A few weeks ago, I was so excited to receive my first email about International Women’s Day: a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. It also marks a call-to-action to help forge a better working world that is more inclusive and gender equal.
As I opened the email with one hand and grabbed for my phone to mark March 8 with the other, my cell almost slid out of my palm when I read the first line: “Join us for ‘Tampon Tuesday’ in celebration of International Women’s Day.”
Hold the phone. Sweetie. Seriously. Is that all you got? Is that all we are to you?
It pains me to state the obvious here, but after this horrendous political year, maybe we’re back to this place. And so, I’ll state it for the record: WE…are so much more than tampons, my friend.
Maybe she was having an off-day. Maybe she just needs a little inspiration, and so here we go. When I think of International Women’s Day, I think of the legends. Y’know, those who radiate the true essence of Soul-Sisterhood. People like…
Gloria Steinem. From her early days as an audacious journalist who exposed the Playboy Club’s sexist policies while struttin’ her stuff as an undercover bunny, to this past January when she gave her ‘No More Asking Daddy’ speech in front of a sea of pink pussy hats at the Women’s March in January – this woman has balls. She’s the mackiest of all Mac-mommies and I love her.
Malala Yousafzai. At 15 years old, as she and her friends were travelling home from school in Pakistan when a masked gunman entered the school bus and asked for Malala by name. She was shot with a single bullet that went through her head, neck and shoulder. She survived. And told her story. And continued to speak out for a girl’s right to an education. She became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate and today, she continues as an activist for female education and a formidable beacon of light.
Mary Wollstonecraft. An English writer and feminist philosopher who raised her voice for gender equality back in the 1700s. Sing it and bring it, sister. She paved the way for us. ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women,’ her 1792 work, questioned Rousseau’s stuffy ideas of female inferiority and earned prominent status in feminist literature.
Simone de Beauvoir. A French philosopher, writer and major figure in modern feminism. In 1949, she authored, ‘The Second Sex,’ where she showed how men had consistently denied women’s identity, drawing on history, art and psychology as proof points. Despite a hater-ation, the work became a seminal text in feminism. She also spoke out against the discrimination toward unwed mothers.
Lucy Stone. A renowned feminist and abolitionist of the 1800s who decided to keep her maiden name after marriage as a symbol of individuality. I thought there was controversy when I did that in 2004, imagine what it was like for dear ol’ Luce in Victorian times! She also played a pivotal role in organizing the first National Women’s Rights Convention in 1850.
Madonna. Love her or hate her, this musical material girl is a superhero and has redefined what it is to be a feminist. From the moment she stepped into the spotlight with her lace, mesh and frills, she has stood for strength, empowerment and unabashedly owning her sexuality. Last December, she accepted the Billboard Women of the Year award and delivered a powerful, honest speech about sexism, feminism and her own perseverance.
Isabella Baumfree a.k.a. Sojourner Truth. A crusader against racial discrimination and gender equality. Born into slavery where she spent her first 30 years, she was emancipated in 1827. She travelled to many different places, preaching missions and speaking for rights of women and slaves. In 1836, she became the first Black woman to win a lawsuit in the U.S. where she fought for her son who was sold as a slave. In 1843, she took on the name ‘Sojourner Truth,’ claiming it as God’s message. Her 1851, her ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ speech at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, was a landmark in the feminist movement history.
Emily Stowe. A woman who supported her children and sick husband by working, illegally, as a doctor in Ontario. She had to go to New York to obtain her degree because Canadian women weren’t allowed in medical school, or any other higher educational institute, at that time. She graduated in 1868 and in 1876, she started the Toronto Women’s Literacy Club, which was actually a women’s suffrage group.
Adelaide Hoodless. Another pioneer among Canadian women, whose 18-month-old son died from unpasteurized milk in 1887. Hoodless took to the streets and began campaigning for better health and nutrition education for women. In 1897, she founded the first Women’s Institute to instruct women in farm and household management. She was also the founder of the Victorian Order of Nurses, which provided nursing to the poor.
Angela Merkel. Named Forbes #1 Most Powerful Woman in 2016, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, has been named the last bastion of Western liberal power. Facing a challenging reelection bid this year, she’s been charged with the task of maintaining a united European front in the wake of Brexit while balancing Russia’s growing influence on the continent and managing more than 1 million migrants who have entered Germany in recent years. But this woman’s tough. She guided Germany through a recession with subsidies and stimulus packages for companies that cut hours for workers, and Germany rang in the 2016 New Year with a budget surplus of 12.1 billion euros ($13.1 billion) and an AAA rating from creditors.
And that’s just my inspiring list of famous people! I’m sure there are many more women in your life who inspire you and have been incredible influences on you too. I’ve been fortunate to have several in my life that I’ve benefited from, in addition to the greats I’ve listed here. Today, let’s honour them all. I challenge you to send an amazing woman in your life a note today to thank her for shining her light. I’m going to do the same and tonight, my 6-year-old daughter and I are going out for dinner to celebrate International Women’s Day. They’re never too young to start honouring the strong, inspiring women who have cleared the path for us today.