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International Women’s Day: March 8,2021

By Emmy McKirgan

As a woman, this topic is near and dear to my heart. The hardest part is to narrow down which amazing women to talk about, as there are so many! So many women have made huge leaps in the fight against inequality, gender gap issues, and rights and freedoms. They have brought awareness to social issues and made progress in their specific fields.

Some of the names that have become famous and we will examine are Maya Angelou, Anne Frank, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Florence Nightingale to name a few. Each of these women excelled in their given field and contributions to changing the future. Making it a little brighter for each little girl growing up.

A little girl with a big hardship…

Maya Angelou had a difficult experience in childhood. She was sexually assaulted by a male at the age of 8. After she testified against him, he went to prison but was released and later found dead. She stopped speaking after that as she felt her voice had killed a man. For almost five years, she spoke to no one but her beloved brother, Bailey. Can you imagine being able to be so determined to not speak for 5 years because of your great condemnation, the trauma of thinking she was able to take a human life?

She went on to overcome this difficult event in her life, it propelled her to excel in many areas. She had a long list of accomplishments: poet, writer, dancer, composer, actress. Most famous for her writing and her poetry, she is also credited with a list of plays, movies and shows. Along with being the first black director.

Even though she never went to college she was accredited with dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. Quite an accomplishment for a young black girl growing up overcoming rape. Read more in her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Another amazing woman…

Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany. She lived near Amsterdam after her family moved there when she was four years old to get away from the Germans. The family became trapped in Amsterdam as the persecution grew towards Jews in 1942. The whole family went into hiding in concealed rooms in a building her father, Otto, worked at. Anne kept a diary of the time they spent hiding until the family was arrested in August 1944. The diary was a birthday present that she treasured dearly and wrote in it often. Following their arrest, the Franks were transported to concentration camps. Anne and her sister were transferred from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. They died months later. The exact date of their death is disputed by different authorities.

Anne’s father was the only survivor of the Frank family. He returned to Amsterdam after the war to find that her diary had been saved by his secretary. Now, all these years later we can still read and remember the suffering and atrocities that occurred during the war, especially against people of Jewish descent. Her story is an amazing testament to perseverance and finding beauty amidst the pain. It was published in 1947. It was first published in English in 1952 as The Diary of a Young Girl and has since been translated into over 70 languages.

I  keep my ideals because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.

I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.

Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.

The legal powerhouse…

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or better know as, RBG to her fans. She had quite a following. She also had to overcome obstacles, namely her mother dying when she was still in high school. She then married her husband and had their first baby. She was one of the few women in her class at Harvard, more specifically she was one of only 9 women in a class of about 500 men. She was the first Jewish woman and the second woman to serve on the Court. Her husband fully supported her learning and continuing with law school, which was quite a big deal during an era where motherhood and staying home to raise children was largely promoted. She was an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights during her legal career. In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and in 1973, she became the Project’s general counsel. The pretty amazing lady leading the way in law. Learn more about Ruth Ginsburg here.

So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.

The last lady .. drum roll, please.

Florence Nightingale. Her story is not remarkable in the beginning; she grew up in a stable home, more affluent than most, perhaps. She was a quick learner and her father took particular interest in her education. She excelled in math and languages and was able to read and write in several languages including French, German, Italian, Greek and Latin. Unlike the other girls her age who wanted to be mothers and homemakers with traditional skills, Florence preferred to read about philosophers. She could debate for hours with her father regarding social and political matters.

She made her mark, when she enrolled in nursing training, much to the chagrin of her family. At that time being a nurse was a lowly position. At the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses at Kaiserswerth, she learned basic nursing skills, the importance of patient observation, and the value of good hospital organization. As she began to work she realized that her services would be more valuable in an institution that would allow her to train nurses. She considered becoming the superintendent of nurses at King’s College Hospital in London. Unfortunately, the Crimean War began during this time and she was pushed politically, rather than vocationally. Regardless of how difficult this time was she thrived and found her calling.

The conditions in the hospitals for the wounded soldiers were deplorable; lacking sanitation, teaming with rodents and bugs, and the soldiers laid in their excrement. She organized the less infirm patients to help with the cleanup of the hospital, literally scrubbing it from top to bottom. She was also known as the “Lady with the Lamp” as she made rounds during the night to take care of the infirm and see to their basic needs. Her work in improving conditions reduced the death rate by two-thirds. Her compassion, practical nature and motivation changed nursing for future generations. Many of her implementations are used today. Learn more about Florence Nightingale here.

Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better.

Doing this research was eye-opening. It brought to the forefront, these women and so many more that deserve credit for their contributions to enhancing the lives of women and more widely humanity around the globe. Learning the stories of these women has been an encouragement to me – that we can overcome great obstacles with compassion, fortitude and a genuine desire to see other succeed. The Encyclopedia Womannica has podcasts about these amazing women. You can listen to a different episode daily and still not get through them all. There are over 500 episodes. This makes me excited as a woman; to be able to celebrate the ingenuity, perseverance and advancements these women had on so many others. The best part is their stories are being shared with the current generation to inspire, motivate and perhaps to reveal new revolutionaries in the women around you.

Thanks for reading!

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Let’s stay in touch.

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing
the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
~ Romans 10:17

Let’s stay in touch.

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing
the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
~ Romans 10:17

What did you think? Do you agree or disagree with the ideas presented above?