Celebrate International Women's Day 2015

IWDToday, March 8, is International Women’s Day 2015. This year’s theme is Empowering Women – Empowering Humanity: Picture It!  The day is a time to uphold women’s achievements, recognize challenges and focus greater attention on women’s rights. In honor of the day, here are three Polish women who demonstrated courage, ambition and integrity long before the United Nations designated March 8 as International Women’s Day in 1975.

Marie Sklodowska Curie (1867 – 1934) – Scientist
Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only woman to win the award in two different fields (physics and chemistry). Curie’s efforts, with her husband Pierre Curie, led to the discovery of polonium and radium and, after Pierre’s death, the development of X-rays. Born in Warsaw, she was not permitted to enroll in the men-only University of Warsaw. After studying in “underground” schools, she eventually made her way to Paris where she enrolled in the Sorbone. There she completed her master’s degree in physics in 1893 and earned another degree in mathematics the following year.

Helena Rubinstein (1870 – 1965) Cosmetics Icon and Business Founder
Born in Krako???????????????????????????????w, Poland to Jewish parents, Rubinstein was the oldest of eight daughters. She possessed an affinity for numbers and helped her father in his business, learning bookkeeping and attending business meetings in his absence. Her mother introduced her to a special skin cream, insisting her daughters gain “power and influence through beauty and love.” In her twenties, after refusing an arranged marriage, Rubinstein moved to Australia, where she parlayed a small investment in her skin creams, into the beginning of what would be a cosmetics business worth estimated at between $18 million and $60 million.

Irena Sendler (1910 – 2008) – Rescued 2,500 Jewish children in WWII
As a social worker for the city of Warsaw, Sendler had papers that permitted her in and out of the Warsaw Ghetto. She used this access to rescue children by many means, and organized a network of helpers, some of whom were later killed by Nazis for doing so. Before she joined the Zgota underground, she and her helpers made over 3,000 false documents to help Jewish families. She was arrested by the Nazis and tortured, but never gave up one name. Irena Sendler was announced as the 2003 winner of the Jan Karski award for Valor and Courage. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007; she lost to Al Gore. For accurate information on Sendler, visit Irena Sendler: Life in a Jar

Photo of Rubinstein house in Kazimierz neighborhood in Krakow, taken by author 2013.

The Journey of Women’s Rights 1911 – 2015 (United Nations video)

United Nations Women Watch

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Tags: Notable Poles, Poland

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