International Women’s Day – 10 Women to Celebrate
Sunday, March 8th marks International Women’s Day, a day to recognize and commemorate the accomplishments of women. The move to celebrate International Women’s Day began in 1908 when a group of 15,000 women marched the streets of New York City, demanding the right to vote, better pay, and better working conditions. This act of unity and courage spread around the country and was a major contributor to the Women’s Suffrage Movement, both here in the United States and internationally.
Because of the incredible accomplishments of women, we could have written a whole book on the topic. But instead, we’ve compiled this short list you can use in your classroom when teaching about inspiring women. Which of these accomplished women do your students most identify with?
Shults is a former Southwest Airlines Pilot who made an emergency landing that saved 148 people. In April 2018 the plane’s engine failed and shot debris into a window, decompressing the cabin pressure. Her training and instincts kicked into gear and she landed the Boeing 737, saving many lives.
Bethune was an educator and activist for racial equality. Born to former slaves after the Civil War, she received an education and went on to become a teacher. Emphasizing the importance of education for all children, she opened a school for girls. This school later merged with an all-boys institute and became Bethune-Cookman College. Bethune was named Director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, making her highest-ranking African American woman in the government at that time.
Known mononymously as Malala, she is an advocate for human rights and, in particular, female education. Malala grew up in Pakistan under the Taliban rule. At age 15 she was a victim of retaliation when she was shot for advocating for the rights of girls to go to school. Now a university student, Malala continues to fight for equal rights for women and children and has since stated that she forgives the people who shot her because “That’s the best revenge.” In 2014 at the age of 17, she became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
A French and Polish chemist, Marie Curie made incredible strides in science when she spearheaded research on radioactivity. Through her research, she discovered polonium and radium, the only radioactive elements. Her findings earned her spot in history as the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize. During her research, the long-term effects of prolonged radiation exposure were unknown and she ultimately passed away from radiation-related illnesses. Her research papers, now historical artifacts, stay in a lead-lined box that can’t be touched due to the amount of radiation present.
While author Jhumpa Lahiri was earning her doctorate, she published stories about the life of East Indian immigrants in America. She compiled these stories into a book, Interpreter of Maladies, and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001. Lahiri was later presented National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama. She continues to write and has sold over 15 million books worldwide.
A ballet dancer and influencer, Copeland made history in 2014 by becoming the first Black woman to reach principal dancer, the highest-ranking title for the American Ballet Theatre. She’s performed on Broadway, toured with Prince, and was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.
Singer, actress, businesswoman, and humanitarian, Dolly Parton went from being raised in a small cabin in the Smokey Mountains to holding a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Using the profits of her fame, Parton created the Dollywood Foundation, a charity foundation. Through the Dollywood Foundation she established the Imagination Library which has sent over 133 million free books to children around the world to help improve literacy. Her foundation has provided many jobs to previously depressed parts of Tennessee and she continues to give to countless causes.
Contemporary Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama or “the Princess of Polka Dots” works in sculpting, painting, film, poetry, and performance art. Experiencing success in Japan in the 1950’s, Kusama moved to New York City after being inspired by a style of painting known as American Abstract Expressionism. Kusama has been open about struggles with mental health; she returned to Japan in the 1970’s and has since lived in the Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill. In 2017, Kusama received world-wide fame for her Infinity Mirror Rooms installation which reflected on her work from the past 50 years.
Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space on Space Shuttle Discovery in 1993. Before working at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, she graduated from Stanford with a doctorate in Electrical Engineering. Ochoa went on to become the second female director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. She now works as a Vice-Chair for the National Science Board, an organization that establishes policies of the National Science Foundation and servers as an advisor to the President and Congress on science research issues.
The first women to officially run for president, Belva Lockwood was a lawyer, politician, and women’s rights advocate. Though her law practice, she fought for non-discriminant access to practice law and equal pay. In the late 1870’s, she drafted a bill for Congress that would qualify women to work as lawyers in any federal court. Lockwood later became the first female lawyer to argue a case before the United States Supreme Court. After running for president twice, she remained an advocate, writing several essays about women’s suffrage and the need for gender equality.
International Women’s Day provides time to recognize women who advocate for equality, and all of the accomplishments of women today. How will you use this list in your class to honor these influential women? Use the comments to let us know who inspires you!