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Trailblazing Women of Yesterday and Today

Black women standing up for empowerment

Women’s history is full of instigators of gender equality and progressive development. They supported society, improved research, and freed many of the oppressed. This fight for justice and progress is not merely a thing of the past. Even today, women and girls stand at the forefront of science, art, and human rights.

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year to commemorate our past, present, and future female trailblazers. It is the perfect time to support the women around you and learn about the discrimination they face daily.

Women Have Previously Fought for Gender Equality and More

Women’s suffrage is not the only thing female activists have fought for in the past.

Many women supported their families during wars

The first war that women in the United States actively participated in was the Revolutionary War, followed by the Civil War. Their lives before these wars were confined because of gender stereotypes. They were often believed to be weak and dependent creatures whose place was only inside the home.

But during these early wars, women were critical to keeping their nation on its feet by supporting men on the battlefield and progressing political movements. During the Revolutionary War, women did not stop at giving the soldiers better access to food, nursing, and shelter. Women participated as political writers (such as Abigail Adams) or, like Molly Pitcher, took her husband’s place and shot artillery on the front lines.

Later, when the second World War commenced, women joined the armed forces as well. Others filled in the vacant positions that men left in the workplace and labored for their survival and the survival of their nation as they knew it.

Female activists changed politics

Despite their limited access to government positions and politics, women created major ripples in laws and practices all over the world.

Women’s suffrage was first granted by the Wyoming territory in 1869. That was not the beginning or the end. Behind the first step in gender parity lay years of protests, marches, and fighting. The U.S. government did not fully allow women to vote until 1920.

two Black women raising their arms in protest
Women created major ripples in laws and practices all over the world (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Rosa Parks, a black woman, significantly advanced the Civil Rights Movement in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man.

Fast forward, women activists now also fight against discrimination in politics and laws against the LGBTQ+ communities and people of color. Their voices can also be heard in protests against police brutality and unequal employment opportunities.

Women in Education

There have been many trailblazing women in history, especially in education, as women have been strengthening communities for centuries. They bring up strong-willed and open-minded children who question those in power. They also serve as role models for girls to look up to and encourage them to pursue their dreams.

Malala Yousafzia is a Pakistani activist who survived an assassination attempt at the age of 15 after publicly advocating against the state-enforced ban against women and girls receiving an education. She, like many other women today, continues to fight for women’s rights to education and freedom of thought.

Malala Yousafzai, Activist | Biography

Furthermore, as scientists, engineers, writers, and artists, women have helped millions of people. They’ve contributed to the development of technology, healthcare, earth sciences, and artistic movements. From DNA discovery to daily life photography, women pioneers have earned a place everywhere.

Women in Health and Wellness

Women’s sexual and reproductive rights were largely ignored in the past. It wasn’t until 1960 that the first birth pill was approved. They were barred from medical colleges and universities and had to struggle with male doctors who refused to acknowledge their needs.

But their limited access did not stop them. Many women in the past masqueraded as men to practice medicine. A name who has been talked about when talking about trailblazing women is Mary Putnam Jacobi (1842-1906), the creator of the Association for the Advancement of the Medical Education of Women, fought hard for her career and debunked several myths related to menstruation.

Female doctor or pediatrician measuring baby's temperature
Many women in the past masqueraded as men to practice medicine (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Virginia Apgar (1909-1974) introduced a checklist for the assessment of a newborn’s health. This Apgar score was the first of its kind and alleviated much of the postpartum anxieties.

Know Their Names

There are millions of trailblazing women to take inspiration from. This International Women’s Day, make your own list of women you admire and share it with your friends! Here are some of our favorites:

Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)

Dorothea Lange was an American documentary photographer whose work on the Great Depression helped journalistic photography reach a new standard. She portrayed the lives of migrant workers and unemployed men through her photographs and photo essays. She successfully humanized the people living in poverty and garnered the sympathy of the American public.

Dorothea Lange, a Visual Life | NBC News Learn

Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919)

Madam C.J. Walker was a Black woman born to parents who had been victims of slavery. She became America’s first Black female self-made millionaire with her innovative hair care products and strong self-marketing and decision-making skills.

Madam CJ Walker – Succesful Business Woman | Biography

She helped eliminate gender barriers for many women in the workforce and supported their careers. Her passion for philanthropy lasted till the end of her days.

Ali Stroker

America’s first wheel-chair using Broadway actor is a woman named Ali Stroker. She was left paralyzed waist-down by a car accident at the age of two.

Meet Ali Stroker: the First Actress in a Wheelchair to Perform on Broadway | Mashable Docs

In 2019, she became the first person to win the Tony award among actors who use a wheel-chair. Besides acting, Ali is also a successful singer and an author.

Cho Nam-ju

For centuries, women writers have used literature as a means to portray the gender discrimination and inequality prevalent in our societies. But writing on gender inequality is not an easy task. Female writers have had to face criticism from all kinds of people around the world; political leaders, other writers, and the general public.

Vlog: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam Joo | Waterstones

In 2016, Cho Nam-ju, a South Korean writer, published her feminist novel, Kim Jiyoung, Born in 1982, which stirred a lot of conversations. It made people uncomfortable, and rightfully so. The novel depicts the position women hold in society, the way they are treated, and the complete lack of justice in their lives.

The Women Around Us

Gender equality is now a possibility thanks to the efforts of millions of women whose names we do and do not know. The way the women around you live their lives is affected by gender-based discrimination to a great extent. So don’t save your support for the big names or trailblazing women in the past only. The women and girls around you are equally worthy.

The movement toward gender equality is ongoing. Use this International Women’s Day to appreciate the women in your life. It could be your friends, family members, teachers, co-workers, or even your dentist.

There are a few instances of gender-based discrimination that makes routine life an ongoing struggle for women. Workplace harassment and medical disparities top that list.

Workplace harassment needs to be taken seriously

Governments will not take action until you do. If you see violations of women’s rights around your office, speak up. Your intervention could protect the victims and witnesses from severe mental damage.

You can spot gender-based discrimination in professional settings simply by paying attention. For example, if there is a complete lack of female leadership in your company and women are not involved in decision-making procedures, that could be a red flag.

workplace harassment
if you see violations of women’s rights around your office, speak up. (Image Source: Shutterstock)

You’ll find enough evidence if you ask your female colleagues too. Talk to them and ask them how you can add to their voices.

Alarmingly High Maternal Mortality Rates

Pregnant women are still unprotected in this era of fast-paced technological and scientific advancement. Although the healthcare system is significantly better for mothers today, it is imperfect. Whether they complain of chronic pain or morning sickness, women do not receive a proper assessment.

Gender discrimination in treatments and medical research takes millions of lives worldwide. For example, more women in the United States die of childbirth than in other developed countries. Most of these deaths result from negligence and are preventable.

You can make a difference by recruiting diligent staff in your hospitals and taking complaints seriously. For health disparities to be declared a serious crime, you have to support women’s leadership and vote for those candidates who believe in women’s rights.

Women deserve a life of dignity

International Women’s Day commemorates the efforts and sacrifices of all the trailblazing women who have fought against gender-based violence and discrimination. And human history is full of such strong-headed and inspiring women. A look around will tell you that you are surrounded by them too. So why not take a few moments to understand and support their cause?