March 8 is International Women's Day, calling on everyone to forge a more inclusive, gender-equal world. Many women have inspired me to be #BeBoldForChange. Who inspires you? These 10 women to inspire you on International Women's Day are trailblazers who have often stood alone to fight for equality of marginalized groups across the globe.
International Women's Day, according to its website, celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women. Yet progress has slowed in many places across the world, so global action is needed to accelerate gender parity — making this year's day of recognition even more important.
In additional to being International Women's Day, March 8 is also" A Day Without A Woman," an international day of general striking to demonstrate just how integral women are to every aspect of society. The fact that we need a strike to prove this is pretty upsetting, but the rallying cry of women who are ready to support one another gives me hope.
These 10 women inspire hope and courage in the face of adversity, and if you're feeling a little shaky March 8, remember that you are not in it alone. Many women have gone before you. Many women are out there now to support you. We can all be #BeBoldForChange together.
1 Education Activist & Author Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize when she was just 17. She is the youngest recipient of the award in history. The Pakistani education activist has been campaigning for girls’ rights since she was 11 years old, which led to her being shot by the Taliban.
Yousafzai recovered, and went on to write the book I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. She continues to advocate for education rights for all girls.
2 Author & Trans Rights Activist Nicole Maines
College student Nicole Maines delivered a powerful TED Talk about her journey as a transgender girl in the public school system, her family's support, and the acceptance she received from her twin brother.
The author of Becoming Nicole, Maines is a prime example of why trans kids need the basic human right to use bathroom that correlates with their gender identity. Maines filed, and won, an anti-discrimination lawsuit against the Orono school district in 2009. She also shares her story, along with 10 other trans students, in HBO's the Trans List.
3 Author & Social Activist bell hooks
bell hooks, an acclaimed intellectual, feminist theorist, cultural critic, artist, and writer, has authored more than three dozen books. Her published works span several genres, including cultural criticism, personal memoirs, poetry collections, and children's books. Her writing covers topics of gender, race, class, spirituality, teaching, and the significance of media in contemporary culture.
She also founded the bell hooks Institute at Kentucky’s Berea College, which works to better understand “the ways systems of exploitation and oppression intersect.”
Recently, hooks spoke out about how to advance feminism during a Trump presidency, saying in an interview with Bust: "I think that we have to restore feminism as a political movement. The challenge to patriarchy is political, and not a lifestyle or identity."
4 Politician & Suffragist Leader Jeannette Rankin
Rep. Jeannette Rankin (R-Mt.) became the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress on March 4, 1917. Rankin was a member of congress three years before women won the right to vote. Despite not being able to vote herself, Rankin discovered there were no laws that prevented her from serving in office.
"I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won't be the last," she said following her election in 1916, according to the History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives.
A pacifist, she voted against both WWI and WWII. Rankin spent more than 25 years in government, and after he retirement from politics she often traveled to India, drawn by the nonviolent protest tactics of Mohandas K. Gandhi.
5 Politician, Author, & Educator Shirley Chisholm
In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the United States Congress. She represented New York's 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1983.
In 1972, Chisholm became the first black candidate for a major party's nomination U.S. president, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, paving the way for Hillary Clinton, and every woman who comes next. After she retired from politics she became a teacher and lecturer.
Chisholm is quoted as saying, " Of my two 'handicaps' being female put more obstacles in my path than being black," and "I want history to remember me not just as the first black woman to be elected to Congress, not as the first black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself."
6 Actor & Activist Danielle Cormack
Danielle Cormack is a New Zealand actor known for her role on Xena the Warrior Princess, and on the Australian television shows Wentworth, Rake, and Deep Water, based on the murders of 80 gay men in Sydney's eastern suburbs beaches in the 1970s and '80s.
She's an outspoken activist and ambassador for ChildFund Australia, ChildFund New Zealand, and SHINE for Kids — a nonprofit that supports children with a parent in the criminal justice system. She is also active with Bridge The Gap, a new Zealand nonprofit that works with kids at risk for entering the criminal justice system.
Cormack is also a vocal supporter of LGBTQIA rights, and equal rights for women. In 2016 she walked 100 kilometers to raise money for Oxfam.
7 Former First Lady Michelle Obama
With degrees from both Harvard and Princeton, Michelle Obama is more than America's most popular (and first African American) first lady. A vocal supporter of women's rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, and rights of homeless veterans, she hosted a White House reception for women's rights advocates in celebration of the enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 Pay equity law.
Additionally, Obama supported the economic stimulus bill in visits to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and United States Department of Education.
Obama has inspired and given hope to a new generation of young girls. She is known for her iconic quote during the 2016 presidential race, "When they go low, we go high."
8 Author & Women's Rights Activist Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem is a writer, lecturer, political activist, and feminist organizer. She travels in this and other countries as an organizer and lecturer and is a frequent media spokeswoman on issues of equality.
Steinem work to foster dialogue about shared origins of sex and race caste systems, gender roles and child abuse as roots of violence, non-violent conflict resolution, the cultures of indigenous peoples, and organizing across boundaries for peace and justice.
In 1972, Steinem co-founded Ms. magazine, which was maligned by feminist opposition from its inception. She continues to serve as a consulting editor for Ms., according to her website, and was instrumental in the magazine's move to join and be published by the Feminist Majority Foundation.
9 Professional Tennis Player Renée Richards
Before Caitlyn Jenner, there was Renée Richards, the first professional trans athlete. After transitioning at age 40, Richards applied to play in the U.S. Open in 1976 and was denied. She sued, and after a year of legal fighting, the court ruled in her favor, saying she had been discriminated against on the basis of gender.
Richards entered the tournament in 1977 and lost in the first round but reached the finals in women’s doubles, according to an interview in GQ. Richards paved the way for trans athletes, and became an advocate for trans rights.
10 Poet & Activist Audre Lorde
A self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” Audre Lorde dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing the injustices of racism, sexism, and homophobia, according to the Poetry Foundation.
"Concerned with modern society’s tendency to categorize groups of people, Lorde fought the marginalization of such categories as 'lesbian' and 'black woman,' thereby empowering her readers to react to the prejudice in their own lives," states the Poetry Foundation. "While the widespread critical acclaim bestowed upon Lorde for dealing with lesbian topics made her a target of those opposed to her radical agenda, she continued, undaunted, to express her individuality, refusing to be silenced."