The first International Women’s Day occurred on March 19, 1911. The inaugural event, which included rallies and organized meetings, was a big success in countries such as Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. The March 19 date was chosen because it commemorated the day that the Prussian king promised to introduce votes for women in 1848. The promise gave hope for equality but unfortunately, that promise was not fulfilled. The International Women’s Day date was then moved to March 8 in 1913.
Much progress has been made to protect and promote women’s rights in recent times. Over the years, the UN and their agencies are promoting the participation of women as equal partners with men in achieving full respect for human rights. The empowerment of women continues to be a central focus of the UN in their efforts to address social, economic and political challenges across the globe.
So in celebration of this day, I have chosen to honor a woman who has made an impact in history and inspires all women everywhere.
“…you may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still like life, I’ll rise.” -Still I Rise by Maya Angelou–
Born April 4, 1928, as Marguerite Annie Johnson overcame a terrible childhood but became a brilliant and well-respected woman. Her older brother Bailey Jr. nicknamed her Maya, which was derived from “Maya Sister.”
Maya was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend, a man named Freeman, when she was just 8 years old. She told her brother who then told the rest of their family. Freeman was found guilty. Unfortunately, he was jailed for only one day. However, four days after his release, he was found murdered. The assumption is that Maya’s uncles were responsible. Maya then became mute for almost 5 years. She said. “I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again because my voice would kill anyone…” She was sent to live with her grandmother, again, but this is where she met a teacher, named Mrs. Bertha Flowers who helped Maya speak again. Mrs. Bertha Flowers also introduced some of Maya’s favorite authors like Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, and William Shakespeare to name a few. These, along with other authors, would affect her life as well as her career.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”-Maya Angelou
Maya became known as a great American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She has published 7 autobiographies, several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of movies, plays, and television shows. She has received awards and more than 50 honorary degrees spanning over 50 years. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) is one of my favorite books by her. It tells of her life up to her late teens. It also brought her international recognition.
Maya passed away on May 28, 2014. Maya accomplished more than most artists can ever hope to achieve.
I have bought a few of her books and was truly touched as I read them. (And some were read to me as audiobooks). I could feel the pain as I read them that Maya must have felt during her life experiences. I can not even imagine the pain she has felt. Yet, she overcame all these obstacles. Reading about her, reading books and poems by her, gives me hope. She truly went through hell and she became bigger than her turmoil. She continues to inspire me and hopefully, everyone who knows about her.
Thank you for reading and Happy International Women’s Day!