Celebrating International Women’s Day


Orla McAndrew reflects on this important day and speaks to other editors and writers about who inspires them

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Image by Tima Miroshnichenko

By Isobel Edwards , Katy Leverett , Amelia Doherty , Orla McAndrew , Heather Gosling and Dhuha Usman

Since 1977 the 8 March has been International Women’s Day. However, the first record of a day celebrating women was in February 1909, when the Socialist Party of America organised a ‘National Women's Day’. Then in March 1911 Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland came together to celebrate the first International Women’s Day. For many years after this there was no set date for International Women’s Day, but many countries celebrated at the end of February or beginning of March across the globe. However, in 1917 Lenin declared the day to be an official holiday of the Soviet Union, which meant those in the West distanced themselves from the day. That was until the 1960s, when second wave feminists rebranded and helped the day re-emerge into what we know it as today.

Each year has a different theme and this year’s theme is Embrace Equity, with a focus on why equal opportunities are not enough. So in the spirit of both equity and equality it felt only right to open up this piece to everyone at Nouse to write about women who inspire and motivate them.

I hope you either find out something new about a person or maybe even a new role model. But, most importantly, I hope you feel inspired and uplifted!

Shonda Rhimes by Orla McAndrew (she/her)

“Now this may be because I am currently very deep in a Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 phase (don’t even mention Lexie Grey to me), but Shonda Rhimes was the first person who popped into my head. The youngest of six children Shonda grew up in Chicago, and at the beginning of her career worked on The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. However, Shonda’s career took off with Grey’s Anatomy which resulted in two spin-off shows and immense popularity. Most recently Shonda has been working with Netflix on the adaptation of the Bridgerton books. Shonda has paved the way for women and particularly women of colour in the world of TV. She has her own production company called Shondaland, which gives her almost full creative control of her programmes. She is a titan of the TV world and an inspiration to any who want to follow in her footsteps.”

Gloria Steinem by Dhuha Usman (she/her)

“Gloria Steinem is one of the most recognised feminist icons, a leader of the second-wave in the 1960s and 70s, and a remarkable journalist. Most notably, Steinem co-founded Ms Magazine in 1971 to exhibit issues women faced at the time and celebrated achievements in the political movement, whilst providing a voice for many who were not heard at the time. I look up to Steinem immensely, in my feminist morals and my career aspirations, she continues fighting for our rights at almost 90 years old. Her work began in the States but her impact left these borders and reaches many globally.”

Marsha P. Johnson, by Heather Gosling (she/her)

“A trans-woman, self-identified drag queen and activist, Marsha P. Johnson was a prominent figure in the LGBTQ+ movement. Her work advocating for the rights of LGBTQ+ homeless youth, and supporting people affected by HIV and AIDS was significant. Marsha P. Johnson also played a pivotal role in the Stonewall Riots of 1969, a series of riots in response to the police raid of Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village where the police arrested several patrons of the bar, mostly members of the LGBTQ+ community. Many eyewitness accounts identified Marsha as acting on the frontlines of the uprising. Her activism helped to galvanise the gay liberation movement.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie by Heather Gosling (she/her)

“Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian author of several novels, short stories and nonfiction. Her TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story” has been viewed by over 33 million people. In the talk, Adichie expresses concern for the danger that lies in being unaware of cultural differences; we should never have a “single story” of a culture, community or peoples. Adichie’s essay "We should all be Feminists” was adapted from a TEDx talk in which Adichie gives her insight into Feminism, expressing how society marginalises women and drawing on her own experiences to explain why the gender divide is harmful.”

Malala Yousafzai, by Katy Leverett (she/her):

“Since reading her autobiography when I was the same age as Malala was when she survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban in occupied Pakistan for campaigning for women’s education, I have found her story incredibly important and inspiring. Malala fought for something that was being taken away in spite of the serious threat which must have been (and still is) terrifying – that takes an incredible amount of courage, and is something I can only aspire to! Malala still continues to campaign for women’s education. She founded the Malala Fund which works toward achieving education for all women. Malala’s important work is very inspiring and shows the significance of fighting for something you believe in.”

Rachel Ruysch, by Meely Doherty:

“It's hard to choose one inspirational woman, since so many have had a positive impact on my life, but one woman who inspires me (though we are 300 years apart) is Rachel Ruysch, a painter from the Dutch Golden Age. She was the apprentice to William van Aelst and her career would last six decades. She was also the first female member of the Confrerie Pictura and the court painter to the Elector Palatine from 1708-1716. She was so successful her paintings were sold for as high as 1200 guineas during her lifetime (a Rembrandt rarely received more than 500!)”

Ana Mendieta, by Izzy Edwards:

“‘Through my earth/body sculptures I become one with the earth.’ This is how Ana Mendieta describes her 1973–78 series of images ‘Siluetas’. Her most iconic works, these haunting photographs captured the body of the artist within impressions on earth; prints in blood; flowers seeming to grow out of her shape. Her oeuvre is entrenched in her intersectional identities as a woman, a Cuban immigrant. Her legacy is touched by her early death under suspicious circumstances and has inspired feminist protests in the art world. Mendieta, like her sculptures, seems to have been all too ephemeral, nevertheless her effects are palpable – a silhouette of a body in the sand.”

“We all know the phrase ‘here’s to strong women: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them’, and although it is slightly cheesy it is utterly true. Leonoroa Cohen, a Suffragette from Leeds was known as the Tower Suffragette because she smashed a display case in the Tower of London. She also acted as bodyguard to Emmeline Pankhurst. One day at a protest in Leeds, she was almost arrested. I say almost because a young woman called Stella Higginson knocked the policeman's hat off his head, allowing Leonoroa to escape. Stella then grew up to become Stella Senior and my great great grandma, who for most of her life tried to set up unions at her places of work (and sometimes got fired for it). However, that story (and many of her other antics), have been passed down in my family, as a reminder that we come from a line of strong women who consistently fought for what they believed in.”

So as cheesy as it may seem, it’s always important to remember the women who have inspired us and the reasons that they do so. To keep that fire alive and give you the strength to keep going even when it feels impossible. This is why International Women’s Day is so important, and why we should all spend time this year on the 8 March celebrating the women who inspire us.