March marks not just International Women's Day on the 8th but also Women's History Month. In honour of these important celebrations, we've put together a list of five women who have helped shape history and make the world what it is for women today. From achieving the right to vote through to liberating a fashion revolution, these ladies all followed this year's IWD mantra of 'being bold for change'.
"I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too."
She may have lived nearly five centuries ago but Elizabeth I will forever be remembered as an iconic female leader. One of the longest serving monarchs in England, she had a challenging childhood due to the engagements of her notorious father, Henry VIII. She famously never married, proving to everyone that she did not need a man to govern her life and her nation. Working harmoniously with parliament and her advisers, her reign became known as the Golden Age of Britain due to the abundance of literature and music developed during the era as well as the victorious defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
"It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world."
As a woman living in 18th century Britain, Mary Wollstonecraft would have had very few civil rights and been seen very much as the property of men. Having lived through a difficult childhood, Mary went on to publish A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792, a text which proposed that women should receive the same education as men, among other things. A true revolutionary of her time, she was one of the first women to openly challenge gender inequality and bring it into the public domain. She was also the mother of Mary Shelley, the author of the prolific novel Frankenstein.
"We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help to free the other half."
The mother of the suffragette movement, Emmeline Pankhurst was a prominent women's rights activist who helped lead many demonstrations, hunger strikes and marches during the early 20th century. Her mission was to gain women the right to vote and this was finally achieved in 1928 for women over 21, just weeks before Emmeline died. She spent her entire life fighting for women's rights and constantly strived for more despite being arrested several times. She also encouraged women to help out during World War I, something that helped influence the government to grant women voting rights later on.
"An impersonal and scientific knowledge of the structure of our bodies is the surest safeguard against prurient curiosity and lascivious gloating."
A notable female scientist who was the first female academic at the University of Manchester, Marie Stopes is best known for her work in bringing the subject of birth control into public knowledge. She founded the first birth control clinic in Britain in 1921, a centre in north London which offered women free contraceptive and pregnancy advice. Marie also developed her own form of contraception and helped influence clinical trials of other new products. Her small clinic eventually developed into Marie Stopes International, an NGO with clinics in other 40 countries worldwide.
"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."
We couldn't finish our round-up without mentioning Coco Chanel, a true pioneer in developing ladies fashion from constricting corsets and antiquated silhouettes to the eclectic range of styles we have today. With low beginnings as the daughter of a laundrywomen in Maine-et-Loire, France, she rose to influence in the post-World I era after opening a couturier in Paris that was funded by her then lover, Captain Arthur Edward Capel. Trained as both a seamstress and a milliner, she designed casual yet chic clothing that quickly became popular throughout the world and replaced traditional images of women's fashion.