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As I realized International Women’s Day was nearing, it dawned on me that I was not exactly sure of where this all began. So I started to do a little digging because if I was pondering this I figured it may have crossed the minds of others as well. Amusingly enough it all started from a labor movement for women in New York City.

Theresa Malkiel, a Russian born female factory worker, saw the injustice in how working women were treated. Unhappy and committed to change, this American labor activist became an integral part of the movement for equality. 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote in February of 1909 with Malkiel supporting them alongside. She founded National Woman’s Day, creating the catalyst for women’s rights to follow.

In the following year in Copenhagen at the International Conference for Working Woman, Clara Zetkin, a German activist and advocate for women’s rights, introduced the idea for an International Woman’s Day. With 100 women convening from over 17 countries they unanimously agreed to commemorate this day to represent women globally. This led to the first celebrated International Woman’s Day, which was observed in Denmark, Austria, Switzerland and Germany and was then made official in 1977 when the United Nations proclaimed March 8th as the day to celebrate.

Over centuries of struggling for parity and justice, International Women’s day now represents a combined union of experiences throughout the world for women. This day has become a date to honor how far women have come in society, in politics and in economics. It has also become a day to raise awareness and help nations worldwide eliminate discrimination against women. Focusing on helping all women gain full and equal participation in global development, it has played a significant role in educating and unifying.

I recall in elementary school for Women’s History month, I did a book report on Elizabeth Blackwell. I was enamored by her tenacious personality. One of the first women to earn a medical degree in the United States, she ultimately went on to open her own medical college for women to pave the road for others. Not only did I admire what she did, it had motivated me to be ambitious and not always follow the grain. My identity does not only lie in my gender. I was always inspired by these women and their ability to take a stand and unite others. It is women like Blackwell, Malkiel and Zetkin that set the tone for others to follow.

For me, International Woman’s Day helps me realize how far we have come and although the inequality still exists today it is also a day that I take pride in. These women have broken barriers that have led to many advances. Without those who have struggled for us we would not be able to be where we are today, nor would it have opened our eyes to the injustices that have taken place. That is why it is so important for us to uplift each other and lend support, because generations from now this is what sets the stage for other women. I leave you with this quote as it speaks volumes in such few words.

“If society will not admit of woman’s free development, then society must be remodeled.”

- Elizabeth Blackwell

Wishing everyone a happy International Women’s Day. Let’s celebrate the monumental achievements of women, while forging towards a more gender-balanced world.

Love + Light,

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