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International Women’s Day: Five Amazing Teachers that changed history and teacher resources.

international women's day
The 8th of March is a time to reflect and appreciate women from all around the globe. Here is a list of 5 teachers that changed history along with resources for your classroom.

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What is International Women's Day?

Women’s history month and International Women’s Day land on the same month. This global celebration is an opportunity to celebrate the social, cultural, philosophical, and political achievements women have made, as well as highlighting areas that still need further action to bring about equality.

For teachers, International Women’s Day is an important opportunity to educate and inspire about the role of a woman in society. From celebrating achievements to challenging gender stereotypes, there are many ways teachers educate their students about gender equality.

international womans day


Purple, green, and white are the colours that represent International Women’s Day. The purple means justice and dignity. Green signifies hope, while white represents purity – which has grown quite controversial however these colours originated from the Woman’s social and political union in 1908.

Five Female Teachers that Made History

Emma Willard

Emma Willard – 1787 – 1870.

Emma was one of the youngest of 17 children. Her family were farmers who encouraged her to get her education, this is where Emma’s passion for learning began. Emma became a teacher at the young age of 17, this led her to later fight for women to be able to learn mathematics and philosophy. In 1819, she proceeded to write a pamphlet on female studies called: A Plan for Improving Female Education. After persevering and hoping, she later founded and opened her school which pioneered in teaching science, mathematics and social studies to girls in 1821. This school is now known as The Emma Willard School, an all-girls private boarding high school which is in New York, U.S.A.

international women's day

Mary McLeod Bethune – 1875 – 1955.

Mary was born in South Carolina in 1875 to former slaves after the civil war. She graduated from university in 1895 and began teaching in 1903. Mary is the definition of someone that changed the world with her view on education. Her focus was on making sure black minorities had access to education. And through perseverance, she founded her school for black girls. In 1923 the school was then merged and became known as Bethune-Cookman College. Mary went on to achieve many things, one of them being President Franklin D. Roosevelt adviser on problems of minority groups and assisted the secretary of war in selecting officer candidates for the U.S Army (Female Corps)

Barbara Morgan – 1951 – present

In 1984 President Ronal Reagan announced that NASA needed teachers to take to space. Barbara jumped at the opportunity, claiming she was always looking for ways to bring the world into the classroom. She was picked as the runner-up for the NASA Teacher in Space Program in 1985. In 1998, she was selected as an astronaut candidate and began her training to become a full-time astronaut. Impressive? We think so. Her dream came true after 23 years of originally wanting to be the first teacher to go to space.

Today, she is retired from NASA and works for Broise State University assuring everyone has an equal chance to learn science, technology, engineering and maths education across the country.

Barbara has a one-hour documentary called: Barbara Morgan: No Limits

Helen Keller

Helen Keller – 1880 -1968

Teacher Hellen had developed almost 60 hand gestures to communicate with her parents. Why? At only 19 months old Helen suffered a terrible illness that left her blind and deaf. Annie taught her how to communicate with language, read and write. She also learned how to communicate using the Tadoma method. In 1900, she enrolled in university and became the first deaf-blind person to graduate with an arts degree. Keller was so determined to speak that she ended up giving speeches on aspects of her life throughout her whole life.

Helen became an advocate for disability rights, she was also a political activist and a lecturer. She was a strong, determined woman, in 1920 she helped found the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU). Now 100 years old, the union is a non-profit organisation that’s mission is to defend and preserve rights. In 1964 Lyndon b. Johnson awarded Helen with the presidential medal of freedom.

Anne Sullivan Macy and Helen Keller

Anne Sullivan Macy – 1866 – 1936.

Anne was Helen Keller’s Teacher, but she is on our list for a different reason. Anne was nearly blind as a child and was orphaned. She overcame the odds when she enrolled in school herself, overcoming obstacles and determined to succeed. In 1886 she graduated as the valedictorian of her class. She later went on to write an essay called Foolish Remarks of a Foolish Woman and made history by bringing children who were blind, deaf and mute out of the darkness, one of them being Helen Keller herself. In 1931, she was awarded an honorary degree along with Helen in the university of Philadelphia.

Resources for your classroom

Students should be encouraged to actively stand up for what they believe in, challenging stereotypes that might be pushed upon them. The International Woman’s day and Teach starter are supporting teachers and schools by providing free resources for the classroom that will educate and inspire children.

This year’s theme for International Woman’s day is “choose to challenge”. In 2020, it was “An equal world is an enabled world‘”. The themes are chosen to highlight inequality, gender differences, and to always question what we think is not fair. What will your class choose to challenge?

  • The use of role-playing is heavily used in schools for students to identify key issues that might help them understand inequality.
  • Books are also a great way to educate children on female achievements and gender issues.
  • Britannica have set up a classroom activity for International Woman’s Day.
  • International Women’s day web resources.
  • Oxfam’s Resources for International Women’s Day.
  • Emile has also created a worksheet for your class to complete full of inventions made by women!

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