 2011. Natalie is an avid reader, a keen traveller, and enjoys cooking and walking with her English Spaniel. Her posts focus on inspiring others to live healthy, happy, and active lives.