March 8th 1911: International Women’s Day launched
On this day in 1911, International Women’s Day was launched in Copenhagen by Clara Zetkin. Zetkin, a German socialist activist, led the Women’s Office of the Social Democratic Party. The official commemoration of the day began in an attempt to draw attention to the struggle for female suffrage and women’s rights. Activists organised demonstrations and protests for March 8th in order to have more far-reaching impact. Initially only celebrated in Europe, it soon became a global phenomenon, spreading to Russia, Australia and the United States. Ever since 1996, the UN has established official themes for International Day; this year’s theme is 'Inspiring Change'.
October 23rd 1915: Suffrage parade
On this day in 1915, over 25,000 women marched on Fifth Avenue in New York City. They were advocating female suffrage and women’s rights in America. The campaign for female suffrage culminated in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1920 which ensured the right to vote shall not be denied on account of sex. Notable figures in the female suffrage movement in America include Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
June 18th 1873: Susan B. Anthony fined
On this day in 1873, Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for trying to vote in the 1872 presidential election. Anthony was a famous advocate of women’s rights and female suffrage and co-founded the first Women’s Temperance Movement. She was arrested and eventually fined after trying to vote in the election, despite her argument that she was protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Anthony used the publicity to raise awareness of women’s rights and traveled the United States and Europe spreading her message of equality.
April 5th 1887: Helen Keller makes her ‘miracle’ breakthrough
On this day in 1887 the deaf-blind Helen Keller aged 7 recognised the word ‘water’. Keller was left deaf and blind from an illness when she was 19 months old. Her parents sought someone to educate her, going to notable figures like Alexander Graham Bell, and eventually settling with the young Anne Sullivan (‘The Miracle Worker’) in 1887. Sullivan taught Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, but at first Helen could not understand that every object had a name. Her breakthrough on April 5th was when she realised that Sullivan spelling ‘w-a-t-e-r’ into her hand and the sensation of running water on her other hand symbolised ‘water’. From then on Helen was a fast learner, leaning 30 new words that day and going on to learn to write and speak so, by aged 16, she could attend school. Keller became the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and went on to campaign for leftist causes, female suffrage and pacifism. She campaigned around the world and was highly respected and honoured as a symbol of hope and courage.
She later wrote of her ‘miracle’ of April 5th:
"Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten–a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me…That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away”
November 5th 1872: Susan B. Anthony votes
On this day in 1872, the female suffrage advocate Susan B. Anthony broke the law by voting in the 1872 presidential election. Anthony was a famous advocate of women’s rights and female suffrage and co-founded the first Women’s Temperance Movement. She was arrested on June 18th the following year and eventually fined $100 after trying to vote in the election, despite her argument that she was protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Anthony used the publicity to raise awareness of women’s rights and traveled the United States and Europe spreading her message of equality.
June 23rd 1972: Title IX
On this day in 1972, Title IX became effective when President Richard Nixon signed it into law. The provision prohibits sexual discrimination in education programmes which receive funding from the federal government. The amendment was authored and introduced by Senator Birch Bayh (D-IN) and was part of the 1972 Education Amendments.
"It is…an important first step in the effort to provide for the women of America something that is rightfully theirs - an equal chance to attend the schools of their choice, to develop the skills they want, and to apply those skills with the knowledge that they will have a fair chance to secure the jobs of their choice with equal pay for equal work"
- Bayh’s remarks on the Senate floor
June 4th 1913: Suffragette dies at Epsom Derby
On this day in 1913, suffragette Emily Wilding Davison ran out in front of King George V’s horse Anmer at the Epsom Derby. She was trampled by the horse and died a few days later. Davison had spent years violently campaigning for women’s rights and female suffrage, being subjected to force feeding whilst on a hunger strike in prison. At the Derby, she appears to have been attempting to attach a suffragette flag to the King’s horse. Some believed she had been aiming to commit suicide and become a martyr, but the fact she had purchased a return rail ticket that day could suggest otherwise. Her motivations are still unclear today. However, her injuries from the incident led to her death on 8th June. Herbert Jones, the jockey on the horse was “haunted by that woman’s face” for many years and committed suicide in 1951.
"Deeds not words"
- Suffragette slogan on her gravestone