International Women's Day
Courage calls to courage everywhere
By Alice Shelley
A few weeks ago, March the 8th, it was International Women's Day. Many see this day as a celebration of the achievements of women, but I see it as a remembrance. A remembrance of the flawless women who devoted their lives to a cause that shouldn’t have even been there in the first place. A cause that is often forgotten about and classed as petty moaning. A cause that still affects so many females today. I have chosen three female fighters to focus the article on. Three among the thousands.
‘Courage calls to courage everywhere and its voice cannot be denied.’ Milicent Garret Fawcett spoke these inspirational words whilst mourning her dear friend and close colleague, the martyr that was Emily Wilding Davison.
Milicent’s potent bravery was received by many listening ears, encouraging them to step forward and join the tireless fight for equality.
Milicent Garret Fawcett was one among the many influential leaders who strove for equality in their age. Milicent knew the world was ravenous for change and she brought it upon herself to be a catalyst for this change.
Women’s Rights were a subject often neglected in parliament and one that needed to be discussed. Milicent became a suffragist (a campaigner for women’s right to vote who believed in peaceful and constitutional ways of protest) and devoted her life to women’s right to vote. Furthermore, leading the cause in 1897. Milicent constantly wrote about and spoke about girls' education, women in politics and, importantly, the right to vote. Many say she was one of the first significant representatives of the suffrage movement.
With newer and successful suffragette/ist names in our minds (Emmeline Christabel Sylvia Pankhurst, or Princess Sophia Duleep Singh) Milicent’s early brainchild and founding have often been lost in the woven net of other fantastic women. Do not let her legacy be forgotten.
Nancy Astor was a woman who certainly displayed her courage, stepping up to be the first woman with a seat in the houses of Parliament. Nancy had a goal and (unlike other women of the era) she strove to reach it, not letting a miniscule thing like gender get in the way.
As well as being an idol for women, she was a wonder to look up to for our home city, Plymouth. Nancy Astor represented Plymouth as she sat in Parliament. She was just one of the many famous heroes that Plymouth’s history has produced.
Technically, Nancy Astor won the seat of Plymouth Sutton for the conservative party in 1919. Stepping down a good 26 years later in 1945, the year that the second world war finished.
Nancy Astor’s seat winning gave strength to women across the nation. Most of which were housewives and had not known anything other than the laundry room. The others, however, were suffragettes and welcomed Nancy Astor’s triumph with celebrations. They felt that their suffering had been worth it.
Nancy Astor was (and still is) a role model and remains one of Plymouth’s biggest successes today.
Malala Yousafzai is a walking definition of courage. Malala is known by the world for her bravery. Many people know about the shooting as it was a lot more modern than the two other women that I have written about, but few would know of her fights and battles beforehand.
Malala Yousafzai has been a campaigner for girls’ education since she was a little child. She grew up in Pakistan, the Swat Valley, a place where women have very few rights. A place where jobs are very much gender-stereotyped and a place where males were favoured.
However, Malala’s father didn’t believe in any gender bias. He saw potential in his daughter and (unlike other fathers) didn’t hold her back. Together they campaigned for women’s rights.
When the Taliban took control of her home, Malala and her father were advised to cease their campaign, but Malala knew that was not an option. Due to her ongoing movement, a Talib shooter attempted to shoot Malala and succeeded, leaving her knocking on death's door. Though, fate was on her side and with numerous doctors and their lifesaving support she pulled through.
To this day, Malala Yousafzia and her father are still campaigning for every girl to have the same opportunities as boys through their education. Also, to this day, girls from the same places as Malala cannot go to school due to the inequality of the Taliban.
As Malala said, ‘one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.’ What if that child was a girl?
Just like Ziauddin Yousafzai (Malala’s father) there are lots of males who have changed history for women, like the countless male suffragettes. Throughout history, men have been the people in power so without men’s support, women can never reach the dream of equality.
There is a lot of ignorance surrounding the topic of women’s rights from people who it might not affect, but we need to remember that it does affect many women today in lots of ways. Let's not fall down the ladder but climb up it because when we get to the top, it will be worth the hundreds of years of suffering.
If you think that today’s world is an equal one, then you need to open your eyes and look again. Consider the suffering and poverty. Consider the racism and sexism. Consider slavery and wars. Think again.
Listen to the voice of courage.