Helen Keller To Rosa Parks: Six Women Who Shaped The World For Women’s History Month
From healthcare and education to politics and human rights, the world would be a very different place today if weren’t for a number of iconic women who changed history for the better.
And yet decades – and even centuries – later, we’re yet to arrive at a place of true equality between genders.
It’s for exactly this reason that it’s so important to celebrate Women’s History Month – a month dedicated to highlighting the contributions of women in events that shaped history and the world we live in today.
Today, March 1, to mark the first day of Women’s History Month, we’re remembering the iconic women who changed the world for the better.
Mary Seacole (1805 – 1881)
Here in the UK, we’re renowned for having one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but it hasn’t always been that way, and one of the many women who played a pivotal role in forming the way we approach healthcare, Mary Seacole.
Seacole is widely regarded as the first nurse practitioner in Britain, having used her experience as a doctress and healer in Jamaica to set up a ‘British Hotel’ caring for soldiers injured in the Crimean War.
Being mixed race in the UK – her mother was from Kingston, Jamaica, and her father was a Scottish soldier – Seacole had very few civil rights during her lifetime, but even faced with such adversity, she used her knowledge and skills to become a heroine of the Crimean War and paved the way for medical care as we know it today.
Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910)
Continuing with the theme of healthcare, by far the most well-known female influence is that of Florence Nightingale, who became the face of modern nursing in Britain during the Victorian era. Like Seacole, Nightingale rose to prominence in the Crimean War, when she was known as ‘the lady with the lamp’, caring for wounded soldiers at night.
However, it was following her efforts in the war that she became a pioneer for modern nursing by setting up her very own nursing school – the first secular nursing school in the world – at St Thomas’s Hospital in London.
Elsewhere, she wrote and published an array of books detailing her medical knowledge in simple English, so they could be passed on and understood by even those who struggled to read.
Emmeline Pankhurst (1858 – 1928)
When it comes to political change, there’s arguably no one more well known for their contributions than Emmeline Pankhurst, who founded the Women’s Social and Political Union.
From the age of 14 when she first described herself as ‘a conscious and confirmed suffragist’, Pankhurst dedicated her life to gaining the women’s right to vote.
She was arrested seven times as a result of her organisation’s militant tactics; one of which included delivering leaflets instructing supporters to storm parliament. After a lifetime of dedication, women finally received equal suffrage in 1928, the very same year Pankhurst passed away.
Helen Keller (1880 – 1968)
Helen Keller is someone whose name has most recently been associated with a number of harmful conspiracy theories, which aim to diminish her incredible achievements. Contrary to recent theories, Keller lived a long and fruitful life, even after losing her sight and hearing at the tender age of just 19 months.
Defying the odds against her, Keller learned to read and write and later attended Harvard University, where she became the first deafblind person to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Keller travelled the world representing the American Foundation for the Blind, before writing 14 books and becoming a global campaigner for women’s suffrage, people with disabilities and world peace.
Amelia Earhart (1897 – 1937)
When it comes to female aviation, there’s only one name that comes to mind: Amelia Earhart.
Not only was she the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Earhart was a key player in setting up The Ninety-Nines; an organisation that supports and provides opportunities for female pilots.
Sadly, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan went missing somewhere over the Pacific Ocean during a round-the-world flight in 1937. Her powerful legacy, however, lives on in the world of aviation to this very day.
Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005)
Rosa Parks is best known for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in 1955; an action that led to becoming the face of a civil rights movement that helped bring an end of segregation between Black and white people on public transport.
At the time, Parks faced much hardship for her decision, including losing her job and facing death threats.
It wasn’t until after her retirement decades later, however, when she began writing about her own struggles as a Black woman in America and the fight for racial equality, that she was honoured for her contribution in the civil rights movement.
These are just six of the millions of women and girls who have positively shaped the world we live in today, not just for women or marginalised groups of society, but for everyone.
That’s why we celebrate Women’s History Month.
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