What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than by reminiscing and reflecting on the women who have made incredibly positive impacts on this planet. Women and girls who have gone beyond to challenge the thinking of the time, make a difference and demand equal rights for women. See below fifteen women we admire…
1. Malala Yousafzai
“I said to myself, Malala, you must be brave. You must not be afraid of anyone. You are only trying to get an education. You are not committing a crime.”
An activist for female education, Pakistani schoolgirl Malala survived being shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 after she defied threats from the Taliban for her campaigns. Since, she has become a voice for women’s rights, especially the right to education – she is the youngest-ever Nobel Prize winner.
2. Rosa Parks
“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” (1913 – 2005)
Known as ‘the mother of the freedom movement’, American civil rights activist Rosa Parks garnered attention when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Alabama in 1955. This courageous and bold action sparked nationwide efforts to end segregation of public facilities.
3. Angelina Jolie
“Every day we choose who we are by how we define ourselves.”
Hollywood starlet Angelina Jolie has used her fame and influence to become an advocate for refugees around the world. Whilst drawing attention to poverty, Angelina’s humanitarian work and hands on approach has led her to be named a United Nations High Commissioner Refugees Goodwill Ambassador.
4. Beyonce Knowles
“Power is not given to you, you have to take it.”
Singer, actress, and probably one of the richest and best known women in the world, Beyonce has a huge influence over pop culture and is seen by many as a role woman to young girls. Alongside her talent for creating music, Beyonce uses her voice for a long list of charities. After hurricane Katrina Beyonce partnered with Kelly Rowland to create the Survivor Foundation to help those victims. Beyonce is also the co-founder of Chime for Change, a platform designed to empower women and girls through education, health and justice.
5. Angela Merkel
“I never underestimated myself and I never saw anything wrong with ambition.”
There can be no denying that Germany’s first female Chancellor, Angela Merkel – who has now clinched her third four-year term and stands as their longest-serving EU head of state – has paved the way for women in politics. She has made a reputation for herself as one of the most powerful, and possibly the most influential woman in Europe, who makes her voice heard to stand against ISIS and keep Europe united.
6. Emma Watson
“It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals.”
She may have come to our attention as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter but Emma Watson has become the protagonist for the UN – as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. A passionate humanitarian, Emma strives towards the empowerment of young women and is an advocate for the UN Women’s HeForShe campaign in promoting gender equality.
7. Anna Wintour
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out.”
A legend in the fashion industry, Conde Nast and Vogue director Anna Wintour is probably one of the world’s most respected and well known media moguls, inspiring women around the globe to command their own career. As well as dabbling in political campaigns, most notably supporting Obama during the presidential elections, she has also hosted the annual Met Gala since 1999, which has raised more than $145 million under her watch.
8. Marie Curie
“You must never be fearful of what you’re doing when it is right.” (1867 – 1934)
The first person to receive two Nobel prizes, Marie Curie was a Polish-French chemist and physicist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity, which led the way to a new era for medical knowledge and the treatment of diseases. She discovered the element radium, and during World War I drove ambulances to the front lines that she herself had equipped with x-ray equipment.
9. Michelle Obama
“There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.”
America’s first lady, Michelle Obama is listed as Forbes Magazine’s tenth most powerful women. Using her position for good, she works for charities around the globe and recently visited Southeast Asia to push an initiative for girls’ education and improve the well-being and financial stability of young women.
10. Coco Chanel
“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” (1883 – 1971)
Possibly the most famous and innovative fashion designer in the world, Coco Chanel (or as she was born, Gabrielle Bonheur) changed the face of women’s fashion forever. Her revolutionary reinvention of the LBD in the 1920s and her love of trousers gave way to a freeing and functional way of dressing for women, paving the way for women to express themselves and garner more freedom in society. Find out more about Chanel with our Life of Chanel feature here.
11. Oprah Winfrey
“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”
A true tale of rags to riches, one of America’s best known and first ever talk show hosts, Oprah Winfrey, came from nothing to becoming the first ever female African-American billionaire. Her work for human rights, political activities, and philanthropic work has made her one of the biggest influencers of women around the world. Oprah is listed number 12 in Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women list.
12. Anne Frank
“Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” (1929-1945)
With a positive outlook in the bleakest of situations, teenager Anne Frank is celebrated for her eye-opening diary that offers an eye-witness account of life during the Holocaust. One of the world’s most widely read books, The Diary of Anne Frank, tells the tale of a young Jewish girl in hiding during World War 2, a book Eleanor Roosevelt described as “one of the wisest and most moving commentaries on war and its impact on human beings that I have ever read.”
13. Ellen Degeneres
“Be kind to one another”
Comedian, talk show host and actress, Ellen DeGeneres has risen to be one of the most famous women in America. A recent survey by Variety revealed she ‘did more to influence Americans’ attitudes about gay rights than any other celebrity or public figure.” Her wit, charm and kindness saw her honoured with the title of “Favourite Humanitarian” at this year’s People’s Choice Awards. Her continued work to help communities in need, her tireless work to raise awareness for life changing organizations and charities has cemented her as a responsible celebrity.
14. Emmeline Pankhurst
“We are here not because we are law-breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law-makers.” (1858-1928)
A political activist and a leader of the British Suffragette Movement, Emmeline tirelessly campaigned for women’s rights and was prominent in securing the women’s vote. She founded the Women’s Social and Political Union and was arrested numerous times due to her demonstrations; each time she reacted with a hunger strike, only to be force fed.
15. Audrey Hepburn
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” (1929-1993)
One of the world’s best known actresses, Audrey Hepburn is a style icon who defined feminine glamour during the fifties and sixties. She dedicated her later life to humanitarian work and became a UNICEF Ambassador travelling to the world’s poorest countries. Here she raised awareness, campaigned for civil rights and used her fame with the media to invaluably document the reality of famine and drought in these countries. She received America’s highest civilian award, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, in December 1992 and continued travelling for UNICEF despite her struggle with cancer.
Little Black Dress is partnering with domestic violence charity Refuge to help rebuild women’s lives free from violence and fear. Our £1 per dress campaign aims to raise money, and awareness of, the domestic violence charity. Read more about our partnership with Refuge here.