On this International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate women’s achievements by remembering those women who led the path of revolution and marked their names in history and changed today’s world.
17th and 18th century
In both centuries, women were prominently seen in the food riots. The exact proportion of women’s participation in 18th-century food riots is not known, but it appears that women led or initiated a significant number of such riots.
These riots of revolution and resistance opened up opportunities for women to take political action as social and economic influencers, and not just as a republican’s wife or a mother. This shows women’s new assertiveness had something to do with the weakening of the patriarchal control of women as feudalism declined and market relations expanded.
French Revolution saw women fighting for religion. Women felt that they were responsible for maintaining a spiritual balance within their families. They fought harder than their male counterparts, invoking violent and illegal actions sometimes to get their voices heard.
This period also saw women fighting for their own rights during French Revolution. Aristocratic women were not as likely to partake in activities that could ruin their family and/or their chance of inheriting the family fortune, so they were reluctant to participate.
Working-class women also faced this dilemma, but because they were already the suppressed class, the good of what they could achieve outweighed the loss of family pride and/or fortune.
During the Franco-Prussian War of 1871, women were prominent in preventing the army from moving their cannons from Paris, an event which helped spark the Paris commune.
British women’s suffrage movement
During the early twentieth century, women’s protests for the right to vote became particularly militant in Britain. Many of the core organisers of mass protests were women. Strategies used by protestors included mass demonstrations, arson, widespread window breaking and attempts to storm both Parliament and Buckingham palace. After World War I broke out in 1914, the mainstream suffragette movement suspended its protests in order to focus on the war effort.
Karl Marx had recognized that “great social revolutions are impossible without the feminine ferment” and, in 1917, it was Petrograd’s (Saint Petersburg) female workers who spread the idea of a general strike on 8 March, International women’s Day. On that day, hundreds of women threw stones and snowballs at factory windows demanding for bread.
Revolts against British colonialism
One of the most notable in Africa was the Igbo Women’s War against British tax collection in Nigeria in 1929. Women in southern Igboland believed that they were being wrongfully taxed for palm products by the British. This led to what the British called the Aba Riots, and the Igbo, Women’s War. Women took initiative by sending messages through the market and kinship networks connecting to other villages calling for a mikiri meeting. They also took advantage of strikes, boycotts, and force to project their opinions and retaliate against authority.
In India, the Queen or Rani of Jhansi was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and became a symbol of resistance to the British Raj for Indian nationalists.
Northern Syria is what is referred to as the Rojava. The Rojava revolution refers to the armed struggle that has taken place since 2012. This Revolution has been characterized by the prominent role women have had during these times of strife.
This revolution was about Kurdish Women and how they were and still are oppressed. As Kurds, they were denied basic rights, in many cases even citizenship; and as women, they were trapped in patriarchal domination.
The Kurdish women’s movement seeks to overcome the alienation of Kurdish women. One of the first signs of revolution in Rojava was the election of Hevi Ibrahim to the post of prime minister in February 2014.
Mahsa Amini protests
Civil Unrest and protests against the Iranian Government associated with the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini began on 16 September 2022. Amini had been arrested by the Guidance patrol, Iran’s religious minority police, for allegedly violating Iran’s mandatory Hijab Law which requires all women to wear the hijab (Islamic veil) in public.
The Guidance Patrol alleged that Amini was wearing her hijab improperly, and according to eyewitnesses, she had been severely beaten by officers, an assertion denied by Iranian authorities.
As the protests spread from Amini’s hometown of Saqqez to other cities in the province of KURDISTAN and throughout the country, the government responded with widespread internet blackouts, nationwide restrictions on social media usage, tear gas and gunfire.
Women, including schoolchildren, have played a key role in the demonstrations, with many removing their hijab in solidarity with Amini. In addition to demands for increased rights for women, the protests have demanded the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, setting them apart from previous major protest movements in Iran, which have focused on election results or economic woes.