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International Women's Day, Bangladesh (2005)
Feminism involves various movements, theories and philosophies which are concerned with the issue of gender inequality, race inequality and humanitarian rights, that advocate eliminating the oppression of 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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Map showing origin nations of Tahirih Justice Center clients
The Tahirih Justice Center is a United States-based non-governmental organization that serves immigrant women and girls who are fleeing from gender-based violence and persecution through pro bono direct legal services and social and medical service referrals. Tahirih helps women who are attempting to escape from such abuse as female genital cutting, domestic violence, human trafficking, torture and rape. The organization also conducts public policy initiatives designed to achieve legislative change for women fleeing from human rights abuses, to highlight problems faced by immigrant women in the United States, and to end the possible exploitation of mail-order brides by international marriage brokers. The organization is named after Táhirih, an influential female poet and theologian in nineteenth century Persia who campaigned for women's rights. Tahirih is a Bahá'í-inspired organization, although its clients and employees vary widely in ethnicity, religious identification, and nationality.

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Japanese weaver
Credit: Yanagawa Shigenobu

A Japanese weaver using a beater that is mounted from a notched pole and suspended overhead. Woodcut print by Yanagawa Shigenobu, 1825-1832.

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Photograph by H. B. Lindsley
Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross; c.1820 – 10 March 1913) was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the U.S. Civil War. After escaping from captivity, she made thirteen missions to rescue over seventy slaves using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry, and in the post-war era struggled for women's suffrage. Born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland, Tubman was beaten and whipped by her various owners as a child. In 1849, Tubman escaped to Philadelphia, then immediately returned to Maryland to rescue her family. Slowly, one group at a time, she brought relatives with her out of the state, and eventually guided dozens of other slaves to freedom. When a far-reaching United States Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850, she helped guide fugitives further north into Canada, and helped newly-freed slaves find work. When the American Civil War began, Tubman worked for the Union Army, first as a cook and nurse, and then as an armed scout and spy. The first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the raid on the Combahee River, which liberated more than seven hundred slaves. She was active in the women's suffrage movement until illness overtook her and she had to be admitted to a home for elderly African-Americans she had helped open years earlier. After she died in 1913, she became an icon of American courage and freedom.

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We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all civil and political rights that belong to the citizens of the United States be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.

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