International Women's Day: Iconic Images Of Female Empowerment (PICTURES)

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Pictures of suffragettes struggling with police and of 60's campaigners brandishing their bras are among the most iconic images of women's liberation to be celebrated during International Women's Day.

When Emily Wilding Davidson threw herself under the kings horse in 1913, her reasoning was unclear to some.

But the picture of Davidson lying unconscious in the middle of the Epsom Derby became a call to arms for the women's liberation movement, as their cause became increasingly desperate.

The Liberal government had introduced a number of controversial measures to stop the women campaigning for the right to vote from becoming martyrs.

Suffragettes thrown in prison after clashes with police often went on hunger strike. Initially, prison officers would force feed the women, a brutal measure that was often used in lunatic asylums. Painful, frightening and humiliating for the women, this extreme measure was deeply unpopular with the voting public.

Picture of a woman being force-fed in prison

As a sop to popular opinion, the 'Cat and Mouse Act' was introduced, allowing women on hunger strike to go home until they were well again, before re-incarcerating them.

Although a savvy political move, it made the suffragettes more militant as it shut one of their few avenues of protest whilst in prison.

The famous poster of a giant cat, a weakened woman in its teeth, became an apt symbol of the women campaigners versus the establishment.

Cat and Mouse Act

However by 1914 Europe was teetering on the brink of a world war. Global conflict was to scar the following decades.

As men were packed off to fight the Germans, women, traditionally restricted to home and hearth, were suddenly needed in the workplace.

Recognising the vital role women had played in the war effort, women over thirty who owned property were granted the vote in 1918. However equal rights for the 'fairer sex' was still a long way off.

During World War II, the percentage of women who worked outside the home increased from 25% to 36%. The type of positions they occupied were also pioneering, being more traditionally reserved for men.

Women took up factory work as part of the war effort

Government issue posters featuring images of "Rosie the Riveter" promoted the idea that it was patriotic for women to work in non-traditional jobs.

Rosie the Riveter

Flexible working hours and nurseries soon became commonplace to accommodate the needs of working women with children. Before long, women made up one third of the total workforce in the metal and chemical industries, as well as in ship-building and vehicle manufacture.

They worked on the railways, canals and on buses. Women built Waterloo Bridge in London.

The women's land army, 1943

The second wave of feminism started in the United States in the 1960s and Simon de Beauvoir was heralded as a touchstone for the movement.

Her novel The Second Sex expressed women’s sense of injustice, focussing on social, political, and personal change. Initially regarded as an affront to sexual decency rather than describing what it meant to be a woman, it was the second wave of feminism which ushered in the iconic shots of women burning their bras.

Betty Friedan’s publication of The Feminine Mystique was directly influenced by Beauvoir’s novel, and fuelled the fire of a civil rights movement. A crucial moment of global change, the self titled 'sisterhood' took to the streets to demand equal recognition.

The 1980's saw Britain's first female prime minister voted to power. The famous shot of Margaret Thatcher waving to crowds from the steps of Number 10, was a landmark moment not only for British politics, but also for women's emancipation.

Margaret Thatcher with her husband outside Number 10 upon becoming Prime Minister in 1979

What iconic pictures from history sum up women's rights to you? Take a look at the pictures below.

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