Celebrating International Women’s Day

By Ambassador Callista L. Gingrich

On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day, a day when countries around the world recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

Throughout history, women have made historic contributions to improving civil society, influencing art and culture, and advancing science and technology. Whether as political leaders and activists, executives and business owners, medical practitioners and researchers, or teachers and scholars, women have played enormous roles in shaping the countries and communities in which we live.

Clara Barton was one such woman who dedicated her life to the service of others. Known as the Angel of the Battlefield, Barton provided nursing care and supplies to soldiers during the American Civil War. The experience of brave service inspired her to continue helping members of the military, leading her to open the Office of Missing Soldiers that reunited 20,000 soldiers with their families.

In 1869, Barton visited Switzerland and learned about the Red Cross movement, which provided humanitarian aid to those injured in combat. After volunteering with the International Committee of the Red Cross, Barton brought the cause to the United States and founded the American Red Cross in 1881. Today, the American Red Cross continues to serve those in need.

Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants, also spent her life assisting some of the most vulnerable. Mother Cabrini came to the United States from her native Italy in 1889 after founding the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She started Catechism classes for more than 300 children in New York City and opened an orphanage in West Park, New York. Cabrini also founded 67 schools, hospitals, and orphanages in California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington and established missions in the United States, Central America, South America, and Europe. 

In 1909, Mother Cabrini became an American citizen, and in 1946, she was canonized as the first American saint by Pope Pius XII.

Clare Boothe Luce was a woman of immense talent, curiosity, and intelligence who was remembered by Time Magazine as “the preeminent Renaissance woman of the century.” Born in 1903, Clare’s accomplishments blazed numerous trails for future generations of women. In a culture that praised Clare for her “masculine” mind, she responded with the retort, “Thought has no sex. One either thinks, or one does not!”

Clare’s ambition and tenacity led to her success as an editor of Vanity Fair magazine, a front-line war journalist, an accomplished playwright and author, a two-term U.S. Congresswoman, and the U.S. Ambassador to Italy, the first woman to be appointed to a major foreign post. 

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and first female majority leader of a legislative upper house, was another patriotic trailblazer whose legacy shaped and influenced our nation.

Born in Texas in 1930, O’Connor’s celebrated career led her to serve as Arizona’s Assistant Attorney General, the Arizona State Senate Majority Leader, and on the Arizona Court of Appeals. In 1981, she was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan and served on the court for 25 years. After retiring from the Court, O’Connor continued to champion judicial independence and the rule of law and was recognized for her lifetime of accomplishments with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Condoleezza Rice is one of the most exceptional and formidable leaders to serve in the U.S. government. Her example is a source of inspiration for women and girls worldwide. As she once wrote, “We need to move beyond the idea that girls can be leaders and create the expectation that they should be leaders.”

After serving as Stanford University’s provost, Rice joined President George W. Bush’s administration as the first female national security advisor. She served in the White House on one of the darkest days of American history: September 11, 2001. Her bravery, courage, and resilience helped lead America in the aftermath of that devastating tragedy.

Later serving as Secretary of State, Rice worked to advance peace and diplomacy, support democratic governments, combat disease, eliminate drug smuggling, eradicate human trafficking, and distribute foreign aid.

From the battlefields of the Civil War, to the crowded streets of New York, to our National Capital, the work and tireless efforts of Clara Barton, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Clare Boothe Luce, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Condoleezza Rice have shaped and defined history for the better.

On International Women’s Day, we are reminded to support and uplift women everywhere and empower them to make a positive impact on the world. 

For more commentary from Callista Gingrich, visit Gingrich360.com.