International Women’s Day: Five women who changed the world


Five women who changed the world


To mark International Women’s Day, TLG are celebrating the achievements of some of the world’s most influential women, past and present. Whether it be in medicine, science, politics, or literature, women have been paving the way forward and making a positive change since time began. Without the efforts of these amazing women, the world as we know it would be a very different place. 



“I attribute my success to this - I never gave or took any excuse.”

Florence Nightingale – or The Lady with the Lamp – is known as the founder of modern nursing. Born in a time when women were expected to simply look after the house and home, Nightingale felt a ‘calling’ from a young age to do something greater with her life. Nursing did not have a good reputation at the time, often thought of as a job for poor, elderly women.

In 1854, the midst of the Crimean War, reports flooded in about the terrible conditions suffered by injured soldiers. Nightingale and a team of 38 nurses travelled to Scutari and improved the supplies of food, clean blankets, and beds in the hospitals. She also emphasised the importance of cleanliness to prevent infection. Less men were dying as a direct result of Nightingale’s actions, and she returned to Britain a heroine. She changed the face of healthcare as we know it, saving many lives in the process.


MARIE CURIE (1867 – 1934)

"I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy."

Marie Curie is one of the most famous scientists of all time. She is best known for her work on radioactivity, which led her to discover two new elements – radium and polonium. Along with her husband Pierre Curie, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1903. After his death in 1906 she devoted the rest of her life to the work they had started together, receiving a second Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1911.

Her research was instrumental in the development of the X-ray. During World War One, Curie equipped vehicles with X-ray machines, which became known as Petites Curies in her honour. She often drove these to the front lines herself and used them to help injured soldiers. She died in 1934 from leukaemia caused by exposure to radiation.


VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882 – 1941)

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

Virginia Woolf was a pioneering English author, she is well-known for her works Mrs DallowayTo the Lighthouse, and her extended essay A Room of One’s Own. She popularised the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device, which challenged the rigid structure of literature that was the norm at the time.

Woolf was a champion of gender equality, placing feminine issues at the forefront of her writing. Her novels and essays explored the subversion of gender, the fluidity of sexuality, and the detriments caused by gender-influenced salaries. Her works are still as relevant today as they were at the time of publishing, and continue to be read and enjoyed by people all over the world.    


ROSA PARKS (1913 – 2005)

“The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

Rosa Parks’ actions sparked the beginnings of the civil rights movement in America. In racially segregated Montgomery in 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. Parks was arrested at the scene, and her actions spurred the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott, forcing the city to lift the law on the segregation of buses.

From then onwards, Parks became a symbol of dignity and strength in the ongoing struggle to abolish racial segregation. She received many accolades during her lifetime, including the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People’s highest award. She is a still a symbol of freedom and equality to many people today.



"When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful."

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani student and activist for girls’ and women’s rights. When Taliban militants took control of parts of Pakistan they imposed harsh restrictions on things like television and music, eventually banning girls from attending school in 2008.

Yousafzai campaigned against these restrictions, rising to prominence for her outspoken views. The Taliban - recognising her growing popularity – targeted Yousafzai. Miraculously she survived their attack, and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. She has created a foundation to support young women’s education around the world, given a speech to the United Nations, and in 2014 she won the Nobel Peace Prize.  


Students from THE LANGUAGE GALLERY are celebrating International Women’s Day this year by preparing posters about the women they admire. Keep an eye on our Facebook page where we’ll be posting pictures from the event soon.

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