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International Women’s Day 2019 | Alexander College

Written by Alicia Fontaine in Event on March 8, 2019

“Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once explained, ‘The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about
human rights’” (“International Women’s Day”)

Women’s Role in the Past:

Traditionally, women were viewed as domestic beings.

Their role was in the house; here they cleaned, raised children, cooked, and catered to the husband.

With the men and husbands being the sole breadwinners, women were restricted to menial labor.

As a result, education was not provided for women because it was not needed.

Women did not receive higher education because it was decided that you did not need it to raise a family.

Without education or being a member of the workforce, this gender group were unable to acquire the skills to be actively contributing members of society.

Thus, the stereotype of women being useless, weak, dainty, emotional and dependent on others was created.

Three women looking into distance
Two women sitting on the beach

The Origins and the Movement:

The first International Women’s Day gathering occurred in 1911.

Now, on every March 8, we celebrate women’s achievements in diverse areas, including politics, social, economic, cultural, and religious.

There is no club or organization that supports or funds the day; rather, it is recognized as a day where women and men alike come together to reflect and advocate for gender equality.

Internationally, the color purple symbolizes women, as it has associations with justice and dignity.

Over the years, the day has also included :

  • Green to symbolize Hope
  • White to symbolize Purity

While there is debate over whether to use all three colors to represent women in society, the unity of the colors reflects the unity of women who come together through their greatest strengths and contributions to society.

*excerpt from :


Purple sunset with women's silhouette in foreground
Purple flower representing women justice and dignity

National Firsts of Women:

Some highlights and milestones for Canadian women include:

  • Grace Annie Lockhart being the first woman the first to receive a university degree in Canada in 1875
  • The right to vote in 1917
  • Agnes MacPhail became first woman elected to House of Commons
  • The right to divorce in 1925
  • First woman to participate on Canada’s Olympic team in 1928
  • Canadian women are recognized as persons under the law in 1929

Notable and Accomplished International Women:

Ada Lovelace the first computer programmer
Frida Khalo known for her portraits and self portrait paintings

Below is a list of women who became the first in their field, started a movement, or radicalized our perspective. They represent a range of time periods, are from different countries, and are from varying fields.

Ada Lovelace – English visionary of computing

Daughter of famed poet Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace was gifted in mathematics and considered the first computer programmer

Amelia Earhart – an American aviator

Set aviation records and was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean

Anne Frank – a Jewish victim and author of the Holocaust

Her diary, “Diary of a Young Girl” has been read by millions worldwide, and has been adapted into films and plays

Billie Jean King – American tennis star

American former number 1 professional tennis player; won 39 Grand Slam titles

Catherine the Great – Russian Empress

Empress of Russia from 1762 until 1769, making her the country’s longest-ruling female leader, who came to power following a coup d’état when her husband, Peter III, was overthrown

Celine Dion – French-Canadian singer and entertainer

Regarded as the reigning Queen of Pop, the bilingual singer has sold over 220 million albums worldwide, making her the only artist to sell music in two languages, English and French

Cleopatra – Last Egyptian pharaoh

She was the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt; also a diplomat, naval commander, linguist, and medical author

Coco Chanel – French fashion designer and business woman

The founder and namesake of the Chanel brand, she was responsible in the post-World War I era with liberating women from the constraints of the “corseted silhouette” and popularizing a sporty, casual chic as the feminine standard of style

Dowager Empress Cixi of China – Chinese ruler

Effectively controlled the Chinese government in the late Qing Dynasty for 47 years

Ellen Degeneres – LGBT activist and supporter

Comedian, actress, and LGBT activist who uses her TV talk show as a platform to help those in need

Estee Lauder – American Jewish cosmetics company founder

Created a multinational manufacturer and marketer of prestige skincare, makeup, fragrance, and hair products.

Frida Kahlo – Mexican artist

Painted many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired my Mexican nature and artifacts.

Helen Keller – American author, activist, lecturer

First deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree; was a supporter of women’s suffrage and labor rights

Indira Ghandi – Indian politician, first prime minister

Second-longest serving and only female Prime Minister India has ever had

Jane Austen – English author

Her novels offered commentary and critique on British landed gentry at the of the 18th century and the role of women

Joan of Arc – French martyr and military leader

French heroine for her role in the Hundred Years’ War, canonized as Roman Catholic Saint

Junko Tabei – Japanese mountaineer

First woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, first woman to ascend all Seven Summits by climbing the highest peak of every continent 

Marie Curie – French physicist, chemist

Conducted pioneering research on radioactivity; first woman to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences.

Maryam Mirzakhani – Iranian mathematician

First and only woman to win the Field Medal (Nobel Prize of Math) while teaching at Stanford University

Mother Teresa – Indian philanthropist

The nun who became a saint by dedicating her life to care of the destitute in the slums of Calcutta, India

Rosa parks – African American civil rights activist

Received numerous awards and recognition in the field of civil rights

Sally Ride – American astronaut

She was the youngest astronaut to enter space, and the first woman to enter low orbit, and founded Sally Ride Science

Wangari Maathai – Kenyan environmental activist

Founded the Green Belt Movement, and planted over 51 million trees in Kenya

**Information taken from HERE

Current Status of Women:

Today, women are proving themselves to be the ultimate multi-tasker. They not only hold demanding full-time positions in the workplace, but they also raise their family, volunteer, participate in extra-curricular activities, maintain impeccably
clean households, and showcase physically fit bodies.

While a salary gap between men and women still exists, more women attend post-secondary education and have some of the highest paid occupations across the globe.

In addition, women have gradually moved into arenas formally recognized as male-dominated, such as archaeology, mathematics, engineering, and government.

Woman sticking note on wall in male-dominated workplace
Two women celebrating their roles with fist bump


Why we should celebrate women:

In the last 50 years alone, women have expanded their roles in all fields, increasing their power and authority, and showcasing their skills, talents, and knowledge that is empowering young generations to embrace their gender and use it to
change lives and the future.

We celebrate women for all they do for everyone everyday. They are grandmothers, mothers, stepmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, wives, best friends, mentors, and leaders of tomorrow.


Alicia Fontaine Instructor at Alexander CollegeAuthor: Alicia Fontaine. As a
daughter, mother, sister, wife, educator, and friend, I am a strong advocate for women in all fields they choose to excel in. I think it’s important to showcase the strengths of women to build confidence, collaboration, and community. I think
Alexander College does a tremendous job of acknowledging prominent and effect women; this is evident in the number of women in the school’s administration and leadership roles. Together, men and women can build a brighter future through
education and perseverance for change and equality.

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