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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Celebrate Women on Saturday, March 8

Written by Jon Williams

International Women’s Day began in the early 1900s as part of a campaign for women’s rights, particularly the right to vote. In 1914, the day was officially observed on March 8 for the first time. During that year it was used as an opportunity to rally for peace in the looming face of World War I. On its centennial celebration, International Women’s Day is now officially recognized by 27 countries around the world, while many more observe it as well. It is now seen as a day to celebrate the achievements of women, as well as to inspire new generations to the lofty heights only dreamed of by their predecessors.

One way to celebrate the achievements of women is through biographies and profiles of notable women. A number of these have graced the bestseller lists recently, such as I Am Malala (about a Pakistani girl’s fight for education) and Lean In (a memoir from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg). On a historical level, women like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Anne Frank continue to fascinate, as do the Princesses Diana and Grace of Monaco. These are just a few of the hundreds of titles about fascinating women that can be found here in our International Women’s Day collection for 2014.

Of course, hearing their stories is only one part of the equation. Another part is actually experiencing the work they create. In fiction, women are among today’s most popular authors. J.K. Rowling, of course, is responsible for the classic Harry Potter books, and her two novels since then (The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoo’s Calling) have been huge bestsellers. One of the hottest books of the past year has been Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings are experiencing similar popularity. Names like Nora Roberts, Jodi Picoult, and Janet Evanovich are mainstays on the bestseller lists, and there are plenty of classics from authors like Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Willa Cather, to name just a few. And let’s not forget To Kill a Mockingbird—Harper Lee’s only novel is one of the best of all time.

In film and television, one of the buzziest names in pop culture right now is Lena Dunham, creator and head writer of the hit HBO series Girls, currently in its third season. (Incidentally, on International Women’s Day this Saturday, Dunham will be hosting Saturday Night Live.) In 2008, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director for the film The Hurt Locker. Other notable female directors include such names as Penny Marshall, Nora Ephron, and Sofia Coppola. And the list of talented actresses, past or present, would be too long to even begin.

It’s a similar story in music, where women are a dominant force in the industry. Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry are some of the biggest stars in the world right now, with New Zealand teenager Lorde well on her way to joining them. They follow in the footsteps of classic artists like Madonna, Stevie Nicks, Janis Joplin, and Loretta Lynn, again to name just a few. Going back further, there are names like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. And this is obviously just limited to pop vocal music—there are plenty of other genres which have seen incredible contributions by women.

So use this Saturday to encourage your patrons to celebrate the life and work of women all around the world. You can search for names of individual women on our website, or SmartBrowse International Women’s Day to find a wealth of material by and about women to add to your library’s media collection.

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