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Milestones in women's history from the year you were born

  • 1999: Google's first female engineer gets to work

    Google only hired 19 employees at its start, but among them was its first female engineer, Marissa Mayer. As the company became the technology behemoth we know today, she rose up the ranks to become the head of Google's successful Maps and Location Services. In 2012, Mayer became the CEO of struggling rival Yahoo for several years before stepping down in 2017, amid accusations of mismanagement.

  • 2000: Million Mom March commences

    In a true show of grassroots activism, an estimated 750,000 people marched in Washington D.C., on Mother's Day to protest gun violence and advocate for stricter gun control reforms. Donna Dees-Thomases had watched news coverage of a shooting and created a website in hopes of rallying other moms horrified by the carnage they were seeing. The march was organized entirely by word of mouth and led to dozens of Million Mom March chapters around the country advocating for gun control.

  • 2001: Take Back the Night Foundation forms

    Take Back the Night got its start in two unrelated marches: one in Philadelphia in 1975 and another in Brussels in 1976. Participants marched down streets with candles, protesting increased violent crime against women. In the years since, the movement became more focused on issues of sexual assault and in 2001, Katie Koestner—who had publicly shared her own story of campus date rape—created the Take Back the Night Foundation. Today, the foundation provides resources to survivors and holds annual marches on college campuses.

  • 2002: U.K.'s Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act passes

    In 2001, the number of women in British parliament declined for the first time in two decades, after a policy used by one party to ensure half their candidates would be women was declared unconstitutional. The Labour Party decided they would prioritize changing laws that would allow parties to use “positive discrimination” to ensure that more women would have their voice heard in Parliament; this promise eventually became the 2002 Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act.

  • 2003: Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace ends a civil war

    A second civil war broke out in Liberia in 2000, a bloody conflict that killed 200,000 people by the end of its second year. As it continued into 2003, social worker Leymah Gbowee brought together women from her church in protest, spawning a movement that quickly grew to include women of all faiths encouraged to speak out for peace in the country. Women marched in the streets, withheld sex from partners fighting in the war, and continued nonviolently protesting. By the end of 2003, their efforts helped begin a peace process.

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  • 2004: March for Women's Lives takes place

    The April 25, 2004, March for Women's Lives capped off a year of planning by seven diverse women's activist groups, creating one of largest marches in the abortion debate in U.S. history. Their effort saw hundreds of thousands march in Washington to support access to abortion, birth control, more comprehensive reproductive health care, and improved sex-ed programs while protesting policies they saw as “anti-women.”

  • 2005: Kuwait's Blue Revolution secures women's suffrage

    Women of Kuwait finally achieved victory in their decades-long struggle over the right to vote. From 2002 until their May 2005 triumph, activists used nonviolent protest in a final push, protesting outside voter registration centers and casting fake ballots. Activists often protested wearing light blue clothing, representing one of several nonviolent campaigns associated with a color to signify international solidarity in the fight for human rights that peaked in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

  • 2006: Iran's One Million Signatures campaign ends polygamous marriage

    Iranian women hatched an ambitious plan in order to achieve an ambitious goal. To get the government to reform laws that discriminated against women, they would get 1 million Iranian citizens to sign a petition asking Parliament for equal rights including marriage and divorce rights, an end to polygamous marriages, equal inheritance rights, equal rights to testimony in the country, harsher punishments for honor killings, and more. The two-year campaign never reached its million-signature goal, but did manage to put an end to polygamous marriages.

    [Pictured: Iranian women's activist Parvin Ardalan, head of the One Million Signatures Campaign.]

  • 2007: First woman Speaker of the House takes the gavel

    The 2006 midterm elections in the United States swept huge majorities of Democrats into Congress, and California representative and party leader Nancy Pelosi was subsequently named speaker of the House. With her powerful new position, Pelosi facilitated the passage of some of President Barack Obama's key legislative victories, including the economic stimulus and the Affordable Care Act. She ceded the gavel in 2011 when Republicans regained a majority, but she brought her formidable experience back to the position for the 2019–2020 congressional session.

  • 2008: Rwanda becomes first country with majority-female legislature

    The 2003 Rwandan Constitution reserved 30% of the seats in its decision-making bodies for women. In 2008, Rwanda's female politicians claimed those seats and then some, winning 56% of parliamentary seats after elections where most of the winning women ran against male opponents. Rwanda became the first modern democracy where women held the majority in the legislature that year, and the country continued breaking its own records. By 2013, 64% of members of Rwanda's parliament were women.

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