In honor of Thursday, March 8 being International Women’s Day, it is the perfect time to honor some of the women who have made history and shattered ceilings or continue to pioneer their positions in order to open new opportunities for females. While our positions may have been limited not so long ago — and continue to be in many other parts of the world — let’s celebrate the women who despite the odds got ahead.
Website Catalyst lists the women CEOs from the January 2017 S&P 500 list, stating that women currently hold 26 (5.2 percent) of these positions. While this number is disappointing overall, women are on the rise. The surge of female power in the last century alone has been incredible, and it has allowed for women to be CEOs of companies such as General Motors, Nasdaq, Stapes, Campbell Soup and Duke Energy Corp., among others.
All around the world, women are running nations. Lithuania is headed by President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Chile by President Michelle Bachelet and Croatia by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. Women have held presidential positions in a host of other countries, including Liberia, Iceland, Costa Rica, Finland, Mauritius, Malta, Ireland, Estonia, Brazil, Philippines, South Korea, Marshall Islands, Indonesia, Guyana, Kyrgyzstan, and many, many other places. This doesn’t even take into account all the women who hold high ranking leadership positions — such as Angela Merkel, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Nancy Pelosi. And let’s not forget that a female candidate won the popular vote at our last election, proving that the American public is ready to embrace a female leader.
Let’s take a moment to look back and reflect on some of the many great women who have made history. Susan B. Anthony, who was honored at one point with being on a special dollar coin, pioneered the women’s suffrage movement, residing as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. This crusader helped pave the way for the 19th Amendment of the Constitution. Suffragist Alice Paul also made enormous strides for women’s rights in the United States, fighting for the amendment to allow women the right to vote. Modern day activist Malala Yousafzai took a bullet to the head as she fought for her right to an education. Yousafzai has been named one of the most influential young people in the work and earned herself the title of youngest Nobel Prize laureate for her activism work pertaining to female education.
Who are other women who refused to let the imposed limitations of their sex restrict them? Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell earned herself the distinction of the first women to receive her medical degree in the U.S., as well as the first woman to belong to the Medical Register of the General Medical Council. Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, as well as the only perfect to win it twice and in two different sciences. This enormously-talented scientist pioneered research on radioactivity. Harvard educated Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf earned herself the distinction of the first female head of state in Africa, serving as the 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. Meanwhile, Wangari Muta Maathai earned a name for herself as a world renowned Kenyan environmental and political activist who won the Nobel laureate.
To find extraordinary women who have changed the course of history, we need not look outside of the state. Houston-born Barbara Jordan became the first black woman to be elected to the Texas State Senate in 1966, also earning the titles of first black woman to represent Texas in the U.S. House of Representative and the the first black woman buried in the Texas State Cemetery. San Antonio’s Emma Tenayuca organized workers unions at a young age, lobbying for improved labor rights and organizing nonviolent protests for migrant workers. Clara Driscoll and Adina De Zavala teamed up to protect key historical sites and artifacts in Texas, preserving crucial Texas sites that would have otherwise been erased. Driscoll was dubbed “The Savior of the Alamo” for her work in preventing the destruction of the famous landmark.
Do you know of any incredible women? It could be a mother, sister, daughter, wife, girlfriend, friend. Maybe she did something extraordinary. Maybe she just influences and impacts your life. Either way, take the chance to let her know of the impact she has had. We are lucky to be in a world, a county, a state full of so many inspirational ladies.
Emma Polini is the managing editor of the Van Alstyne Leader, Anna-Melissa Tribune and Prosper Press. What do you want in your paper? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to let her know.