Published on The Daily Femme – Tuesday, Mar. 8, 2011
Contributed by Annamarya
Happy International Women’s Day Centenary!
2011 marks 100 years since International Women’s Day was founded by Clara Zetkin, leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany–an anniversary Annie Lenox calls “a moment in time.” Since its inception, IWD has honored, celebrated, and connected the women of the world. It’s a day to share ideals, hopes, discontent, dreams, and activism, and to strengthen the global community. This year, 1400+ events will take place in over five countries, continuing this lively and passionate exchange of ideas.
While all women deserve honor today and every day, here are short primers to four influential women who deserve your special attention.
1. Cindy Sherman (America): When I was introduced to Sherman’s work, I was immediately drawn to the starkness of her conceptual portraits of women using herself as the model. From Centerfolds to Rear Screen Projections toMurder Mystery People, her prolific, provocative, and distinctive work examines, confronts, and deconstructs gender stereotypes with unbridled assertion. What is the woman’s role? How is she represented? Why do we treat her flesh as our possession? Why do we allow her to remain detached from our sympathy? Her work presses you to contemplate these vital questions, and stirs in you passionate activism. While the 57-year-old photographer and film director doesn’t label her art as “feminist,” there is no doubt that it is.
2. Maharani Lakshmi Bai (India): When I read about the recent uprising in the Middle East, and the role women have played in those necessary revolutions, I instantly recalled Maharani Lakshmi Bai. The Indian princess turned Queen of Jhansi was instrumental in the Indian rebellion against the East India Company, leading an army, which she recruited women into, against the stifling, oppressive British rule. While the outcome of her 1857 mutiny is considered unfavorable, Maharani Lakshmi Bai is highly regarded as a symbol of resistance to British rule in India, and seen as legendary.
3. Corazon Aquino (Phillippines): Honestly, I sometimes wonder if I will ever see a women hold America’s highest office at some point in my lifetime. But while I wait with baited breath for that day, I take solace in knowing that Corazon Aquino was the first women to hold presidency in the Phillippines. As the country’s 11th president, Aquino diligently focused on improving human rights and civil liberties, restoring economic health, and building a socially-conscious and responsible economy until her term ended in 1992. She also led the People Power Revolution in 1986, which led to the outsing of the repressive and corrupt 10th president, Ferdinand Marcos. The massive civil disobedience protests that ended the Marcos regime lead to her being rightly named TIME’s “Woman of the Year” in 1986.
4. Dolores Huerta (America): Dolores Huerta is the one inspirational trail blazer when I think about the recent union battles in Wisconsin and Ohio. A fundamental figure in the Chicano civil rights movement, Huerta fiercely advocated for the rights of farmworkers. She co-founded the Agricultural Workers Association in 1960, the National Farm Association (later known as the Unit’s Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee) with Cesar Chavez in 1962, and the United Farm Workers of America. In 1966, she successfully negotiated an historical contract between Schenley Wine Company and United Farmer Workers, marking the first time collective bargaining rights were established between farmworkers and an agricultural enterprise. The year prior, she organized the United Farm Workers’ national grape boycott, which led to the signing of a five-year collective bargaining contract between UFW and the California table grape industry. She received the 2007 Community of Christ International Peace Award for her unrelenting activism, serves on the board of the Feminist Majority Foundation and For the American Way, and is an honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America.