Get excited because March is Women’s History Month here in the U.S., and March 8, 2011 marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day! “Why do I care?” you may be asking yourself. Well, first of all, shame on you for asking because you’re probably a man, and your mother wouldn’t be happy to hear you asking such questions.
But seriously, women are a pretty big deal. No matter what gender you are, Women’s History Month is a great time to reflect on all the contributions that women have made to the U.S. and the international community in the past. As a woman myself, I am especially proud of the efforts we lady-folk have taken to breach the equality gap between men and women. Despite some serious trouble areas (e.g., salary differences, women’s rights in the Middle East, men’s continued references to “that time of the month”), the gap has closed considerably in the last century.
This month, organizations around the world will be rallying women to continue the fight for equality through celebrations, marches, and fanfare. As I write this, women are pouring through the streets of London, San Francisco, and Munich chanting and singing on behalf of women’s successes and the expansion of women’s rights in the future. People are gathering in unlikely places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. CARE, a humanitarian organization, will be lighting the Empire State Building the color orange in honor of International Women’s Day. What orange has to do with women, I’m not sure, but hey, they’re doing something. Even celebrities are rejoicing—for proof, Google “Daniel Craig Dresses Like a Woman to Promote International Women’s Day.”
As a sign of solidarity, we should all take time this March to celebrate the accomplishments that women have made in this great big world of ours. Despite some small setbacks for women in recent years (I’m talking to you, Paris Hilton and Cosmo magazine, both of whom I’m sure are reading this), the movement towards equality continues. Since the announcement of the first International Women’s Day, some incredible strides have been made by women here in the U.S., including the following: the Women’s Suffrage Movement; the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment; judicial approval for birth control; and the passages of the Equal Pay Act, The Violence Against Women Act, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
But long before the establishment of an official Women’s Day, strong women throughout history have been representin’ the more oppressed gender. The female Pharaoh Hatshepsut called herself a “female Horus” and was crowned King of Egypt in 1473 B.C., proving that men weren’t the only divinely ordained Egyptian rulers. In the male-dominated 1800s, pioneering feminist, social reformer, educator, philosopher, social scientist, and all-around renaissance woman Harriet Martineau published over 50 books and almost 2,000 articles in her lifetime, a remarkable feat for someone of any gender. And who could forget Marie Curie? Considered the first modern female scientist, she was the first person (not just woman) to ever win a Nobel Prize for two different scientific disciplines.
Still not feeling inspired? Well, just consider all the things you wouldn’t have in your life if a woman hadn’t invented them. Stuck on the eighth floor of a burning building? Well, you better jump out the window because a woman invented the fire escape. Found yourself in a gunfight while trying to stop a bank robbery? Hope you don’t get shot because Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar in 1966. Fell off a cruise ship and slowly drowning in the sea? You probably wish someone had invented the life raft, which Maria Beaseley did in 1882. Need an engine muffler, ironing board, chocolate chip cookie, or White Out? Yeah, all invented by ladies. Oh, and guess who delivered you into this world?
So, while it’s proven that humanity couldn’t have come this far without women (it’s science), there’s still much room for improvement in the women’s rights department. There continues to be violence, discrimination, and oppression against women across the globe. Countries like ours should use Women’s History Month to not only commemorate the accomplishments of women from the past but continue the fight for women’s rights in the future. It doesn’t matter how you choose to celebrate, whether it be by donning a dress with Daniel Craig or breaking out that dusty circular saw (invented by Tabitha Babbit in 1812), just make sure you honor all the women in your life this month because the world would be a pretty lame place without them.