IT’S rolling round again, IWD: International Women’s Day.

Hopefully, we remember the background: New York, 1857 and a National Women’s Day being proposed to commemorate the protest by women garment workers on, yes, March 8. There was a subsequent proposal for an Annual International Women’s Day, but it took until 1908 when those garment workers were at it again in New York, advocating for, shock horror, better pay, voting rights and a “day”.

Dates were up for grabs by then and IWD was marked in the USA on February 28, 1909. Confusingly, March 19, 1911, was officially marked as International Women’s Day for the first time with more than a million people celebrating in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Women were demanding the right to vote, to fight against discrimination in the workplace, and to hold public office. Finally, March 8 was settled on and is used in remembrance of that initial protest in the 19th century.

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But a quick gallop through herstory shows women have been written out, forgotten, or from time to time moved from pedestal to prostitution, venerated as goddess or condemned as whores.

Who knew that in Australia The Seven Sisters are the ancestral beings, sky women who descended to earth only to be pursued by a group of men who’d never seen women before, or that in Hinduism there is the Tridevi, three main female goddesses: Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati. I certainly didn’t. Aphrodite was a bit of a latecomer, with an inheritance from Astarte from Phoenicia, and possibly Ishtar who hailed from Sumeria. But Aphrodite herself is often morphed with Venus. Women certainly managed to move around a lot in those early days – before being rubbed out, that is.

I mean, how could we forget those early playwrights? Eat your heart out, Shakespeare. Let’s hear it for Hrotsvitha, born around 935 in Germany, considered the first female writer from that region, first female historian, first person since the Roman Empire to write dramas in Latin, and the first German female poet. OK, I concede that like the later playwright Hildegard, there was the privilege of their cosseted life of holy orders. Most definitely neither was labouring in the fields.

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But whether its strong, driven women such as Agnes Randolph, Countess of Dunbar and March (Black Agnes) or Mary Bruce and Isabella, the Countess of Buchan – she who performed Robert the Bruce’s coronation with both imprisoned in specially constructed iron cages suspended from the outside walls of castles during Scottish English wars – or artists like Gentileschi, it is obvious there are the unrecorded, unrecognised roles and achievements of women throughout.

Change is inevitable: it can be so slow and it isn’t always for the better, or when it does occur, it doesn’t mean we can rest up.

In Britain, we saw the Representation of the People Act 1918, which for the first time permitted some women, but not all, to vote in parliamentary elections.

But there is one constant: women. Mammies, grannies, aunties, nieces, cousins, granddaughters, our families, friends and neighbours. One thing we should remember, even if we’re occasionally forgotten, overlooked, dismissed or written out: we’re standing on the shoulders of the giants who went before us.

Happy IWD on Wednesday.

Selma Rahman

I ADMIT to being a bit of a news addict and I read as many sources as my budget, online savvy and patience allow. In this blizzard of news I feel two of the candidates are at a disadvantage in that I know little or nothing of their religious views. I hope this situation will improve before voting begins.

RG Clark