Striking a far different tone than she has so far on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton delivered a passioniate speech that highlighted women's rights at the Women in the World summit Thursday.

"The advancement of the full participation of women and girls ... is the great unfinished business of the 21st century," Clinton told the cheering crowd, who gave her a standing ovation when she arrived.

Clinton highlighted unequal pay, work practices, family leave, childcare costs, education and insisted "no matter who you are or where you come from, you too can be a champion for change."

Clinton made a few quips (including opening with the line "I wanted to be here, regardless of what else I was doing" upon arriving on stage), but she mainly kept the speech serious. She told the personal story of her own mother, saying her mother had taught her that "everyone deserves a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential." She also made several references to her baby granddaughter, Charlotte, born last year.

Clinton talked about her recent trip to Iowa and New Hampshire, where she has been on a road trip since announcing 11 days ago that she is running for president. While not a campaign event, the Women in the World summit is her first speech since announcing her candidacy. She has appeared at the summit in previous years, including a visit in 2013 that was her first public appearance after leaving office as Secretary of State.

"We have to have leaders who recognize that the time has come," Clinton said. "When women are held back, our country is held back ... When women get ahead, everyone gets ahead."

Clinton did not take questions from reporters, although her campaign has faced controversy after allegations in a new book called "Clinton Cash" that highlights donations her family's foundation received from foreign goverments.

Clinton's feminist tones were in tune with the overall tone of the conference, which highlights issues facing women globally. Run by Tina Brown Live Media in association with The New York Times, Women in the World also featured panels about girls as a weapon of war, maternal deaths, women on film, North Korea and online trolls. Speakers on the panels included Meryl Streep, Jon Stewart, Katie Couric, Ava DuVernay, Barbra Streisand, Savannah Guthrie and Helen Mirren.

The conference continues on Friday, where Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, author Jon Krakauer, Samantha Power and Tavi Gevinson will appear.