As Kofi Annan said “When women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life“. So, in honour of International Women’s Day, in honour of women everywhere who have thrived, and continue to do so, I give you 10 Inspiring Women of the last 100 years – one for every decade of the 100+ years that we have celebrated International Women’s Day! These women have navigated unchartered territory, broken glass ceilings, and allowed us all to believe in more.
Disclaimer : Do bear in mind, this was an extremely difficult task to just select 10 women of the last 100 years, as there have been so many inspiring women, worthy of inclusion. The women I have included in this list are just my opinion, and if you feel like shouting at the screen saying “Why is she there or why is she not there?”, then add your comments below, and who knows. maybe we’ll redo this article and make it 100 inspiring women of the last 100 years!
1. 1920s : Coco Chanel
Born 1883, French fashion designer, and founder of Chanel, Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, opened what may be considered an early incarnation of the fashion boutique in 1921, and by 1927, owned 5 properties on the same street in Paris. The fashion house Chanel was born.
For beautiful clothes, iconic handbags, and Chanel No 5 perfume, we salute you!
2. 1930s : Amelia Earhart
Born 1897, Amelia Mary Earhart, was an American aviation pioneer and author. In 1932, she became the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic. She tragically disappeared in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the globe.
For flying in the face of the naysayers, Amelia Earhart, we salute you.
3. 1940s : Mother Teresa
Teresa of Calcutta, better known as Mother Teresa, born in 1910 in Macedonia, was a Roman Catholic nun who spent most of her life in India. In 1946, she started her missionary work, and is famous for founding the Missionaries of Charity, which run hospices for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, mobile clinics, orphanages and schools in 133 countries. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and was beatified in 2003.
For inspiring selflessness and acts of kindness and goodness, we salute you.
4. 1950s : Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks, born 1913, became the “first lady of civil rights”, when in 1955, Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake’s order that she give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled. Her subsequent arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by Martin Kuther King, and was important milestone in the civil rights movements.
For wanting to be free, for standing up to the system, Rosa Parks we salute you.
photo credit: RosaParks.YouthRally.ARChapel.HU.WDC.5December1998 via photopin (license)
5. 1960s : Valentina Tereshokova
Valentina Tereshkova, born in 1937, became the first woman to fly in space on 16 June 1963, orbiting the earth 48 times and spending 3 days in space. The photos she took of the horizon were later used to identify aerosol layers within the atmosphere. It took 19 more years before next woman flew in space.
In 1969 she became an active member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, played a critical role in shaping socialist women’s global agenda for peace, and received many awards, including the Hero of the Soviet Union medal, and the United Nations Gold Medal of Peace.
For going where no woman had gone before, we salute you.
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6. 1970s : Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem, born 1934, is an American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader of, and spokeswoman for, the feminist movement in the late 1960s and 1970s. She co-founded the feminist Ms. magazine, and it’s 300,000 test copies sold out nationwide in 8 days. In 2005, she co-founded the Women’s Media Center, an organization that works “to make women visible and powerful in the media.”
For not being afraid to write and fight for women’s rights, we salute you.
7. 1980s : Anita Roddick
Anita Roddick started The Body Shop in 1976, which went public in 1984. The Body Shop was the pioneer of ethical consumerism, one of the first to ban ingredients tested on animals, and the first to promote fair trade with Third World countries. She was a human rights activist and environmentalist, and in 1990 founded the charity Children on the Edge, which helps disadvantaged children in Asia and Eastern Europe.
For questioning the status quo, and developing a successful ethical business through fair means, we salute you.
8. 1990s : Ann Bancroft
“For me exploration is about that journey to the interior, into your own heart. I am always wondering how will I act at my moment of truth? Will I rise up and do what’s right, even if every fiber of my being is telling me otherwise”
Ann Bancroft, born 1955, is an American author, teacher, and eminent adventurer and explorer. In 1986, she became the first woman to reach the North Pole on foot and by sled, and was also the first woman to cross both polar ice caps to reach the North and South Poles, and to ski across Greenland. In 1993 Bancroft led the first all-female expedition to cross the ice to the South Pole.
For not letting extreme conditions deter her from her mission, we salute you.
9. 2000s : Ellen MacArthur
In 2005, Yachtswoman, Ellen MacArthur, broke the record for the fastest solo person to circumnavigate the globe – not just fastest woman, but the fastest. And thus shattered all notions about men being better in sport. In 2010, she started the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
For having to the courage to go on, and for showing that women can be the best, we salute you.
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10. 2010s : Kathryn Bigelow
Born 1951, Kathryn Bigelow is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. She made Oscar history, in 2010, when she became the first woman to win the academy award for Best Director, with her film The Hurt Locker. She was also the first woman to receive the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing.
For believing in herself, for showing that success is possible no matter what your gender, for great movies, we salute you.
International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day has been observed since in the early 1900’s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. It celebrates women’s achievements and calls for greater equality.
This year’s theme is #MakeitHappen
- Make it Happen for more women in science, engineering and technology
- Make it Happen for fairer recognition of women in sport
- Make it Happen for greater awareness of women’s equality
- Make it Happen for more women in senior leadership roles
- Make it Happen for equal recognition of women in arts
- Make it Happen for growth of women-owned businesses
- Make it Happen for increased financial independence of women
So, who else should be here?! Let us know in the comments below