While this day, International Women’s Day, is a day to remember and acknowledge the social, economic, cultural and political, achievements of women, both current and historical, I find it incredulous that as women, we still have to focus on this message.
Started in 1909, as “National Women’s Day,” during the suffrage movement, then adopted by the United Nations in 1975, it seems women still need to stand up to be acknowledged for equality and achievements over a hundred years later.
As a young girl growing up in Great Britain I was inspired only by women, in fact, five women, all prevalent during the mid-80s; strong, courageous and larger than life: Margaret Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth II, Mother Teresa, Princess Diana and Madonna.
Mrs Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth II, ruled England, and I was in awe of them both, inspired every day that feminism was an old term no longer needed and that women had already fought and won the battle for equality. I have two favourite quotes from Mrs Thatcher that I remind myself on occasion, both summarise the integrity of her character, “I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my way in the end,” and “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”
All five women were heavily publicised in that era, and they shaped my sensibility that it was possible to be loving and caring, to be philanthropic, yet to remain bossy, relentless and demanding—combined they empowered me.
For Princess Diana, no truer word was spoken, “I’d like to be a queen in people’s hearts, but I don’t see myself being the queen of this country.” Known as the Queen of Hearts, Diana’s actions and words impacted people’s behaviour, “HIV does not make people dangerous to know, so you can shake their hands and give them a hug: Heaven knows they need it.” By removing the naive stigma that surrounded this disease in the 80s, Diana changed the cultural mindset of the world in regards to HIV/Aids patients.
And it seemed nightly, that the BBC news reported on the tireless humanitarian work by the devoted nun, Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, and was declared a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in 2016. Her words still stand true today, “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.”
Always pushing boundaries, the Queen of Pop, Madonna Ciccone, influenced every teenage girl in the 80s and 90s, “If I can’t be daring in my work or the way I live my life, then I don’t see the point of being on this planet.” Madonna allowed women to be sexy and to not feel ashamed of sexuality.
In honour of International Women’s Day, I have included these empowering quotes, and I thank these five tenacious women, who inspired me and who instilled a sense of goodness, strength, leadership, and integrity with a little bit of badass into my young disposition.