A Feminist a Day: Emmeline Pankhurst

pankhurstWho was she?

Emmeline Pankhurst is probably the most famous British suffragette. She founded the Women’s Social and Political Union – this was a really militant group, who smashed windows, went on hunger strikes and one of their members was killed when she threw herself under a horse at the races as a protest. They were all about “deeds, not words”. Right on.

Why should we thank her?

Women all over the world (but particularly in the UK) really owe their right to vote to Pankhurst and her supporters.

emmeline_pankhurst_arrested

Best quote

“I would rather be a rebel than a slave”.

Fun fact

Pankhurst was played by the immortal Meryl Streep in the movie, Suffragette.

A Feminist a Day: Emmeline Pankhurst

A Feminist a Day: Susan Ryan

Who is she?

Susan RyanSusan Ryan has been Australia’s Age Discrimination Commissioner since 2011, but before that she was a Minister in the Hawke Labor Government, including as the inaugural Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women.

Susan initiated the Bill that became the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 – the law that made it illegal in Australia for employers to refuse jobs to women based on their gender. Today it protects women against discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status, pregnancy, or to dismiss you from a job because of your family responsibilities. It also protects you from sexual harassment in the workplace.

She was also crucial to the introduction of the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986, which required some employers to implement affirmative action policies.

Why should we thank her?

We can’t imagine a time when jobs were advertised for women only, or men only. Or that women were flat-out refused a job because they were a woman. But it wasn’t all that long ago.

Susan played a crucial role in the laws that protect us every day and enable women to be at least on a legal level playing field in the workforce (the reality is still a different matter, unfortunately).  What a legend.

 

 

 

A Feminist a Day: Susan Ryan

A Feminist a Day: Betty Friedan

Who is she?

Betty FriedanBetty Friedan was an American writer, feminist and activist whose 1963 book The Feminine Mystique is credited with launching the second wave of feminism worldwide.

She also co-founded and was the first president of the highly influential National Organisation of Women (NOW). In 1970, Betty organised the Women’s Strike for Equality which saw 50,000 women in New York alone and made headlines around the world.

The Feminine Mystique coined the phrase “the problem that has no name” – essentially, a generation of educated women who felt stifled by their homemaker role and inability to have careers like men. The book helped to ignite the women’s movement in the 1960s and 70s, which saw huge leaps in new freedoms and achievements in women’s rights.

Why should we thank her?

NOW is arguably the most powerful and influential force in women’s rights in the US, and its activism has helped millions of women.

The Feminine Mystique lit a fire under a generation of women, creating the wave of feminism that gave us Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem and many other powerful voices.

Betty really did change the world by asserting that women were as capable as men for any work or any career path. A revolutionary idea at the time.

Best quote

“The feminine mystique has succeeded in burying millions of American women alive.”

A Feminist a Day: Betty Friedan

A Feminist a Day: Naomi Wolf

Who is she?

Naomi WolfNaomi Wolf is a writer and former political adviser best known for her seminal book, The Beauty Myth, the most famous work of the “third wave” of feminism.

Published in 1991, The Beauty Myth is widely regarded as the most influential feminist work since Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. In a nutshell, it asserts that despite the gains women have made in society, we still have to adhere to a prescribed concept of beauty – and that ultimately keeps us oppressed. Or as Naomi says, that beauty is the “last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact”.

The book was an international bestseller and with good reason – it spoke to a generation of women who had made progress in so many ways, and yet were still under the thumb of the ole patriarchy. Think dieting, skincare, fashion, plastic surgery, women’s magazines, eating disorders. There are a lot of powerful industries who have a vested interest in women feeling ugly all the time.

Why should we thank her?

Naomi kick-started an entire generation of women to get on board with the idea of feminism. She challenged the very notion of women’s beauty and why it existed. She inspired a raft of other writers to challenge patriarchal structures of modern society and create a new voice for feminism in a modern world.

And, she changed my life. The Beauty Myth changed everything about how I saw the world. Sadly, it’s as relevant now as it was in 1991. Even more so, actually. Read it.

Best quote

“Women’s identity must be premised upon our ‘beauty’ so that we will remain vulnerable to outside approval, carrying the vital sensitive organ of self-esteem exposed to the air.”

 

A Feminist a Day: Naomi Wolf

A Feminist a Day: Germaine Greer

Who is she?

GreerGermaine Greer is an academic and writer who became one of the key global voices of the second wave of feminism. Her book The Female Eunuch is an international bestseller and changed the lives of millions of women worldwide.

Germaine burst onto the scene as a brash, outspoken, highly intelligent and unrelenting voice. She was brutal, she was witty, she was a force to be reckoned with.

The Female Eunuch urged women to think beyond their own social conditioning and have their OWN WILL. It encouraged women to break out of their traditional roles at home and question traditional authority figures.

TFE asserts that the traditional suburban family unit represses women sexually, rendering them ‘eunuchs’, and that women are taught to be submissive to men from childhood, which makes them consider themselves inferior to men.

Why should we thank her?

Germaine’s work pretty much became the international framework for second wave feminism worldwide. Not everyone agrees with Germaine on many of her ideas and statements – she’s a highly divisive figure. But feminism is a broad church and no one can doubt her impact on society and the world, but most importantly, individual womens’ lives. Few books have had such a big impact on everyday people.

Best quote

“Women have very little idea of how much men hate them.”

 

A Feminist a Day: Germaine Greer

A Feminist a Day: Nellie Bly

Who is she?

nellie bly

Where do you start? Nellie was a groundbreaking journalist, inventor (she invented a type of milk can and stacking garbage can), industrialist and adventurer.

In 1880, Nellie caught the attention of a newspaper editor in Pittsburgh when she wrote a fierce rebuttal to a story called “What Girls Are Good For”. The editor was so impressed, he hired her, and she set about writing about conditions for working women at the time. Her work was pushed to the “ladies’ pages”, but she soon got fed up with this, and set off to be a foreign correspondent in Mexico.

After moving to New York, she convinced a newspaper to send her undercover into a women’s lunatic asylum, where she reported on the hideous conditions and barbaric treatment of patients. Her story, Ten Days in a Mad House, caused a sensation and led to greater funding for treatment of the mentally ill.

In 1888, Nellie travelled around the world in 72 days, setting a world record at the time.

Why should we thank her?

As well as exposing conditions for women in mental asylums, Nellie was a pioneering woman journalist who spoke out for people with didn’t have a voice at the time. And just how ACE was she?

Best quote

“They were being driven to a prison, through no fault of their own, in all probability for life. In comparison, how much easier it would be to walk to the gallows than to this tomb of living horrors!”

A Feminist a Day: Nellie Bly

A Feminist a Day: Sarah Weddington

Who is she?

SarahWeddington_1120x600 3_0Sarah Weddington is the lawyer who defended “Jane Roe” in the landmark Roe v Wade case in the US, which ultimately saw abortion legalised in 1973.

Sarah studied law, but found it difficult to find a job in a law firm, so joined a group of students who were researching how to challenge anti-abortion laws.

She won Roe v Wade aged only 27 – the youngest person in America to argue a successful Supreme Court case. The decision made abortion legal in all 50 US states.

After the case, Sarah was elected to the Texas House of Representatives and served as an adviser to US President Jimmy Carter.

Why should we thank her?

Roe v Wade changed millions of American women’s lives forever. It enabled women to access legal abortion – a profound impact on their health, wellbeing and freedom. No doubt millions of women’s lives were saved from the perils of “backyard” abortions.

Sarah’s achievement reminds us why we must be vigilant on the issue of reproductive choice for women – in the US there have been many attempts to wind back abortion laws.

Best quote

“It is time to renew the battle for reproductive rights. We have been outmaneuvered, outspent, outpostured, and outvoted by a group of single-issue activists. It has taken them nearly two decades to turn back the principles of Roe. Let’s make sure it takes us a shorter time to replace protection for reproductive choice.”

 

 

A Feminist a Day: Sarah Weddington