5 times women-led protests changed the world, because this is just the beginning

Women: We get things done. Just look at some of the awesome female revolutionaries who stood their ground throughout history. Or, you know, how seamlessly all the incredible women’s marches around the world yesterday came together. And although organizers cautioned us that the Women’s March was not a protest, some of the signs we saw suggest otherwise.

Right now, it feels like we’re at the beginning of something big. And obviously, it’s going to be important to keep up this momentum now that the Women’s Marches are over. So just in case things aren’t happening fast enough for you, remember: Women-led protests change the world. There’s plenty of history to back that up.

The Women’s March on Versailles


The Women’s March on Versailles is probably one of the best known women-led protests in history. One of the biggest reasons? The myth of Marie Antoinette’s most famous words, “Let them eat cake.” While the queen never actually used the phrase, it’s easy to see where the confusion comes from. The 1798 women’s march was a response to the scarcity of bread – and high prices if you actually got your hands on a loaf. The 7,000 strong crowd realized that they, the people, were more powerful together than the monarchy – so they took the king and queen prisoner the next day.

Russia’s International Women’s Day strike, 1917

Food shortages were also a factor in the 1917 International Women’s Day demonstrations in Russia. (In fact, there’s a solid history of women-led protests around food prices, including 18th-century riots in America and England.) Women factory workers in Russia staged a walk-out, and men and women from all industries joined them soon after. It was the beginning of the February Revolution – just a small historical event that ended in the tsar’s abdication.

The Rosenstrasse Protest

In 2015, Rivera Sun cited this protest in an article titled What Women Of Berlin’s Rosenstrasse Protest Can Teach Us About Trump, with the comment, “Organized resistance is essential.” The Rosenstrasse Protest occurred in response to the “Final Roundup of Berlin Jews” in 1943. During the roundup, the Gestapo detained an estimated 1700-2000 Jewish men in a welfare office on Rosenstrasse. Most of these men were married to non-Jewish wives, who gathered outside the building and demanded to see their husbands. After a week of protest, authorities released the women’s husbands; most survived the war. It was a small victory, but an important one.

The Miss America Protest

When you think of the Women’s Liberation Movement, you think of the Miss America Protest. Why? Because that’s the event where women threw their bras, heels and makeup into a the “freedom trash can.” Even though the bin was never set on fire, the “bra burning” myth is still the event’s main legacy. At the protest, one of the organizers, Robin Morgan, spoke out against female stereotypes. In some ways, not much has changed. As Morgan put it, “To win approval, we must be both sexy and wholesome, delicate but able to cope, demure yet titillatingly bitchy or should we say [ill-tempered] …” Sound familiar? That’s why we’re still not done with women-led protests. Keep fighting.

Black Monday, Poland

You might remember this one, because it was only a few months ago. In October 2016, Polish women staged massive strikes in protest of a proposed total abortion ban. (We say “total” because technically, abortion was already mostly illegal – but the proposed law sought to criminalize it in all cases.) Dressed in black and armed with banners, women took to the streets all throughout the country. An estimated 100,000 joined the women-led protests. The Polish parliament then rejected the bill decisively, in a 352-58 vote.