Wisdom Behind Women’s Day
March 8th is International Women’s Day. When I remembered the significance of the day I immediately started searching the internet for Gloria Steinem, Eleanor Roosevelt, Toni Morrison, and other inspirational women that give meaning to the day. I was ecstatic. I Googled away. I found great and inspirational quotes. I re-read stories of accomplishments all of these great women had made and things they had said that inspired others.
I Googled ‘women who have changed the world’ and read about Cleopatra, who was the Queen of Egypt at 18 and the last Pharaoh; who spoke nine languages and during her reign brought together Egypt and the Roman Empire in a way that those before her had not been able to do. I read about Sojourner Truth, who fervently fought for the abolishment of slavery and women’s rights, and spent her years after the Civil War educating and helping former slaves transition into lives of freedom. I read about Grace Hopper, who invented one of the first easy-to-use computer languages and propelled herself into a field that had yet to see much work by women. And I read about Eleanor Roosevelt, who approached a newly elected President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s with a list of women that were qualified to be in his administration, demanding that he give women a chance, thus inspiring the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. I read about so many women. And when I tired of reading, I watched videos, looked at pictures, and imagined epic quotes coming out of these amazing women.
I researched and researched, barely remembering to take a breath away from all of the amazing information I had found. I had always been proud of the women of the past, but I didn’t completely understand the gravity or the impact they had on us now. I had always looked at the history of women as just that—the history. When I finally took a breath, it was one of inspiration. I thought about the time I had spent researching, and what it had done to me. I wondered what it all meant. I wondered what I was supposed to do with all of it and I wondered how my research could be any different than anyone else before me. I wondered what twist I could take on these great achievements and then I remembered that I wasn’t writing a research project. I was being inspired by change agents. These women weren’t just historical figures, icons, authors, inventors, activists, etc., they were change agents. They were women who not only changed the world, but inspired others to do so, too. They started change movements that we get inspired to become a part of.
I wondered why we are always so inclined to research and admire the past, when we should be breathing it in and letting it change us; breathing it in and using it to change the world. We’re reminded that there have been female trailblazers, but taught that those trailblazers were one in a million. It’s great to admire the past and learn from the women who have changed our present, but what now? What about us? What about our future? There are still women around the world getting abused and beaten for having ideas, girls denied the right to go to school, and women being denied equal pay in the workforce for doing the same jobs as men. We have come far, but there are still miles left to go. There are still stories to be written, strides to be made, change agents to do their part. International Women’s Day isn’t a memoriam; it’s a celebration, a reminder, and an encouragement.
Every year, the United Nations declares a theme for International Women’s Day. This year, the theme is ‘Inspiring Change’, which I think couldn’t carry a greater message. Maya Angelou once said that “people may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Years from now we may not remember the distance Amelia Earhart flew, or the years of service put in by Mother Theresa, but we will remember that reading their stories of bravery, courage, and resilience made us feel like invincible women.They made us realize that we all have a reservoir of potential, waiting to be utilized. Inspiring change is all about using your potential. Inspiring change is about changing your own life and the lives of all of those around you. Inspiring change is exactly what all of the historic women of the past have done. All of the women that I had researched were change agents. They changed themselves and they changed people. They changed the world. The women of history began to come together into this giant change agent inspiration that I wanted to be a part of.
Gloria Steinem, historic women’s rights activist, author, and change agent, said this about the women’s rights movement:
“This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible differences have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labor in which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.”
She talked about change in a way that really speaks of both the gravity and the attainability. She speaks of change like a change agent. To her, and to all of the women I researched, change was something they not only felt within themselves, but also something they encouraged others to feel, too. They were part of a women’s movement that isn’t stopping because they refused to stand still, and we are, too. That’s what change agents do–they keep the ball rolling.
It finally came to me. International Women’s Day is not about finding an influential woman to quote. It’s not about citing research that shows how much women impact our world. It’s being able to write this blog. It’s about Google searching ‘women’ and getting back the most inspirational and moving results the internet has to offer. It’s about having an endless amount of search results. It’s about us. It’s about so much bigger than us. It’s about being a change agent. It’s being able to intern at the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio. International Women’s Day shouldn’t make us read statistics and try to be inspired, because we should be doing that every day. International Women’s Day is a day of homage, respect, and inspiration. It’s a day to breathe. It’s a day to thank the women in your life. It’s a day to live your life.
As you celebrate today, you may take a moment to stop and think about the strides we have made. You may take a moment to stop and think about where you would like to be. You may take a moment to stop and say thanks. Most of all though, take a moment to be you. In the words of Janis Joplin- “Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.”
Everyday we are called to be the strong, independent, and fierce women that we are. We are called to be ourselves. We throw off the bowlines, honoring the women who came before us, and paving pathways for those who are yet to come. We inspire change, within ourselves in within others. We are change agents.
Tomorrow, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us keep in mind the places we have come from, and the places where we aspire to be.
Written by Brittany Teal, Women’s Fund Intern