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The Feminism Portal

International Women's Day, Bangladesh (2005)
Feminism involves various movements, theories and philosophies which are concerned with the issue of gender difference, race equality and humanitarian rights, that advocate equality for women, and that campaign for women's rights and interests. The history of feminism can be divided into three waves. The first wave was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the second was in the 1960s and 1970s and the third extends from the 1990s to the present. Feminist theory emerged from these feminist movements. It manifests through a variety of disciplines such as feminist geography, feminist history and feminist literary criticism.

Feminism has altered predominant perspectives in a wide range of areas within Western society, ranging from culture to law. Feminist activists have campaigned for women's legal rights (rights of contract, property rights, voting rights); for rights to bodily integrity and autonomy, for abortion rights, and for reproductive rights (including access to contraception and quality prenatal care); for protection from domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape; for workplace rights, including maternity leave and equal pay; and against other forms of discrimination.

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Plaque on exterior wall of École Polytechnique commemorating victims of massacre
The École Polytechnique massacre occurred on December 6, 1989 at the École Polytechnique de Montréal in Montreal, Quebec. Twenty-five year-old Marc Lépine, armed with a legally-obtained semi-automatic rifle and a hunting knife, shot twenty-eight people, killing fourteen (all of them women) and injuring the other fourteen before killing himself. He began his attack by entering a classroom at the university, where he separated the men and women students from each other. After claiming that he was "fighting feminism", he shot all nine women in the room, killing six. He then moved through corridors, the cafeteria, and another classroom, specifically targeting women to shoot. He killed fourteen women and injured four men and ten women in just under twenty minutes before turning the gun on himself. Lépine's suicide note claimed political motives and blamed feminists for ruining his life. The note include a list of nineteen Quebec women whom Lépine considered to be feminists and apparently wished to kill. Since the attack, Canadians have debated various interpretations of the events, their significance, and Lépine's motives. The massacre is regarded by most feminists and many official perspectives as an anti-feminist attack and representative of wider societal violence against women; the anniversary of the massacre is commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The incident led to more stringent gun control laws in Canada, and changes in the tactical response of police to shootings, which were later credited with minimizing casualties at the Dawson College shootings.

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Hélène Dutrieu
Credit: Bain News Service

Hélène Dutrieu in her airplane in 1911. Dutrieu was the fourth woman in the world to earn a pilot's license and possibly the first to carry passengers. She was the first woman to earn the French Legion of Honor for aviation. She was also world cycling champion, a stunt motorcyclist, an automobile racer, a wartime ambulance driver, and director of a military hospital.

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Makhtaran Bibi

Featured biography

"Sarah Trimmer" painted by Henry Howard
Sarah Trimmer (née Kirby) (1741 – 1810) was a noted writer and critic of British children's literature in the eighteenth century. Her periodical, The Guardian of Education, helped to define the emerging genre by seriously reviewing children's literature for the first time. Trimmer's most popular children's book, Fabulous Histories, inspired numerous children's animal stories and remained in print for over a century. Trimmer was an active philanthropist as well as author; she founded several Sunday schools and charity schools in her parish. To further these educational projects, she not only wrote textbooks but she also penned manuals for other women interested in starting their own schools. Trimmer's efforts inspired other women, such as Hannah More, to establish Sunday school programs and to write for children and the poor. Trimmer was in many ways dedicated to maintaining the social and political status quo in her works. As a high church Anglican, she was intent on promoting the Established Church of Britain and on teaching young children and the poor the doctrines of Christianity. Her writings outlined the benefits of social hierarchies, arguing that each class should remain in its God-given position. Yet, while supporting many of the traditional political and social ideologies of her time, Trimmer questioned others, such as those surrounding gender and the family.

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Jessie Bartlett Davis




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Liz Phair
I am a feminist, and I define myself: Be yourself, because if you can get away with it, that is the ultimate feminist act.

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