By: Sarah Govert
Ever since 1987, March has been observed as Women’s History Month in the United States. This month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture, and society. Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to remember all of the contributions of women to United States history, from Susan B. Anthony to Rosa Parks. During this month, we have the opportunity to recognize women and their significant contributions to the history of the United States and the world, including some incredibly important, yet virtually unknown, figures.
Stacey Abrams was born on December 9, 1973 in Madison, Wisconsin and gained country and world-wide recognition during 2020 for her efforts in Georgia to register voters for the 2020 election and destroy voter suppression. Abrams served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007-2017 and served as the minority leader from 2011-2017. She was also the first African-American woman to give the rebuttal to the State of the Union on February 5, 2018. Abrams founded Fair Fight 2020 on August 17, 2019, an organization which assists Democrats in 20 states to build voter protection teams. Abrams also served as an elector for the state of Georgia in the 2020 election and was credited with a large increase in Democratic votes in Georgia, as well as around 800,000 voter registrations. At the 2021 NAACP Awards, Abrams was awarded the Social Justice Impact award, and she has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. To learn more about Stacey Abrams and the Fair Fight Foundation, see this link.
Jacinda Ardern was born on July 26, 1980 in Hamilton, New Zealand, where she now serves as the 40th Prime Minister. Ardern has served as Prime Minister and head of the Labour Party since 2017. Elected at the age of 37, she is the youngest New Zealand Prime Minister in over 150 years. Ardern has set new norms as the PM, starting with the fact that she took six weeks of maternity leave while in office following the birth of her daughter and announced that her partner will be a stay-at-home father. Some of her goals as PM include halving child poverty in New Zealand, increasing paid parental leave, and implementing minimum wage increases. In addition, Ardern received global praise for her handling of the pandemic, as New Zealand successfully eradicated both waves of COVID-19. To learn more about Jacinda Ardern and some of her actions as Prime Minister, see this link.
Taylor Swift was born on December 13, 1989 and is one of the best-selling music artists of all time with sales of over 200 million records worldwide. Over the course of her career, Swift has released nine studio albums, ranging from the country album of “Taylor Swift” in 2006 to the folk/indie/alternative rock album of “evermore” in 2020. She has won 11 Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, 28 Guinness World Records, 32 American Music Awards, and 23 Billboard Music Awards. Swift has the most American Music Awards and Billboard Music Award wins for a woman in her field. In addition, she was named Woman of the Decade by Billboard and Artist of the Decade by the American Music Awards. She has also been active in several feminist, gun control reform, and equality movements, including the March for Our Lives movement, Every Woman Counts campaign, Time’s Up movement, and can even be credited with an increase of 65,000 voter registrations within 24 hours of a social media post. To learn more about Taylor Swift and her music, see this link.
Ozlem Tureci was born on March 6, 1967 in Lastrup, Germany and is mainly known for founding BioNTech in 2008, which developed the first approved COVID-19 vaccine in 2020. Tureci is the current chief medical officer at BioNTech, and she was also the founder and CEO of Ganymed Pharmaceuticals from 2008-2016. BioNTech is a company focused on developing and manufacturing immunotherapies as a treatment for cancer and other diseases. In March of 2020, BioNTech began work on a COVID-19 vaccine with Pfizer, and the vaccine was approved in 11 months. Tureci decided to apply the mRNA vaccine technology she had been researching for years to the pandemic and now plans to create an mRNA-based cancer vaccine. To learn more about Tureci and her research, see this link.
Naomi Osaka was born on October 16, 1997 in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan and is known for being the first woman to win successive Grand Slam singles titles since Serena Williams, and for beating Serena Williams in the US Open in 2018. By defeating Serena Williams in the Open, she became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title. She achieved this feat at the age of 21. Osaka also became the first Asian tennis player to hold the rank of No. 1 in the world. In 2020, she was also the highest-earning female athlete of all time. Osaka is also an activist, and she has used her platform as an athlete to further her causes and show her support for movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-Asian hate movement. She withdrew from The Cincinnati Open in 2020 to raise awareness for the shooting of Jacob Blake and wore masks that displayed the names of African-Americans that mainly died as a result of the police, including Tamir Rice, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Trayvon Martin. She also attended protests in Minnesota for the killing of George Floyd. Osaka was named a Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 2020 for her activism, alongside athletes such as Patrick Mahomes and LeBron James. To learn more about Naomi Osaka, see this link.
Lizzo was born Melissa Viviane Jefferson on April 27, 1988 in Detroit, Michigan and is known as a singer, rapper, flautist, and proponent of body positivity and self-love. Lizzo rose to fame in 2017 following the success of hits such as “Juice,” “Truth Hurts,” and “Tempo.” She is the recipient of three Grammy Awards, two Soul Train Music Awards, a Billboard Music Award, and a BET Award. Lizzo is a major advocate for self-love, and her group of back-up dancers consists of all plus-size dancers. She believes that body positivity has become commercialized, and she wants to be “body-normative.” She also called for continued change in the movement and expressed her desire to make people uncomfortable because “Change is always uncomfortable, right?” To learn more about Lizzo and her stance on body positivity, see this link.
Christine Lagarde was born on January 1, 1956 in Paris, France and currently serves as the President of the European Central Bank. She is the first woman to hold this position. Previously, Lagarde served as the Chair and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund from 2011-1019, and she was also the first woman to hold that position. The European Central Bank is responsible for the monetary policy of European Union member countries that use the euro, a group of countries known as the eurozone. Right now, Lagarde is responsible for ensuring that the pandemic doesn’t continue to wreak havoc on the eurozone. Additionally, she served in various positions for the Government of France, such as Minister of Commerce, Minister of Agriculture and Fishing, and Minister of Economy, Finance, and Industry. To learn more about Christine Lagarde, see this link.
Ursula von der Leyen
Ursula von der Leyen was born on October 8, 1958 in Ixelles, Belgium and is currently the President of the European Commission. von der Leyen is the first woman to serve in this position. The European Commission manages the European Union’s budget, proposes new laws and policies, and supports international development, among many other duties. Previously, she served as a member of Angela Merkel’s cabinet from 2005-2019. von der Leyen served in Merkel’s cabinet as the Minister of Family Affairs and Youth (2005-2009), Minister of Labor and Social Affairs (2009-2013), and Minister of Defense (2013-2019). She was the first woman to serve as the German defense minister. She has also advocated for an initiative that called for a mandatory blockage of child pornography, introduced a model for paid parental leave in Germany, and introduced the Child Advancement Act. To learn more about Ursula von der Leyen and her role as President of the European Commission, see this link.
Women hold incredibly important roles in diverse positions all across the globe. We have the ability to make significant change. Whether you are an athlete, an artist, or just a girl posting on social media, you too have the power to support the workings of government, maintain finances in the midst of a pandemic, and support your community, making others feel loved. I encourage you to continue learning more about the contributions and achievements of women across the globe in this month and take them as an example of everything you are also capable of.