International Women’s Day, which has existed for more than 100 years, was the product of an era marked by rapid change and upheaval in the industrialized world. As the planet's population grew and the demand for labor increased, and as new ideologies took shape, women were thrust into a brave new world and confronted with a host of challenges.
The first day dedicated to women was established in 1911, and it was observed for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19, when more than 1 million people attended rallies around the world to assert women’s right to work, vote, be trained and hold public office. Two years later, the day was officially changed to March 8, the date on which it's been celebrated globally ever since as International Women’s Day.
Today, International Women’s Day is recognized by the UN and is an official holiday in 27 countries. On this day each year, men are asked to honor their mothers, wives, girlfriends and colleagues -- similar to Mother’s Day, when boys and men celebrate and give gifts to their mothers and grandmothers.
While women have made great strides, a gender equality gap still exists. In 2014, International Women’s Day will focus on the role men play in standing up for women’s rights. According to a World Health Organization report, men can play a critical part in reducing domestic violence and increasing communication about contraception, children's health and social support for wives and partners.
“It’s an objective fact, that if you want to solve some of these huge, kind of bigger problems of extreme poverty, you have to include the women,” actor Matt Damon, founder of Water.org, a nonprofit group that provides access to safe water and sanitation in Africa, South Asia and Central America, said about the UN’s “He For She” campaign, which was unveiled on Friday. "They’re the ones who will get it done."
“This is a moment when we review past achievements and look ahead to the challenges that remain, as well as to untapped potential and opportunities,” she said. "In moving forward, we must ensure that women’s empowerment and gender equality stand at the heart of all of our work to craft a better future.”
For those celebrating International Women’s Day 2014, below are 25 empowering quotes to share:
“Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity.” -- Gandhi
“Women are leaders everywhere you look -- from the CEO who runs a Fortune 500 company to the housewife who raises her children and heads her household. Our country was built by strong women, and we will continue to break down walls and defy stereotypes.” -- Nancy Pelosi
“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.” -- Eleanor Roosevelt
“Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of a man at twice its natural size.” -- Virginia Woolf
“The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.” -- Roseanne Barr
“I believe that it is as much a right and duty for women to do something with their lives as for men and we are not going to be satisfied with such frivolous parts as you give us.” -- Louisa May Alcott
"The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world." -- Charles Malik
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.” -- Oprah Winfrey
“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” -- Margaret Thatcher
“In too many instances, the march to globalization has also meant the marginalization of women and girls. And that must change.” -- Hillary Clinton
"Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition." – Marilyn Monroe
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” -- Maya Angelou, African American Poet
“Modern invention has banished the spinning wheel, and the same law of progress makes the woman of today a different woman from her grandmother.” -- Susan B. Anthony, Women's Activist
“Men and boys, we show our manhood through the way we treat our women. Our wives, our sisters, our mothers.” -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“One is not born a woman, one becomes one.” -- Simone de Beauvoir
“Women are the real architects of society.” -- Harriet Beecher Stowe
"A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult." -- Melinda Gates
“A charming woman doesn’t follow the crowd. She is herself.” -- Loretta Young
“I'm supposed to have a Ph.D. on the subject of women. But the truth is I've flunked more often than not. I'm very fond of women; I admire them. But, like all men, I don't understand them.” -- Frank Sinatra
“Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.” -- Joseph Conrad
"The reason women don't play football is because 11 of them would never wear the same outfit in public." -- Phyllis Diller
“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.” -- Coco Chanel
"Can you imagine a world without men? No crime and lots of happy, fat women." -- Nicole Hollander
“God gave women intuition and femininity. Used properly, the combination easily jumbles the brain of any man I've ever met.” -- Farrah Fawcett
“By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacation-less class.” -- Anne Morrow Lindberg