Diana Trujillo Pomerantz is a Columbian aerospace engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and the Tactical Mission Lead for the Mars Perseverance Rover. She led the 45-person engineering team that developed a robotic arm to collect rock samples on Mars and answer the critical question: “Is there life out there?”
Born and raised in a country with limited opportunities for women, Trujillo immigrated to Miami, Florida with only $300, and she began to study at Miami Dade Community College. By cleaning bathrooms to afford tuition, Trujillo transferred to the University of Maryland to study aerospace engineering. Then, she studied at the University of Miami, where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in aerospace engineering. She then applied to the NASA Academy and was one of the first Hispanic women accepted.
Her contributions to NASA have benefited the agency since 2007. Today, she hosts NASA’s first Spanish-spoken live broadcast known as #JuntosPerseveramos (Together We Persevere), and issues updates on the Perseverance mission via NASA’s English and Spanish series, Martes de Marte.
"I want to be out there looking back in, showing my family that women have value, that women matter." - Diana Trujillo
Dorothy Klenke Nash was the first female doctor to specialize in neurosurgery in the United States and was the only female neurosurgeon in the country from 1928 to 1960. In the years following her graduation from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, she conducted research on life-saving diagnostic technology. As the president of the Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania, she worked to empower Pennsylvanian women and honor their achievements. Being a lifelong advocate for mental health, Dr. Nash never missed an opportunity to bring awareness to mental health through fighting the stigma against it and founding the mental health society of her county. She was honored for her numerous achievements by being awarded the Minerva Award, named after the Roman goddess of wisdom, by the Women’s Auxiliary of Mercy West, and by being awarded a commemorative medallion from Columbia.
Best known for being the first and only woman to ever receive the most-distinct U.S. Medal of Honor, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker played a pivotal role in American society and history. Placing her amongst the heroes of her era, this recognition was not the first nor the last “only woman” title she would receive in her life. While fighting for gender equality and challenging gender norms persisted for centuries, Walker showed the world what it truly means to be a woman, an activist, and everything in between.
“Struggle for political rights, for it is through such, and such alone, that you will ever obtain human rights. It is not simply for yourself, but for that great army of young women, who cannot yet see the necessity for anything but smiles and gallantry from the future husbands.” - Mary Edwards Walker
Clementine Churchill was the powerhouse behind Winston Churchill’s successful career. As his cunning political wife, she saved his political career when he made a blunder and saved his life during a life-threatening incident. Without her, Winston would have mentally and physically collapsed early in his political career.
However, Clementine’s influence goes beyond just being his wife. During both World Wars, she involved herself in charity work, organizing canteens for munitions workers, spearheading campaigns, and raising funds for other organizations. Her impactful contributions were later recognized with honors from Russia and the British Empire.
“You are strong because you are imperfect. You are wise because you have doubts.” - Clementine Churchill
Annie Easley was an American computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist, who made remarkable contributions to the technology field. Her research on energy-conversion systems has advanced various fields revolving around technology, science, and mathematics. Easley received various awards for her contributions to the modern world, including the Special Achievement Award from NASA Director of Administration Henry Barnett and Deputy Director Gene Manganiello. Easley would become known as a “human computer” because of her computational calculations for researchers. Her wide range of contributions to society includes interpreting power technology, which was used for vehicles assisting in the Centaur upper-stage rocket. In addition, Easley inspires many around the globe to follow her footsteps as a STEM pioneer.
“Don’t give up on it. Just stick with it. Don’t listen to the people who always tell you it’s hard, and walk away from it.” - Annie Easley
Naaz Joshi is the first transgender model in India, as well as a cover model, showstopper, and worldwide beauty queen. She is also a motivational speaker and a transgender rights activist. She was recently crowned the Empress Earth in 2021 and is the only woman in India to hold seven international crowns. In addition, Naaz has won the Miss World Diversity pageant three times.
Fun fact: Her name ‘Naaz’ means ‘pride’ in Urdu.
“I take a lot of pride in just being myself. Like every other woman, I too dream of falling in love and have a beautiful life.” - Naaz Joshi
Sophia Bush is a prominent figure, not only for TV show fanatics, but also for her work towards advocating for members of the LGBTQ+ community, aiding developing nations, and her avid political efforts. She has gained a large platform from one of her most well-known characters, Brooke Davis (One Tree Hill) and has used it for women empowerment advocacy.
Bush actively works to make the world a better place by shedding light on lesser-known injustices and raising money for causes ranging from cancer research to voting rights.
CNN has named her one of the most charitable celebrities since 2015.
“You are allowed to be a masterpiece and a work in progress. Simultaneously.” - Sophia Bush
Amy Hood is an American businesswoman who has made substantial advancements in the business and marketing fields. She is most widely known for being the first female Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Microsoft Corporation.
Hood joined Microsoft in 2002, and has since then advanced the company’s business operations, including global real estate, treasury, accounts, reports, and acquisitions. Her contributions have shaped how many view the business and technology world.
“As the leadership team, we’re taking bold and decisive action to evolve our organization and culture. This includes difficult steps, but they are necessary to position Microsoft for future growth and industry leadership.” - Amy Hood
Amelia Boynton Robinson was a central figure in passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. By working alongside other activists, most notably Martin Luther King Jr., she was able to assist in the organization of the Selma to Montgomery Marches. Fighting against racial discrimination, she sought to increase the number of African American registered voters and fought to have their voices heard.
Gloria Allred is a lawyer who has dedicated her life to advocating for justice and rights for women and disadvantaged minorities. Her law firm, Allred, Maroko, and Goldberg, has handled more women’s rights cases than any other private law firm in the nation. After facing various hardships, Allred pursued her career as a lawyer to ensure that all women were treated fairly under the law. Committed to her job, she has not taken a vacation in forty years. Allred even works on the weekends and holidays because she believes that "your problem doesn't wait for Monday." The magazine
Time called her “one of the nation’s most effective advocates of family rights and feminist causes.”
“Because of my life experiences, I understand that I have an opportunity to help other women. I have the desire and the ability.” - Gloria Allred
As the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Bernice Albertine King took on her parents’ passion for advocating for nonviolent social change. At a young age, she was called to the ministry, just like her father was, and she was the only child in the King family to take up ministry as a profession. Later on, she published two books: one based on a collection of her addresses, “Hard Questions, Heart Answers: Sermons and Speeches,” and the other one is an autobiography, “The Father I Never Knew.”
In January 2012, King was given the position of chief executive officer (CEO) for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, also known as the King Center, by the Board of Trustees. To carry on her parent’s legacy, King began educating youths and adults about nonviolent practices, which she rebranded as Nonviolence365, demonstrated by her parents.
“Love is not a weak, spineless emotion; it is a powerful moral force on the side of justice.” - Bernice King
At 13, Wie qualified to play in the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship, making her the youngest player to compete on the LPGA Tour. She continued on to finish in the Top Ten, carding a 66 (6 under par) on the third day. Wie officially went pro before turning 16, inviting sponsorships from brands like Nike. Her first LPGA win was at the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico at the Guadalajara Country Club.
Outside of golf, Wie is a passionate foodie. She even has a second instagram account, @whatdowieeat, dedicated entirely to her latest food adventures, including everything from banana bread to sushi.
“We're all just playing our own game. I don't see it as a rivalry. We're just trying to play our best.” - Michelle Wie West
Wu Zetian, also known as Wu Chao or Wu Hou, was the first and only female Empress of China. She ruled during a time heavily influenced by Confucianism, which did not regard women as equal members of society.
She had significant military victories during her rule, maintained good foreign relations, improved education, and increased agricultural production. Wu ruled China for fifteen years and led the rapid development of China as the empire expanded, both in population and land.
Susanne Langer was an American philosopher who made significant contributions to her field. Her ideas on creativity and the mind have become a part of society’s mindset around art and music. She was one of the most widely read philosophers of her time per her celebrated book Philosophy In A New Key. She argued that when an artist creates, they don’t create to communicate their own emotion but to rather convey the idea of emotion itself and what they know about emotion. The book sold more than half a million copies and quickly made its way to assigned reading lists where thousands of students eagerly consumed its new ideas. Langer was also a professor of philosophy at Connecticut College, before receiving a research grant and going into writing.
“Most new discoveries are suddenly - seen things that were always there. A new idea is a light that illuminates presences which simply had no form before the light fell on them.” - Susanne Langer
Known as the “Queen of Tejano music” and the “Mexican Madonna,” Selena Quintanilla has made it into the history books. Quintanilla brought an immense amount of exposure to Tejano or Tex-Mex music throughout her career, and her talent continues to do so today.
Growing up with little money, Quintanilla and her family made substantial sacrifices for success. Once she and her siblings developed a family band called Selena y Los Dinos, achievements followed. By performing locally, Quintanilla became a familiar name and gained popularity.
The star’s admiration boomed after she signed to EMI Records and caught the eyes of an audience of Tejano fans. Following the release of Quintanilla's Ven Conmigo album, and a collaboration with Alvaro Torres called “Buenos Amigos,”and “Donde Quiero Que Estes,” Quintanilla began her rise to fame. Her legacy proceeds to reign through her music, and she remains a household name among hispanic homes.
“There's a lot of men in this business. If you can't speak for yourself, they are going to run you down every which way.” - Selena Quintanilla
Muriel Siebert was a monumental figure for women interested in finance and opportunities on Wall Street. She began as a researcher on Wall Street in 1954, and from there became a Wall Street power house. In 1967, she was the first woman to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. She was the only woman on the exchange where 1,365 men sat for 10 years.
Muriel faced bias everyday for being a woman and of Jewish heritage. The inequity she faced did not stop her resilience on Wall Street, reaching a position as the Superintendent of Banking in New York. As time progressed, she even ran for the United States Senate.
She created multiple opportunities for underrepresented people to learn about finance, and in 1994, Muriel was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
“I put my head down, and charge.” - Muriel Siebert
With an exclusive style and presence on the court, Serena Williams, one of the greatest female athletes in history, has forever changed the sport of tennis for women, especially for those of color. Her pure strength and athletic talent has overwhelmed opponents; she calls 39 Grand Slam titles her own, 23 of which are for singles events. Williams holds the record for winning the most women’s singles matches at the Grand Slams, the most by any player in the Open Era, and the second-most of all time in tennis history. She was ranked world No. 1 in singles by the Women's Tennis Association for 319 weeks, and finished as No. 1 five times.
How Williams expresses herself through her energy, hair styles, unique outfits, dancing, and general passion on the court were once unheard of in tennis. Despite immense pressure throughout her career, she remained herself without shame, inspiring many women to pursue their passions with a firm mindset and drive. As her tennis career closes in 2022, Serena continues to cultivate her success and impact beyond her professional tennis career with her Venture Capital firm and as a mother. Williams’s sense of emotion and power makes her a celebrity both off and on the court, communicating to girls that there is no need to hide determination in order to succeed.
“The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up.” - Serena Williams
Karen Nussbaum is a union organizer, activist, and former U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau director. In 1973, she founded and directed the 9to5 movement, which focused on obtaining fair treatment of women in the workforce and ensuring the workplace was free of sexual harassment and microaggressions directed toward women.
She dropped out of the University of Chicago during her sophomore year to be more active in the anti-Vietnam War movement. To support herself, she was a clerical worker at Harvard University. That experience inspired her to join forces with other middle and working-class women in the United States to advocate for better treatment.
"The true face of unions is not now a man in a hard hat as much as it is a woman in a classroom or in cleaning smocks.” - Karen Nussbaum
When Maria da Penha was almost murdered by her husband, there was no law, police station, or shelter that protected women from domestic violence in Brazil. “At that time, we weren’t even aware of this expression – domestic violence,” she said, “you just had a bad husband.” Even paraplegics decided to dismantle the patriarchal culture and fight for women’s rights.
Thus, she was the inspiration for the first Brazilian law against violence towards women, the “Lei Maria da Penha” (the Maria da Penha Law), which saves, supports, and helps Brazilian women to this day.
“Life only starts when the violence ends.” - Maria da Penha
At only 28 years old, Heidy Quah is a prominent figure who has impacted the lives of thousands of people through her creation of the NGO, Refuge for the Refugees. Although Malaysia has allowed refugees to stay in the country temporarily before relocating to another, the country does not endorse the Refugee 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol. The lack of support from the Malaysian government is due to the Malaysian Immigration Act 155 Law, which makes no distinction between undocumented migrants and refugees. This misgiving creates vulnerability for refugees as they are increasingly prone to arrests and deportations.
Although society has progressed in many ways, there are still millions of people who seek refuge from their war-ridden countries. As a human rights activist, Quah plays a significant role in aiding victims who need to evacuate the unstable environments of their home countries. Her efforts to provide a safe space to educate refugees greatly impact their lives, since they are often forced out of their homes with no time to collect their personal items or legal documents. This makes it immensely difficult for them to obtain a job or enroll into school to pursue further education.
Her work is recognized not only by Malaysians but by people across the world. Quah even gained the attention of Queen Elizabeth II, who awarded her the Queen’s Young Leader Award in 2017.
"When you understand your privilege, know your identity and your worth, there's so much more to give." - Heidy Quah
Alice Nkom is an outspoken activist for LGBTQ+ people throughout Cameroon, where they can be convicted for their sexual orientation and face jail time. From being the first female attorney in Cameroon to form the first anti-homophobia non-profit organization, Alice Nkom is no stranger to breaking down barriers and fighting for what is right, no matter the cost.
Despite being threatened with arrest, Nkom continues to work towards bringing more attention to the worsening situation for LGBTQ+ people across Cameroon.
"The situation will not change until there is a minimum level of democracy and respect for human rights values.” - Alice Nkom
Louise Bourgeois was a French-American painter, printmaker, and modeler during the 20th century. Most commonly known for her popular pieces referred to as Spider and The Destruction of the Father, Bourgeois is recognized for many awards, including the Wolf Prize in Arts - Painting. In her artwork, Bourgeois portrays emotions that convey meaningful messages to aspiring artists. In addition, her work proposes questions about several themes, such as domesticity in one’s home.
“A work of art does not have to be explained.” - Louise Bourgeois
Virginia Hall was one of the first women to be an espionage agent. Although she lived in a time dominated by traditional values, where society taught her to believe that women should only focus on marriage, Hall was able to break the barriers that had been set for her. She chose to pursue higher education at one of the most prestigious women’s colleges, Barnard College, dreaming of becoming a diplomat.
Even though Hall could no longer pursue that career due to the amputation of her left leg, she did not let that dictate her life. After impressing an SOE (Special Operations Executive) agent, she was hired to work for Britain’s World War II Espionage Organization. Through her wit and bravery, Hall provided the Allies valuable information, plotted safe areas, and completed other critical missions. Two years later, she joined the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), an American spy organization, where she provided equally important information and fulfilled other dangerous missions.
She has received many awards from France, Britain, and the USA for her service. Virginia was the only woman to be given an award in World War II from the American government. After her eventful spy career, she and her husband worked office jobs at the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) for 15 years before they retired. Hall preferred to remain unrecognized throughout the rest of her life to stay safe and undisturbed.
Yu Gwansun, referred to as Korea’s “Joan of Arc,” was a fearless young woman who showcased great bravery and patriotism for the freedom of her country. She is best known for joining the March 1st (“Samil” translating to “three-one” or “March-one”) Movement, a collection of protests fighting for Korea’s independence from Japanese control since the peninsula went under colonial rule in 1905. Yu has displayed not only her impeccable strength, but also great adoration for her country through her willingness to endanger her own life to lead and advocate protests. Through these demonstrations, Yu would witness the murder of both her parents, peers, and imprisonments, which were generated by colonial authority.
Even in prison, her activism persisted by holding protests by herself or with fellow prisoners. Yu died in 1920 at the age of 17 due to starvation and torture. Although she was never given the chance to embrace a free Korea as she died long before its liberation in 1945, she remains as a great source of inspiration to Koreans to this day.
“Even if my fingernails are torn out, my nose and ears are ripped apart, and my legs and arms are crushed, this physical pain does not compare to the pain of losing my nation. My only remorse is not being able to do more than dedicating my life to my country.” - Yu Gwansun
Urvashi Vaid was an LGBTQ+ activist who fought for many issues throughout her life and pushed for reforms. She was born in India before moving to the United States, where she became interested in politics after attending an anti-war protest. Later on, she got a law degree and she began her activism in earnest. She worked at the newspaper Gay Community News and created the Boston Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance. Vaid fought for better care of prisoners with HIV/AIDS through class action lawsuits. After becoming the media director and then executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, she left in 1992 to write Virtual Equality, which was published in 1995 to critical acclaim and won the Stonewall Book Award the following year. She died on May 14, 2022 at the age of 63 and is survived by her partner Kate Clinton who continues to advocate for their beliefs through political humor. Her life was defined by her fight for equality, which she advocated for consistently.
“We call for the end of bigotry as we know it. The end of racism as we know it. The end of child abuse in the family as we know it. The end of sexism as we know it. The end of homophobia as we know it. We stand for freedom as we have yet to know it. And we will not be denied.” - Urvashi Vaid
Despite being raised in a wealthy household and living an extravagant lifestyle, Anna Filosofova made it her life’s mission to improve how Russian women were treated at the time. Since they had limited opportunities for health care, occupations, and education, Filosofova wanted all women to live the life they deserved.
Throughout her life, Filosofova stood out as a bold woman whose actions toward “improving the situation of women in Russia” seemed to be misunderstood by the Russian authorities (Eidelman, 2007). Until her death, she continued advocating for women’s rights in Russia, yet the authorities always seemed to view her actions under suspicion. Nevertheless, Filosofova accomplished many feats, including founding the Society for Inexpensive Apartments for Working Women and the Society for Providing the Means for Women's Higher Education as well as providing jobs to many Russian women. Although she was heavily misunderstood throughout her life, Filosofova’s actions remain the blueprint for many pre-revolutionary feminist efforts.
Junko Tabei became the first woman to climb Mount Everest during her 1975 trek up the range, solidifying her position as a mountain pioneer. Additionally, she became the first woman to climb all of the “seven summits” - the tallest peaks on each continent. Despite all the criticism she received while pursuing her career, she continued following her passion by founding the first women’s climbing club in Japan, Joshi-Tohan. She led the group to climb Annapurna III in Nepal, followed by an attempt to climb Mount Everest. Throughout her life, she also published seven books, studied sustainability for mountains as her postgraduate in university, and further campaigned for preservation of the environment. Amazingly, Junko climbed 160 mountains by the age of sixty nine.
“Technique and ability alone do not get you to the top; it is the willpower that is most important.” - Junko Tabei
Daisy Bates was an incredibly important civil rights leader. She helped manage the Little Rock Nine integration crisis and led the Arkansas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). During the Little Rock Nine integration, she accompanied Black students to an all-white high school every day despite receiving countless death threats, bomb threats, and incidents of violence. Bates also published a newspaper that recounted incidents of police brutality against Black citizens and harassment toward Black veterans.
Bates won numerous awards, including the American Book Award, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Woman of the Year award by the National Council of Negro Women, and the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP’s highest award.
“No man or woman who tries to pursue an ideal in his or her own way is without enemies” - Daisy Bates
Mary Ware Dennett was an American Women’s Rights activist, who fought for sex education, the right to contraception, and homeopathy through pacifist and diplomatic means. She co-founded the National Birth Control League in 1915, the Voluntary Parenthood League, and was an avid member of the National American Women's Suffrage Association.
Dennett wrote many books in her time, including a famous pamphlet, "The Sex Side of Life," which led to the federal court case United States vs. Dennett, which triggered national consideration about the distribution and discussion of sex-related materials. Her work changed the face of America and society.
"If a few federal officials want to use their power to penalize me for my work for the young people of this country, they must bear the shame of the jail sentence. It is the government which is disgraced, not I." - Mary Ware Dennett
Katya Echazarreta is an electrical engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and was the first Mexican-born woman to travel to space. Out of nearly 7,000 applications from over 100 countries, Echazarreta was chosen as the sixth passenger on the New Shepard, owned by Blue Origin.
At the age of seven, Echazarreta and her family migrated to the United States and began their new lives in San Diego, California. After graduating high school, Echazarreta went to San Diego City College, a community college, where she studied electrical engineering. In her junior year, she transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she continued her education. While attending, she completed an internship at NASA. Upon graduating and earning her Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, she began working full-time at NASA. There, she has worked over five missions.
Today, she continues to work full-time as an electrical engineer at NASA and part-time as a student pursuing her Master’s at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Echazarreta also has a social media presence, most notably on her YouTube channel and Instagram account "KatVoltage," where she shares her experiences working at NASA.
“If there’s something that you truly, truly want to do, it’s very important not to let those voices around you tell you that you’re not good enough.” - Katya Echazarreta
Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist, known for her extensive use of polka dots and infinity installations in her self-described “obsessive” style of art. Kusama’s art can be found in many museums worldwide, including the LA County Museum of Art, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2006, she received the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for painting. This prize is awarded annually by the imperial family of Japan and the Japan Art Association for outstanding contributions to the development, promotion and progress of the arts.
“My life is a dot lost among thousands of other dots.” - Yayoi Kusama.
Fanny Hensel was a talented musician and notable composer of the 19th century Romantic Era. She was skilled at playing the piano from a young age, and this proficiency translated into artistry when she entered the field of composition. During her lifetime, she wrote nearly 500 compositions for various instrumentations, ranging from solo piano to string quartet to Lieder (vocalist with piano accompaniment). Four hundred sixty-seven of her works have been documented, though it is theorized that she may have written other pieces that have since been lost.
Some of her most significant works include Das Jahr, a musical interpretation of the calendar year and masterpiece for piano, “Schwanenlied” (“Swan Song”), an intricately beautiful Lied, and Overture in C Major, her only discovered orchestral work. Her overture has been performed by numerous prestigious symphonies around the world, such as Belfast’s Ulster Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Fanny Hensel’s compositions have also been featured by various musical institutions around the world for International Women’s Day.
“And so we try to ornament and prettify our lives–that is the advantage of artists, that they can strew such beautifications about, for those nearby to take an interest in.” - Fanny Hensel
Murasaki Shikibu was an influential figure during the early 1000s. She not only broke multiple stereotypes for Japanese women at the time, but also wrote the first novel in history, The Tale of Genji. As a young girl, she learned fields of study that women typically did not learn, such as Chinese and Kana writing.
After her husband’s sudden death, she became a lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court, a place in which only high class society lived. Writing became her way to grieve, as she worked on The Tale of Genji, which was her most popular and prominent piece of writing. The Tale of Genji became a popular source of literature not only at this time, but also for today’s globe.
Murasaki Shikibu stepped up to be a voice for women and created a new genre in literature.
Doria Shafik, spelled Durriyah Shafiq, was an emblematic figure of the women's liberation movement in the 1940s. Shafik knew that she was destined for more than what society offered women during her time—she earned a PhD in Paris and became a prolific feminist activist, philosopher, poet, author and editor. She is one of the most influential women in Arab history. Doria Shafik is the youngest Egyptian to have obtained the French Baccalaureate at only 16 years old.
She started several hunger strikes to demand respect for women’s rights, and to denounce the dictatorial regime of Gamal Abdal Nasser, which banned her from any type of press. As a result of her efforts, Egyptian women were granted the right to vote by the Egyptian constitution. Despite the importance of her contribution in Egyptian society evolution, the generations of patriarchal governments have continuously effaced her stories.
“The true meaning of the women's movement is the complete cooperation between men and women, not the continuous struggle between the two.” - Doria Shafik
Ethel Lois Payne was a fearless woman, who served as “a voice for her people,” and remained firm to this role all throughout her life. Payne pursued a journalism career and was an advocate for underlying societal issues such as racial injustice and other civil rights dilemmas. Payne’s work and everlasting desire towards her craft established her as the “First Lady of the Black Press.”
Payne never hesitated to call out injustices, and despite criticism from other Black journalists, she continued with her reports and made history on multiple occasions, being the first African-American woman to focus on international news coverage. Payne’s commentaries and written pieces continue to inspire today’s generation of journalists, and her bold personality made her an “unsung heroine.”
“I stick to my firm, unshakeable belief that the Black press is an advocacy press, and that I, as a part of that press, can’t afford the luxury of being unbiased . . . when it come to issues that really affect my people, and I plead guilty, because I think that I am an instrument of change.” - Ethel Payne
Dolores Huerta is a Chicano civil rights leader and farm workers' rights advocate. Empowered by her mother’s compassion, Huerta dedicated her life to the Chicano Civil Rights Movement. Working along with Cesar Chávez to establish the UFW, Huerta lobbied for better rights, wages, and working conditions for farm laborers, who were usually migrant workers. She led numerous boycotts and strikes, which largely contributed to the establishment of the California Agricultural Relations Act of 1975. Huerta is the president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which continues to advocate for the rights of various marginalized groups.
“Si Se Puede.” - Dolores Huerta (the official motto of the Chicano Movement)
Keiana Cavé is the founder of Sublima, a pharmaceutical company aimed at creating the first non-hormonal birth control. Cavé began chemical research shortly after the BP oil spill in 2010, and she studied the oil on the ocean’s surface and its harmful effects. She then developed and patented a new way to detect toxins in the ocean after oil spills. After her newfound research, she founded a start-up, called Mare, that focused on neutralizing cancer-causing chemicals in the ocean. The company was later acquired for over $1 million dollars.
Her extensive research and developments have awarded her spots on Forbes 30 under 30 in 2017, on Entrepreneur Magazine’s Young Millionaires List of 2018, on Glamour Magazine’s 2018 College Women of the Year, and as a two-time Tedx Speaker.
Known as a “femtech” entrepreneur and a role model in STEM, Cavé is currently focused on revolutionizing the world of medicine and chemistry with her newest company Sublima.
“I want to continue exploring women's health and find solutions to the questions that I am curious about.” - Keiana Cavé
Foltz is renowned for her countless contributions to the women’s rights movement and legal system. She was the first female clerk for the State Assembly Judiciary Committee (1880), the first woman member of the State Board of Charities and Corrections, and the first female lawyer in California.
The Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center was named in her honor for her criminal justice advocacy.
"I am that formidable and terrifying object known as a woman — while he is only a poor, helpless, defenseless man, and he wants you to take pity on him and give him a verdict in this case." - Clara Shortridge Foltz
Bobbi Gibb is a groundbreaking athlete whose participation in the 1966 Boston Marathon defied society’s perception towards women and their capabilities, both physically and mentally. Her completion of 26.2 grueling miles not only symbolized a special personal accomplishment, but was also a great milestone for the running community, as she became the first woman in history to finish the Boston Marathon.
After her memorable race, Gibb continued to run, holding onto her winning spot as the fastest woman to finish for a total of three years, from 1966 to 1968. Her accomplishments on the roads are accompanied by an assortment of trades with her interests ranging from pursuing sculpting to studying neuroscience. She continues to motivate her audiences through her success in writing.
“Isn’t it amazing, the miracles around us, if only we take the time to notice them?” - Bobbi Gibb
Angelina Grimke Weld was born and raised on a plantation in South Carolina, and her first-hand exposure to slavery can explain her position as a fierce abolitionist. She wrote abolitionist literature such as American Slavery As It Is, Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, and On Slavery and Abolition.
Angelina Grimke Weld worked with her sister, Sarah Grimke, and the two were a very influential duo. One of the most unique things about the two was that they were both feminists and abolitionists. Unlike many others of their time, they acknowledged the significant intersectionality of race and gender. They also helped to introduce and integrate a new demographic, white women of the south, into the abolitionist movement.
“It matters not what we have been but this and always this: what we shall be.” - Angelina Grimke Weld
Asieh Amini is an Iranian poet and journalist who fights for women’s rights, more specifically against the stoning and executions of minors in Iran. Born on September 14, 1973, she has experienced the harsh reality of the life of women in Iran. After the Iranian Revolution, women were forced to cover up and wear a black hijab, upsetting many of them. Although she was forced to flee to Norway because of those who strongly opposed her views, her love for Iran has never stopped. Amini also created the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign to help her country, and others, to progress. Moreover, in 2009, she won the Human Rights Watch's Hellmann/Hammett award, which is a grant for victims of political persecution who face financial difficulty.
“To understand somebody else as a human being, I think, is about as close to real forgiveness as one can get.” - Asieh Amini
Ida B. Wells was born enslaved in 1862 in Mississippi. She grew to be known as one of the fiercest critics of lynching in her editorials. In addition, she co-founded the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and was the first president of the Negro Fellowship League. In 2020, Columbia University in New York City awarded her a Pulitzer Prize, a prestigious honor, for accomplishments in newspaper, magazine, online journalism, literature, and musical composition.
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” - Ida B. Wells
Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts of America, the largest and most successful female organization in the world. Low started the first U.S. Girl Scout troop in her hometown, Savannah, Georgia in 1912. Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, she worked tirelessly to promote and support the Girl Scouts organization. For this work, she received several awards including a Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Silver Fish award. Low is known for her determination and overall commitment to the Girl Scouts.
“Right is right, even if no one else does it.” - Juliette Gordon Low
Yeonmi Park was born in Hyesan, North Korea and escaped the country when she was just thirteen years old. After living miserably in China, surviving under the radar for two years, she fled to South Korea in 2009, and finally moved to the United States in 2014.
Since 2014, Yeonmi has advocated for North Korean citizens’ rights and the removal of North Korea’s brutal government. She has made very impactful speeches at the Oslo Freedom Forum and the One Young World Summit in 2014. She has also been named one of BBC’s “Top Global 100 Women.” Additionally, despite the fact that she received little education during her time in North Korea, she has quickly excelled in her academic career by majoring in criminal justice at Dongguk University from 2012 to 2015 and attending Columbia University from 2016 to 2018. She continues to advocate for North Koreans as a member of the board of directors at the Human Rights Foundation, where the mission is to preserve human rights and freedom for people worldwide.
"I inhaled books like other people breathe oxygen. I didn't just read for knowledge or pleasure, I read to live.” - Yeonmi Park, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom
In addition to her womanhood, Artemisia Gentileschi’s artistic expertise pushed barriers for canonical status in art and forever altered who could be deemed “a great artist.” As one of the few women of her time to achieve a successful career as an artist, Gentileschi resisted representations of women that catered to their (women’s) subjection by, instead, asserting their (women’s) multidimensionality.
Despite achieving success and notoriety in her lifetime, Gentileschi’s artwork lost much of its relevance within the historical canon of western art, until it was given new life by feminist art historians. The impetus behind much of Gentileschi’s contemporary relevance is the amplified conversation of women’s oppression and sexual abuse of women, which are two themes found in Gentileschi’s life story and artwork. Her artwork remains a stimulus for conversations of women’s status in the world of art, as well as in the world at large.
"My illustrious lordship, I'll show you what a woman can do" - Artemisia Gentileschi
Rosa Parks was an American civil rights activist, known for refusing to give up her seat to a white man, as a Black woman, in Alabama in 1955; this protest brought forth the widespread boycott against the Montgomery Bus system. Park’s actions invigorated the civil rights movement in the United States. She became the face of dignity, strength, and the fight against racial segregation.
She has been recognized for her talents with multiple awards, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Spingarn Medal (the highest given honor), induction into Michigan’s Hall of fame, and the Martin Luther King Jr. award.
“It takes more than one person to bring about peace - it takes all of us.” - Rosa Parks
Rachel Carson made influential contributions to environmental science and is recognized as the mother of modern environmentalism. Her groundbreaking book Silent Spring (1962) informed the public about the impacts of pesticide use and advanced the global environmental movement. For her work, she won numerous awards, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Guggenheim Fellowship for Natural Sciences.
“But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself” - Rachel Carson
Maria Anna Mozart, older sister to Wolfgang Amedeus Mozart, was a prodigious musician. From a young age, she could play many instruments, such as the harpsichord and violin. Surrounded by a musical family, she went on a tour of Europe, where she and her brother Wolfgang performed for English audiences. She gained popularity for her natural talents and abilities, which shocked many people.
Despite her fame, Maria Anna’s musical tours ended when she was eighteen, due to European expectations for women and reputation ideals. She was forced to settle down and marry, but continued independently pursuing her passion for music. She took on many students and even composed music. Though her compositions are lost, there is evidence that they were reputable, according to praise found in letters from Wolfgang. Even though societal norms held her back from her passions, she continued to make music throughout her life. Maria Anna’s unknown legacy begs to question how much music we have lost to societal gender norms.
Maria Ressa is a Filipino-American journalist and author, and the first Filipino recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She is widely known for exposing government corruption and human rights violations in the Philippines through Rappler, a Manila-based digital news website, which she founded.
Maria Ressa is a fearless defender of freedom of expression. As an investigative journalist, she has methodically uncovered the authoritarian and abusive nature of President Duterte’s administration within the larger Filipino government. Ressa is committed to exposing Duterte’s controversial and murderous "War on Drugs.”
Due to the defiant nature of her reports, Ressa has received backlash from Duterte’s administration and his avid supporters.
Among a plethora of other achievements, Maria Ressa was conferred as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World and the BBC’s 100 Women in 2019, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2021.
Rosa Bonheur was a French artist, born in 1822. As a painter and sculptor renowned for accuracy and detail in her works, Bonheur was the first female recipient of France’s highest honor: the Grand Cross.
The Horse Fair (1853), her masterpiece and most famous work, was acquired by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1887. He later donated it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it can be found today. Beyond her artistic abilities, Bonheur was known for her trailblazing style of dress and romantic partners. She painted animals and farm or fair scenes, typically in dirty areas where lots of physical activity was required. In order for Bonheur to move freely without the burden of petticoats, the government allowed her to dress like a man, with a smock and trousers (otherwise forbidden to women). The juxtaposition of her femininity and her masculine style of dress has been cited as helping to shape the androgynous style of dress of the early 20th century. She also had two long-term female companions; in fact, she forced a change in the Napoleonic Code to legally transfer her estate to her romantic partner and fellow painter Anna Klumpke. Even after her death in 1899, she continued to serve as a role model for future female artists, LGBTQ+ luminaries, and feminists.
“Why shouldn’t I be proud to be a woman? My father, that enthusiastic apostle of humanity, told me again and again that it was woman’s mission to improve the human race…To his doctrines I owe my great and glorious ambition for the sex to which I proudly belong, whose independence I’ll defend till my dying day. Besides, I’m convinced the future is ours.” - Rosa Bonheur
As the CEO of several charitable organizations, Emma Revie has reached over half a million young children, in addition to hundreds of thousands of families across the UK, through her food pantries, housing associations, and community youth clubs. Running the largest food bank in the UK may prove to be a challenge to people such as Revie, but her compassionate and practical approach to the network aims to keep families afloat. In a post-COVID society where the demand for food and services has only increased, Revie has played a heavy hand in aiding families across the UK. While she loves her work in the Trussell Trust, she acknowledges and strongly advocates for a future where food banks are no longer needed, and people like her or her volunteers can build a hunger free future - “a future where people don’t have to come to food banks.”
“My hope is topped up to the top about people’s willingness to help their neighbors, to see that what they think is right is done, and to step forward.” - Emma Revie
Nadia Murad is a survivor of the Yazidi genocide perpetrated by the Islamic State in Iraq (ISIS) in 2014. After escaping to Germany, she became an activist for her community and survivors of gender-based violence. She won several awards for her efforts and became the first Iraqi to receive a Nobel Prize. Nadia Murad also founded Nadia’s Initiative, an organisation advocating for survivors of sexual violence and committed to rebuilding communities during crises. Moreover, she published a New York Times bestselling memoir, The Last Girl. She has been continuously fighting for justice for the Yazidis and speaking against the use of rape as a weapon of war
“I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.” - Nadia Murad
Cecilia Payne made vital contributions to astronomy in the twentieth century. She studied and taught at Harvard University, where she advanced our knowledge of the composition of stars. Payne also categorized the stars by their temperatures. For her work, she won several awards, such as the Rittenhouse Medal and the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship.
“There is nothing personal in the thunderclap of understanding. The lighting that releases it comes from outside oneself.” - Cecilia Payne
Reshma Saujani is the founder of Girls Who Code and promotes the importance of women in the technology industry (i.e. 300,000 women in technology). She started her career as an activist, and is well known today for being the first Indian American to run for Congress. Her main goal as the CEO of Girls Who Code is to motivate young women’s minds today, and to bridge the gender gap in STEM.
Throughout her career, Saujani has earned many prestigious awards, including the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education. Saujani has made strides as a lawyer, politician, and founder, and hopes to empower diversity in the tech industry.
“Coding is the language of the future, and every girl should learn it.” - Reshma Saujani
Mabel Addis Mergardt was an extremely influential game designer and teacher. In 1962, Mergardt worked with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and IBM to create the first educational video game. She worked on the game for five years with William McKay, an IBM programmer, overseeing its storyline and progression.
The result of their efforts was the Sumerian Game, a text-based video game. The Sumerian Game made strides not only as the first educational video game but also as one of the first narrative-based video games. The Sumerian Game showed that a well-designed video game could be fun for people of all ages and inspired multiple other text-based video games, each influential in their own right, such as the Oregon Trail in 1971 and Hammurabi in 1978.
Lady Diana Frances Spencer, famously known as “The People’s Princess,” served as a member of the British Royal Family and is remembered for her charitable work on behalf of the British commonwealth. Her generosity, sympathy, and liberality gave strength to those who needed it most, fueling progressive change against long standing royal traditions. Princess Diana was a pioneer for humanitarian efforts, proving to be more than a high profile royal, and dedicated to destigmatizing the emerging AIDS/HIV virus in the 1980s, by interacting with ill patients, funding and working for homeless shelters, helping to ban landmines, visiting hospitals to raise awareness, and working alongside deaf or impoverished children. By breaking the expectations and constraints of royal culture, “The People’s Princess” was able to cement her compassion into the hearts of a global network of admirers.
On June 14th, 1999, Time Magazine listed Princess Diana in its “Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century,” under the category “hero and icon.”
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” - Princess Diana
As one of the first researchers of drugs’ roles in clinical oncology, Jane Cooke laid the foundation for cancer research as we know it today. She also served as a role model of hard work, as the first black female dean at a nationally ranked medical institution, while also conducting immense research, and even publishing 135 papers during her career.
Jane also took time out of her busy schedule to assist the future generation of scientists, whether that be by teaching at universities or co-founding institutions, such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology (which provides funds for post-fellowship doctors to conduct research).
Sucheta is India’s first woman Chief Minister. She served as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. She was not just a politician, but also a freedom fighter who fought for India's independence. She belonged to the Indian National Congress (INC) party.
She is also the founder of the All India Mahila Congress, also known as Mahila Congress. One of her most notable accomplishments was the successful management of the state employees' 62-day strike.
“Thousands of women have participated in the various struggles of the Congress, but women had not been properly organised so far, and there was no woman’s organisation, parallel to, or as part of, the Congress’s organisation.” - Sucheta Kriplani
Celebrated as the world’s first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace’s creation of an algorithm to compute Bernoulli numbers provided the foundation for the first modern computers. Ada’s artistic passion and technological skills allowed her to envision a machine that was capable of more than simple calculations. She imagined a world in which machines could not only execute complex mathematical operations, but also have the potential to compose music, create paintings, and manipulate sound. Alongside Charles Babbage, she developed the concept of the Analytical Engine: a multipurpose machine that was reprogrammable and able to perform a variety of mathematical operations.
“Mathematical science shows what is. It is the language of unseen relations between things. But to use and apply that language, we must be able fully to appreciate, to feel to seize the unseen, the unconscious. - Ada Lovelace
Doctor Maria Goeppert Mayer was the second woman to receive a Nobel Prize in physics for her ground-breaking model of nucleon structure within atoms. Mayer overcame the gender barriers that restricted all women during her time period and proved that her contributions were just as valid as those of her male colleagues.
“Winning the prize wasn’t halfway as exciting as doing the work itself.” - Maria Goeppert Mayer
Anna Chandy was one of the women who ignited the fire of the feminist movement, and carried the blaze throughout her life.
She was the first female high court judge of India, as well as of the whole of the (then) British commonwealth. She founded a magazine called ‘Shrimati,’ in 1930 to spread ideas of women’s freedom, rights, and equality. Throughout her life Anna Chandy stood as a beacon of hope for women around the world by raising her voice against gender discrimination. She inspired millions to stand up for what is right and left a lasting legacy as a trailblazer.
“Many of our sister-Malayalees have property rights, voting rights, employment and honours, financial independence. But how many have control over their own bodies? How many women have been condemned to depths of feelings of inferiority because of the foolish idea that women’s body is an instrument for the pleasure of men?“ - Anna Chandy
Mary Harris was the first female chartered accountant in the world and was a female pioneer within the field of accounting. She was also one of the most significant British suffragettes during the 19th century. She believed that women should have equal status as men in every field of work and abided by this belief her whole life. She was the first female fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and the third individual to be commemorated by a blue plaque in London.
“Require of me what you would require of a man and I will fulfill it.” —Mary Harris Smith, 1895 “The Women’s Signal” Magazine.
Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern currently serves as the head of New Zealand's Labor Party since August 2017, becoming the Prime Minister of New Zealand in October of that same year. At the age of 41, Ardern’s accomplishments are lengthy, yet remarkable; in addition to being the youngest head of state, she has garnered national acclaim for her COVID efforts in New Zealand, been the first Prime Minister to march in a Pride event, been the second female leader in history to have a baby in office, and been recognized for her efforts in creating a free education system.
She continues to serve as the Prime Minister with surging approval ratings, as she showcases an exemplary courage in leadership. She continues to uphold her party’s policies, striving for reductions in the country’s carbon footprint, eradicating child poverty, increasing mental health support, and is an active advocate for pride.
Forbes ranked Prime Minister Ardern 32nd in its 2020 issue of, “World’s Most Powerful Women In Politics,” for her continued leadership of “introducing over 100 measures to block the spread of Covid-19 back in January.”
"To me, leadership is not about necessarily being the loudest in the room, but instead being the bridge, or the thing that is missing in the discussion and trying to build a consensus from there.” - Jacinda Ardern
Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was an English chemist who used x-ray crystallography to discover the 3-dimensional structures of penicillin, vitamin B₁₂, and insulin. At a time when crystallography was one of the few fields in chemistry that welcomed women, Hodgkin managed to thrive and make a name for herself through continuous hard work and the formation of a reputation in the international scientific community that reflected her brilliance and skill.
Throughout her career, Hodgkin was a member of several prestigious scientific societies, such as the Royal Netherlands Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She also won numerous awards, including the Nobel Prize, the Copley Medal, and the Order of Merit. She was one of the first women to win these awards and receive recognition by the scientific community for her work.
An interesting fact about Dorothy Hodgkin is that while she described herself as being “captured for life by chemistry and by crystals,” she maintained strong interests in archaeology, participating in an excavation of Jerash before college. She also loved poetry and was known to memorize lines from Tennyson and Browning.
Harriet Tubman was a prominent figure of the abolitionist movement. Born into slavery, she dedicated her entire life saving other enslaved people. At the age of 12, she helped a fugitive enslaved person flee, resulting in a lifelong head injury. Later, she embarked on perilous journeys and led dozens of enslaved people to freedom along the Underground Railroad Network. During the Civil War, she helped free 700 enslaved people by spying in territories of Confederate states. Through her achievements, Harriet became known as the “Moses of Her People”.
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman
Marie Curie is a pioneering scientist best known for her work on radioactivity, a term which she and her husband coined during the 20th century. Curie made history on several occasions as the first woman to ever win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win two Nobel Prizes. Additionally, she was the first woman to get a Ph.D. from a French University - the University of Paris. Her main discoveries were the ability to isolate the radioactive elements which came from pitchblende.
After her husband's death, she replaced him as a professor at Sorbonne University (metonymically known as the University of Paris), where she became the first female professor, once again making history as she became the first woman to teach at the University.
“A scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician: he is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales.” - Marie Curie
Theodora was the Empress of the Byzantine Empire and ruled alongside Emperor Justinian I. Although not official, she was widely regarded as his co-ruler with an equal political and intellectual partnership. She is known as one of the most influential women in history. Coming from a lowly social status as a prostitute, she enacted real change once given political power and high social status as a result of her marriage. During their reign, she strove to further the rights of women, and protect Monophysites from religious persecution.
Despite her accomplishments, Theodora’s history is surrounded by intrigue about possible political scandals. However, many of these are a result of the most prominent source of her history being from Byzantine historian Procopius’ Secret History, who openly disliked her and included speculation and few facts.
“I do not care whether or not it is proper for a woman to give brave counsel to frightened men; but in moments of extreme danger, conscience is the only guide.” - Empress Theodora
Kadambini Ganguly was the first female Indian and South Asian surgeon trained in Western medicine and one of the first female graduates of an Indian graduate school. She was the first female practitioner of Western medicine within South Asia and one of the first six women to participate in the National Congress of India. She also helped organize the women’s conference in India after the partition of India. She was the first woman to be admitted to Calcutta Medical College and paved the way for women in South Asia in the field of medicine. Her lectures made Calcutta Medical College open its doors to women, and she was the first female speaker at the National Congress of India.
Existing in the same stratosphere as the legendary Coco Chanel, Elsa Shiaparelli was a lesser-known but equally influential and creative presence in the fashion and art community. She encapsulated Surrealism through bold patterns, prints, and avant-garde clothing features. A woman of a broad social culture and wild imagination, Elsa Schiaparelli paved the way for generations of eccentric and ultramodern artists.
Schiaparelli has been credited as a major influence on the beginning of other fashion empires, including the renowned Yves Saint Laurent. Many of Schiaparelli’s clothing pieces are displayed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Collection today, after being showcased at The Brooklyn Museum.
“In difficult times, fashion is always outrageous.” - Elsa Schiaparelli
Emma Watson is best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films. She is not only an amazing actor, but also a social advocate and Global Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations.
Watson launched the “He For She” campaign in 2014 to include people of all gender identities in the conversation of gender equality and educate men in the topic of gender equality.
Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, has stated that Emma Watson is her inspiration.
“Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom. It’s about liberation. It’s about equality.” – Emma Watson
Amrita Sher-Gil was a Hungarian-Indian painter, known for being "one of the greatest avant-garde women artists of the early 20th century" and a "pioneer" in modern Indian art. She dealt with the questions of gender, identity, and sexuality, and incorporated feminist feelings and engagements through her art. She began professionally learning art and painting at the young age of 8 and traveled all across Europe as a young woman. The fusion of Western and Indian artistic styles can be seen through her work.
She first gained recognition at the age of 19 for her oil painting titled Young Girls in 1932.
“Although I studied, I have never been taught painting because I possess in my psychological makeup a peculiarity that resents any outside interference.” -Amrita Sher-Gil
Maria Lacerda de Moura was a Brazilian individualist feminist. She was known for being a rebel and was the first Brazilian feminist to express her thoughts in newspaper, review, and book form.
She was one of the first Brazilian feminists and is considered a precursor of the anarcho-feminism movement in the country. She was a teacher, poet, intellectual, and activist. She was also vegetarian and known for being extremely firm in her anti-capitalist and anti-clerical positions.
She wrote more than 20 books in her lifetime and was considered a thinker and an intellectual pioneer by the antifacist movement during her time.
"In times like today, no one is born with closed eyes," she wrote in The Woman is a Degenerate.
Grace Hopper was one of the very few first women to receive her Ph.D. in mathematics. She was known for designing Mark I, II, and III, which started the evolution of electronic computers. Finally, she was known for being one of the longest-serving soldiers in the Navy, retiring at 79 years of age.
Grace Hopper continues to influence the lives of many to this day, as there is a celebration/conference dedicated to her in her name, where women all around the world come together to inform others on their experiences in the tech field.
“The most dangerous phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” -Grace Hopper
Dewi Sartika was a pioneer for women’s education in Indonesia. As a child, Sartika demonstrated a passion for education, yet noticed that girls were scarcely enrolled in school for proper education. In 1904, she victoriously built a school exclusively for teenage girls known originally as Sekolah Istri at the age of 20 years old. The school flourished across the region and inspired women to pursue their dreams, just as Sartika did. After her immense work fighting and advocating for the emancipation of women in 1966, Dewi Sartika was considered a national hero.
“Hanya dengan pendidikan kita akan tumbuh menjadi suatu bangsa.” -Dewi Sartika
“Only with education can we grow into one nation.” -Dewi Sartika
As one of the women who received the opportunity to be an Indonesian Minister, Susi Pudjiastuti is praised for her work as Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries from 2014 to 2019. Additionally, she earned the title of an entrepreneur through her ownership of PT ASI Pudjiastuti Marine Product and Susi Air. This incredible woman is renowned for having a highly impactful, inspirational, and independent spirit.
“Dream as high as possible. There is a cost to make that dream come true. The cost to achieve that dream is through hard work, passion, and commitment.” -Susi Pudjiastuti
Ahilyabai Holkar was the hereditary noble sardar of the Maratha Empire in India. Holkar was born in the village of Chondi in Jamkhed, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. She moved the seat of her fiefdom to Maheshwar south of Indore on the Narmada River.
John Keay, the British historian, gave her the title of ‘The Philosopher Queen.’ He said in her praise: ‘Ahilyabai Holkar, the philosopher-queen of Malwa, had evidently been an acute observer of the wider political scene.’ The Queen of Malwa was not only a brave queen and skilled ruler but also a learned politician.
A year after her father died, she took over the affairs of Holkar fief. She tried to protect her land from plundering invaders and personally led armies into battle. Holkar was a great pioneer and builder of Hindu temples. She built hundreds of temples and Dharmashalas throughout India.
Alexandra Asmasoebrata is widely known as Indonesia’s first female race car driver. When she was just 12 years old, Asmasoebrata began her career as a Go Kart 60 cc racer, setting desires to become a professional racer. This desire became true and led her to great achievements throughout her entire career, while representing Indonesia. In light of her success, she was awarded an award from MURI (Museum Rekor Indonesia) as Indonesia’s first woman race car driver, corresponding to Kartini Day.
“Always have the courage to try and don’t be afraid of failure. Try, and you’ll know.” -Alexandra Asmasoebrata
Valentina Tereshkova was the first and youngest woman to go to space, with a solo mission on June 16th, 1963, in the Vostok 6. Tereshkova reported no interest in becoming a cosmonaut prior to her mission, but she was chosen anyway for the Russian space program because of her history as a skydiver. She was one of five out of four hundred female candidates to be chosen to go to space. Tereshkova only went on one spaceflight in her lifetime. However, her spaceflight amassed more space flight hours than the combined hours of American astronauts who had flown before her, and she is the only woman to do a solo space flight. After her cosmonaut career, Tereshkova became a well-known representative of the Soviet Union and became a member of the World Peace Council in 1966.
Her most impressive award for her flight was the Hero of the Soviet Union medal. Besides being an accomplished astronaut, she has been recognized for her work as an engineer and politician. She currently serves on the Russian State Duma as a deputy chairperson of the Committee on the Federal Structure and Local Government.
“If women can be railroad workers in Russia, why can’t they fly in space?” -Valentina Tereshkova
YDr. Yvonne Sylvain is a distinguished figure in the Haitian community. In the mid-20th century, she was the first female doctor in Haiti and the first woman to be accepted into medical school at the University of Haiti. After graduating, she worked as a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology at Port-au-Prince General Hospital. Sylvain used her influence to advocate for the inequalities in Haitian society and raise awareness of public health issues.
Sylvaine was also highly active in the Women's Suffrage movement, Ligue Féminine D'action Sociale. She even published several articles on public health in the Ligue's news outlet, La Voix des Femmes. Although she is mostly known for her work in the medical field, Sylvain was also very passionate about art and culture.
Fun Fact: Her sister, Suzanne Comhaire-Sylvain, is Haiti’s first female anthropologist.
“We must not let these people die for lack of treatment” -Yvonne Sylvain
Mabel Ping-Hua Lee was a significant figure in contributing to women’s rights to vote. At a young age, Lee was involved in activism where she, on horseback, led a women’s suffrage march of 10,000 people. In 1917, Lee led another march, but this time the participants were mostly Chinese women advocating for the right to vote and gender equality. Lee dedicated her life to fighting for women’s suffrage and equality, writing essays, publishing a book, and making speeches.
Lee, in fact, did not directly benefit from her activism, but her determination and effort made sure other women did. Lee was a Chinese immigrant, and at that time, the Chinese Exclusion Act did not allow Chinese immigrants to become U.S. citizens, prohibiting them from being able to vote. However, this did not deter Lee as she continued to educate herself and her community, becoming the first-ever Chinese woman to earn a Ph.D. in the United States.
“For no nation can ever make real and lasting progress in civilization unless its women are following close to its men if not actually abreast with them.” -Mabel Ping-Hua Lee
Alice Schalek was Austria’s first female war correspondent and the only woman in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to be accredited to the Kriegspressequartier (War Press Office) during World War I. Her articles and public lectures on life on the front lines and her travels around the world were both popular and controversial. Schalek gained both acclaim and criticism through her unique style and personal involvement with her work. Schalek observed some of the bloodiest and most futile battles in what was, at the time, by far the most horrendous war the world had ever known. Even though she had no tradition of war reporting to fall back on and struggled to make sense of the genocidal madness she saw, she fought for her place in the male-dominated domain of journalism and photography.
“It’s strange that fear rises when the [artillery] barrage lets up. To be afraid, you have to have time. When your thoughts are fully occupied fear finds no place to lodge. But when a moment of quiet comes and you don’t know what will happen next, then you often lose your inner composure. Then you start wishing for your own death, just so that the strain on the nerves will end.” -Alice Schalek
Actress, model, writer, and part-time funeral parlor worker, Yumi Ishikawa pioneered the #KuToo movement, which was the movement against the discriminatory high heel policy in Japan. It is part of the larger movement about gender equality in the workplace. In many countries around the world, women are required to wear high heels to work. This takes a toll on their physical health, as it is sometimes extremely painful to wear high heels for 5-8 hours straight. After she saw how much other women were also suffering, she collected 150,000 signatures in a petition to let women choose their own footwear in the office and presented it to the Japanese government. Even though she was ultimately unsuccessful, Yumi raised awareness for this issue and effectively shed light on gender discrimination in the corporate world.
She was included in the BBC’s 100 Women list in 2019 for her efforts and continues to fight against gender inequality in Japan.
“I was unashamed in my fight.” -Yumi Ishikawa, referring to the #KuToo movement
Chien-Shiung Wu was a nuclear physicist and professor who provided the first evidence that disproved the Law of Conservation of Parity under the Wu experiment. However, she was excluded from the Nobel Prize award despite providing crucial evidence for disproving this law.
Wu was a key contributor to the Manhattan Project, helping develop the first atomic bomb. Her book, “Beta Decay,” became the standard reference for nuclear physicists. Chien-Shiung Wu became the first female instructor at Princeton, the first tenured female professor in Columbia University’s physics department, and the first female to win several science awards in her field. Wu spent her later years devoted to programs in the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and the United States to encourage more women to pursue science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics.
"I wonder whether the tiny atoms and nuclei, or the mathematical symbols, or the DNA molecules have any preference for either masculine or feminine treatment.” -Chien-Shiung Wu
One of the first known feminists in Cuba, Ana Betancourt became an important female figure in the fight for independence in her country. Her work as a Mambisa, or female rebel, against the Spanish colonists proved women’s contributions during the war. To recognize the importance of her impact, Cuba later established the Ana Betancourt Medal to be given to women who demonstrate anti-imperialist fidelity and radical energy as well as internationalist merit.
“Citizens: here everything was enslaving: the cradle, the color and the sex. You want to destroy the slavery of the cradle, fighting until death. You have destroyed the slavery of color, emancipating the slave. The moment has arrived to liberate the woman!” -Ana Betancourt
Anasuya Sarabhai was the first female trade union leader in India as well as the founder of Ahmedabad Textile, the oldest union of Indian textile workers. Although she grew up in a fairly affluent household, she encountered many difficulties in her life. Both of her parents died when she was just nine years old, which forced her into an unhappy arranged marriage by her uncle at the age of 13. As a result, she was also barred from going to school. Despite these hardships, Sarabhai traveled to England on her own to pursue an education. There, she found her calling to help others and returned to India to work with disempowered communities.
Anasuya Sarabhai deserves to be recognized for pioneering the labour movement in India and helping lead the feminist movement there. Unfortunately, she is not widely known or talked about, especially in many western countries.
“These words filled me with horror. This was the kind of slavery mill workers faced! What could I do to change this situation? Then I found out that even children worked double shifts. That troubled me to no end. I decided to do something to stop this” -Anasuya Sarabhai
Although Stacey Abrams is no novice in the political arena, her activism during the 2020 Presidential Election established her as a household name. Abrams is the first woman to pilot any party in the Georgia General Assembly and the first African American person to be the House Minority Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives.
One of Abrams’s most prestigious awards is the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award, which recognizes an elected authority under the age of 40 whose service displays the significance of elective public service as a method to combat public challenges.
In her book, Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America, Abrams recalls, “because I learned long ago that winning doesn’t always mean you get the prize. Sometimes you get progress, and that counts.”
Beverley Bass is the first female captain for the American Airlines and the third female to be hired as a pilot for American Airlines. She co-founded the International Society of Women Airline Pilots and is a starring character in the musical “Come From Away.” Her perseverance has helped her become a pioneer in aviation and a champion in hard work.
“If they respected me as a pilot, and they respected my abilities, then I was no different than a guy.” -Beverley Bass
Harriet Chalmers was one of the most celebrated American explorers from 1904 until her death in 1937. She was an expert on Latin America. and her knowledge was valued by both government and business sectors, as well as in academic circles. Adams was one of the first American women elected to membership status in the Royal Geographic Society of London (1913). She was a prolific writer, contributing twenty-one articles to the National Geographic Magazine. Although she enjoyed widespread fame during her lifetime, she is virtually unknown in the history of geography. Adams, and many female contemporaries, are missing from geographical history and the history of exploration.
In the early 20th century, Adams figured out what millions of people on social media and crowdsourcing sites still contemplate today: How do you make a living from your adventures? She logged over 100,000 miles—the equivalent of traveling four times around the circumference of the world—all before trans-Atlantic commercial airlines existed. And she was paid for it.
“I’ve never found my sex a hinderment; never faced a difficulty, which a woman, as well as a man, could not surmount; never felt a fear of danger; never lacked courage to protect myself. I’ve been in tight places and have seen harrowing things,” -Harriet Chalmers Adams
Subcomandante Elisa, born as María Gloria Benavides Guevara, is a Mexican activist and former member of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, or the Zapatistas. As a subcomandante, or sub-commander, she served an important leadership role translating for Catholic peasants and fighting for social change against Mexico’s repressive standards for womxn and indigenous groups. Despite enduring multiple house raids, a wrongful arrest, and state-sponsored torture, she continued to lead the Zapatistas towards a more egalitarian future. She is currently a professor at the Autonomous University of Social Movements, an alternative education program centered around Mexican social movements.
"In the Zapatista army, men and women get along. There is democracy, there is justice, there is everything there...[W]e live together with men and do the same work.... That is what we are looking for right now. Because as a peasant woman the government does not recognize us. The woman is always down, and the man is always the boss, but right now we see that what the government says is not true. Women can also do the jobs, they can also take charge, they can also lead the same as men, that's why we are fighting so that women also have that opportunity to do those jobs." -Comandista Elisa
Mai Bhago Ji was the first known Sikh woman in history to fight in a war, becoming a trailblazer for many other warriors, female and male, and for Sikh women.
On top of being the only woman in the Sikh forces during the war between Mughals and Sikhs, she was the only Sikh soldier who remained alive. Afterwards, she became a leader within the Sikh community as she was given the honor to become a bodyguard for the tenth guru of Sikhism.
Ji’s legacy continues to live on. Today, there are schools, colleges, various professional teams, and even an armed force named after her.
Wilma Mankiller was a Cherokee Nation activist and the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Her work as Chief helped the Cherokee nation implement better housing and more job opportunities.
“The happiest people I've ever met, regardless of their profession, their social standing, or their economic status, are people that are fully engaged in the world around them. The most fulfilled people are the ones who get up every morning and stand for something larger than themselves. They are the people who care about others, who will extend a helping hand to someone in need or will speak up about an injustice when they see it.” -Wilma Mankiller
Frances Oldham Kelsey was a Canadian-born American pharmacologist and physician. Kelsey was credited as the woman who prevented thousands of babies in the United States from being born with severe birth defects and abnormalities. She also strengthened laws and regulations regarding drug development and held an essential role in maintaining drug safety in the United States. During her lifetime and career as a female in the field of science, she broke gender stereotypes and showed that a woman can succeed in male dominated fields.
"Good scientists are almost invariably good writers, and that poor writing is often a sign of poor science." -Frances Oldham Kelsey
Denise Soesilo is a German expert in Unmanned Aerial Systems and avid environmental activist. Soesilo is a former German National Hockey team member and Olympian.
Soesilo played on the Women’s Hockey Team at Yale University, eventually receiving her degree in Environmental Studies with a focus on industrial ecology. After graduation, she received a Masters Degree in Environmental Management with a focus on forest management, agriculture, and plant physiology from Yale University.
Soesilo is a co-founder of Outsight, an organization that focuses on using technology such as drones to provide global humanitarian and environmental assistance.
Dr. Irene Uchida was a pioneering Japanese Canadian geneticist of the 20th century, overcoming anti-Japanese racism to advance her career. She most notably discovered a link between levels of radiation exposure in mothers and rates of Down syndrome in their children. She also developed the first diagnostic blood test in Canada to karyotype infants’ chromosomes, thus founding Canada’s first cytogenetics program. Throughout her career, Uchida published nearly 100 medical papers.
Dr. Uchida was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1993, the second highest honour for merit in Canada. She was also awarded honorary Doctorates of Science from McMaster University and the University of Western Ontario.
“Science is a rewarding and challenging career. Young people going into science must keep an open mind to all ideas in an effort to find every possible way to help people.” -Dr. Irene Uchida
Sri Mulyani Indrawati currently serves as Indonesia’s Minister of Finance, after her role as COO in the World Bank. She received immense credit for improving Indonesia’s economy, but has also used her platform to promote gender equality. Acknowledging her spectacular work, Forbes ranked Sri Mulyani as 23rd in a list of the most influential women of the world, while Globe Asia Magazine presented her with the title of the most powerful woman in Indonesia.
“Women are emerging as a major force for change. Countries that have invested in girls' education and removed legal barriers that prevent women from achieving their potential are now seeing the benefits.” -Sri Mulyani Indrawati
Franziska Tiburtius was a German physician and an activist for educational equity. After studying at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, she attempted to become a doctor, but the government denied her of a medical license because she was a woman. However, Tiburtius persevered and created the Berlin Clinic of Women Doctors. Despite facing extreme discimination, she practiced medicine for most of her life and created the Surgery Clinic for Women Doctors, which focused its care on women without health insurance.
Lin Lanying was a researcher for the Institute of Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), then for the Institute of Semiconductors CAS. She produced China’s first monocrystalline silicon and the furnace made to extract the silicon, as well as China’s first monocrystalline gallium arsenide. She started a new research field of micro-gravitational semiconductor materials and captivated the world’s attention with her research on space growth of gallium arsenide crystals and its properties. Under her leadership, high purity vapor and liquid phase epitaxy were produced and reached an advanced level according to international standards. She was elected Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and became the vice president of the China Association for Science and Technology. Her research and work would lay the foundation for the development of microelectronics and optoelectronics for years to come.
“Can someone give me another ten years? In ten years, I can definitely finish what I am doing and I can die with no regrets!” -Lin Lanying
Ramirez was born into slavery and is remembered as a soldier and leader in the Venezuelan War of Independence. As a revolutionary, she led a fully female group against Spanish soldiers who aimed to conquer the state as a colony. Ramirez is considered a notable Venezuelan native and worked for independence in Guarico, a Northern region of Venezuela. In the early 2010s, Juana Ramirez became the first black woman to have their final resting place be at the National Pantheon of Venezuela and have a ceremony of remembrance at the National Heroes Mausoleum.
Dedicated to exploring the experiences of Muslim women, Leila Ahmed has published a myriad of books and articles delving into intersectionality, in regards to feminism and religion. Ahmed encourages the demolition of linear judgement; her work is a testament to the power of multidimensional philosophy.
“Generations of astute, thoughtful women, listening to the Koran understood perfectly well its essential themes and its faith. And looking around them, they understood perfectly well, too, what a travesty men had made of it.” -Leila Ahmed
Na Hye-seok was the first Korean woman to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Western painting. She became a prominent oil painter in Korea and has produced more than three hundred paintings. She wrote many feminist essays and novels and launched the first-ever feminist magazine for women by women in Korea. In addition, she was actively involved in the Korean independence movement against the Japanese colonial rule.
“First of all I am a human being. Then I am a woman. This means that I am a human being before being a woman. Moreover, I belong to the universal human race before being a woman. I belong to the universal human race before being a Korean woman.” -Na Hye-Seok in her short story Kyong Hui
Joan Clarke was an important individual during World War II, as she played an integral part in code-breaking Nazi Germany’s secret communications. Her mathematical abilities won her scholarships, degrees, and she was noticed by one of the top four mathematicians at Bletchley Park.
Clarke was recruited to work at Bletchley Park in 1940, serving as one of two female codebreakers. She was initially placed in a group of women to do clerical work, but once her code-breaking abilities were discovered, she became a staple of the team that broke the German Enigma. After the war, Clarke worked for the Government Communications Headquarters, researched coinage, and helped historians study the war-time code-breaking achievements of Bletchley Park. Due to the secrecy in the cryptanalytic field, the full extent of her achievements is unknown.
Because of her code-breaking achievements during the war, Joan Clarke was appointed a Member of the British Empire and because of her numismatic achievements, Clarke was awarded the Sanford Saltus Medal.
Melchora Aquino is known by many names. Mother of the Balintawak, Grand Woman of the Revolution and Mother of the Philippine Revolution are some of her titles, but by far, her most popular moniker is “Tandang Sora.” Tandang Sora is an unsung hero of the Philippine revolution, one long forgotten in history which occurred in the late 1890s.
Though Tandang Sora never received awards or achievements for her part in the war during the time she was alive, she is honored posthumously as a national hero.
In 1989, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the first Hispanic woman to be elected to Congress. She was a member of Congress for almost three decades and represents a congressional district in South Florida. Ros-Lehtinen is from Havana, Cuba and has strongly voiced her opposition towards the Cuban government as she fights for the people’s freedom, democracy, and human rights. She made clear her opposition to dictatorships in Cuba, to the point where Fidel Castro gave her the nickname, “la Loba Feroz,” which translates to the “Ferocious She Wolf.”
Ros-Lehtinen is a trailblazer for the LGBTQ+ community, which is apparent in her constant support for her transgender son, Rodrigo. In 2012, she was the first Republican to support marriage equality. She believes that it is important to accept your children for who they are and show unconditional love and support. Ros-Lehtinen has been a strong voice and congresswoman on Capitol Hill and has shown time and again that her work is not about politics or partisanship, but about people.
In 2018, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen decided to not seek re-election for Congress. Ros-Lehtinen was loved by her constituents, but retiring was a personal decision. While she is grateful to the United States and her constituents for giving her the opportunity to live a career of purpose and love, there are new adventures that await her in her personal life.
“The issue of marriage equality, that was something the whole country had evolved on. Now it’s so accepted within our society, and I think it makes us a better county. If more members of our party listened to their hearts and acted on that, I think we would be better off.” -Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Joceyln Bell Burnell was only a graduate student at Cambridge University when she discovered pulsars, which are spinning neutron stars that release radio waves. Her scientific findings revolutionized the field of astrophysics in the 20th century and provided further evidence for the theory of relativity and detecting gravitational waves. She is credited as one of the world’s greatest living scientists despite the sexism that casted doubt on her abilities to be a scientific pioneer. Burnell revolutionized the field of astrophysics and shifted her focus between teaching, researching, and increasing the number of women in STEM fields after her discovery.
Burnell is credited with “one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th century.”
“When I started secondary school, it was assumed that the girls would do domestic science and the boys would do science, and I wasn't too happy with that.” -Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Sudha Murthy was the first woman to attend an engineering college and graduate school in India. She is also an Indian social worker and author who balances her professional career as a computer scientist and engineering teacher. She is the chairperson of Infosys Foundation, a non-profit established by her husband’s company Infosys Technologies, that supports programs in education and development, and has also authored many short stories and novels.
She was awarded the Padma Shri Award—the fourth-highest civilian award in the Republic of India—in 2006 for her social work, as well as the R.K. Narayan Award for Literature in 2006 and the Attimabbe Award from the Government of Karnataka for excellence in Kannada literature in 2011. Despite these achievements, she never let fame and money get to her head and said, “[m]oney is one thing which rarely unites and mostly divides people.”
Anna Komnene was a Byzantine princess, physician, and is widely regarded as the first female historian. She is most notable for her several volume-long work, Alexiad, which discusses her father Alexios I Komnenos’ reign.
Komnene’s work is one of the only remaining accurate sources describing the events of the First Crusade and the reign of her father, making her account invaluable to the current information database about that time, despite some bias in favor of Komnene’s father and some chronological mistakes.
“Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity. . . . But the tale of history forms a very strong bulwark against the stream of time, and checks in some measure its irresistible flow, so that, of all things done in it, as many as history has taken over it secures and binds together, and does not allow them to slip away into the abyss of oblivion.” - Anna Komnene
Dr. Kamala Sohonie paved the way for women studying science in India and across the world. She was the first woman to work as a researcher at the Indian Institute of Science and the first Indian woman to complete a PhD in a scientific discipline.
Her research into the nutrition of common food groups improved the health of malnourished people in India, particularly pregnant women and children.
“The bias against women was so bad at that time. What can one expect if even a Nobel Laureate behaves in such a way?” -Dr Kamala Sohonie, discussing the way she was treated by Professor C. V. Raman whilst working at the Indian Institute of Science.
Trưng Trằc and Trưng Nhi were sisters known as the heroines and leaders of the first Vietnamese independence movement from the Han Dynasty of China. When the Chinese government killed Trưng Trằc’s husband, Thi Sách, for starting a rebellion, the sisters decided to continue and take over the rebellion against the tyrant rule in Vietnam. Skilled in military techniques and fighting styles, they led an army of 80,000, mostly consisting of women, against the Han Dynasty and established an independent state for 3 years under Trưng Trằc’s rule.
The Vietnamese people hailed them as “the queens of the Vietnamese nation” and called Trằc as Trưng Vương or “She-king Trưng.”
Maryam Mirzakhani was an Iranian mathematician who became the first woman and first Iranian to be awarded the high honor of a Fields Medal, the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in the field of mathematics. As a paragon of intellectualism, raw talent, and humility, she is an icon to many aspiring mathematicians as well as a pioneer in the fields of hyperbolic geometry, dynamics, and more.
She was a professor of mathematics at both Princeton and Stanford University. She conducted research on Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic theory, and rational billboards. Her famous career in academia has made invaluable contributions to the field of mathematics and society at large.
“I don’t believe that everyone should become a mathematician, but I do believe that many students don’t give mathematics a real chance.” -Maryam Mirzakhani
Chai Ling is a former student leader of the Tiananmen Square protests, the founder of All Girls Allowed, and the founder of Jenzabar, Inc., an organization that revolutionized higher education by creating a student-focused, cloud-based learning and management system. She has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Fun Fact: She was named Glamour Woman of the Year in 1990.
“I believe greater things will come, and China will be set free.” -Chai Ling
Rosario Castellanos is said to be one of Mexico’s most important female writers of the twentieth century. After writing her most well known work in 1950 called Sobre cultura femenina (“On Feminine Culture”), she helped modern Mexican writers become more aware about women's issues and feminism.
Castellanos's poetry expressed powerful and authentic themes of social justice and the creation of nature. Most notably, Castellanos's novel Oficio de tinieblas ("The Book of Lamenations") is regarded as one of the most important pieces of literature for the Mexican feminist movement.
"We have to laugh. Because laughter, we already know, is the first evidence of freedom." -Rosario Castellanos
Throughout her career, Guo Jianmei has aided thousands of women in times of crisis and allowed them to receive justice. She founded multiple nonprofits for women’s rights and is one of the 1000 women who have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Additionally, she received the Simone De Beauvoir Prize in 2010, the International Women of Courage Award in 2011, and the Right Livelihood Award in 2019.
As China’s first-ever full-time public interest lawyer in legal aid, Guo has introduced pro-bono legal services for disadvantaged individuals in China. She and her team have offered legal counseling at no cost to over 120,000 Chinese women and have fought over 4000 lawsuits to advocate for women’s rights and gender equality since 1995.
Her own motivation to become a public interest lawyer comes from the fact that “so many conditions are not ripe, not to mention back then China did not even have many lawyers. To commit to this kind of work—you must be crazy!” -Guo Jianmei
lizabeth Stanton is one of the most significant suffragettes of the American Suffrage Movement, organizing the Seneca Falls Convention in July 1848. Written by Stanton, The Declaration of Sentiments called upon women to take action and advocate for gender equality. The Declaration was signed by one hundred people at the convention. She also co-founded the National Woman Suffrage Association and The Loyal League with Susan B. Anthony.
Stanton published and edited a newspaper promoting women's rights, called the Revolution. She wrote many books, including The Woman's Bible, Solitude of Self, Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences 1815-1897, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony: Correspondence, Writings and Speeches.
She spoke of women's rights before the U.S. Congress, giving a famous speech called The Solitude of Self. Her bravery has positively impacted the life of every woman in the United States.
"Whatever the theories may be of woman's dependence on man, in the supreme moments of her life, he cannot bear her burdens. In the tragedies and triumphs of human experience, each mortal stands alone." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Ruby Hirose was a biochemist who pioneered the development of a vaccine to treat polio/infantile paralysis. She contributed to research on pollen extractions in the mid-1900s.
As the daughter of Japanese immigrants, Hirose faced discrimination throughout her life in America. Hirose’s family was sent to Japanese internment camps during World War II, but she was able to avoid being sent to these camps due to being in a different location than her family.
She became one of the ten women that the American Chemical Society invited to a convention of 300 members. Despite undergoing hardships throughout her life, Hirose developed important research regarding polio and furthered developments within medicine.
Recognized as the first female faculty member of India’s prestigious Institute of Science, Rajeshwari Chatterjee opened the first microwave engineering lab in India and extensively contributed to the fields of science and engineering through research and teaching. She was an award-winning scientist that gave back to her community and empowered women to pursue their dreams and careers.
“I strongly feel that as scientists and engineers, lucky enough to have reached where we are, we should do whatever is possible to help others, especially other women, who are less privileged than us to study, work, and come up in any field that they wish to pursue.” -Rajeshwari Chatterjee
Often acclaimed as one of the greatest female anarchists in America, Voltairine de Cleyre was a resolute pacifist and feminist, which influenced a majority of her work.
She taught English to immigrants in Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago, wrote for various magazines and papers, composed poetry, gave lectures, and advocated for pacifism and feminism her whole life.
“Think that your soul is strong and will hold its way; and slowly, through bitter struggle perhaps the strength will grow.” -Voltairine de Cleyre (1910)
After being selected to be chief of the Dezda district in central Malawi, Theresa Kachindamoto extended her local jurisdiction to lead efforts towards banning child marriage in both her locality and Malawi as a nation. In addition to having annulled over 2,549 child marriages by November of 2019, Kachindamoto outlawed sexual initiation camps in which young girls were subject to sexual abuse.
Theresa Kachindamoto worked to dissolve a culture consumed by the objectification of women and girls. She is a strong advocate for female representation in Malawian parliament and works to make education more accessible to all of Malawi’s youth, boys and girls alike.
“When girls are educated, everything is possible” -Theresa Kachindamoto
Cacuango was born into an unjust system for women and indigenous people, and she spent her life fighting for the rights of mistreated communities in Ecuador.
Cacunago played a key role in the historic workers’ strike at the Pesillo hacienda in Cayambe, in which workers stood up against the selling of their community’s land to wealthy landowners. She also personally led an assault on a government military base during the May 1944 Revolution in Ecuador.
Cacuango is known for her powerful speeches in Kichwa and Spanish and her activism for fair education and respect for women. She founded the Indigenous Federation of Ecuador (FEI) and established the first bilingual Indian schools.
“Somos como la paja del páramo que se arranca y vuelve a crecer y de paja de páramo sembraremos el mundo” [We are like the straw from the fells of the Andes, while you pull it out, it grows again. And with the straw from the fells we shall cover the world] -Dolores Cacuango
Angela Davis is a prominent scholar and activist who has dedicated her life to serving underrepresented Americans. She is a staunch advocate for issues such as racial equality, prison reform, and gender equality. She became the most famed American political prisoner in 1971, when she was incarcerated for her alleged involvement with a prison escape attempt. Americans across the country protested her captivity before she was eventually acquitted on all charges. Since then, she has gone on to publish several books, including Women, Race, and Class and Violence Against Women and the Ongoing Challenge to Racism.
Davis is the infamous Angela behind the song “Angela” written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The song includes lyrics such as “they gave you everything but equality” to honor her struggle for equal rights of all citizens.
“It is in collectivities that we find reservoirs of hope and optimism.” -Angela Davis, Freedom is a Constant Struggle
Encarnacion Alzona was the first Filipina woman to receive a doctorate, which she earned at Columbia University. Educated in the United States under the pensionado program, she returned home after earning multiple degrees to teach history at the University of the Philippines.
Alzona was critical of Western involvement in the Philippines. During American occupation, Alzona was vocal about injustices inflicted upon Filipinos by American officials, especially pertaining to women’s suffrage. Her feminist writings played a huge part in securing the vote for Filipina women in 1937.
In 1985, Alzona was named a National Scientist of the Philippines by President Marcos, the highest honor given to Filipino scientists. She co-founded the Philippine Historical Association in 1955, an organization that continues to shed light on forgotten Filipino history to this day.
"...the separation of Spain and the Philippines in 1898 was only political. The spiritual ties established between them...cannot be erased by a mere political event." -Encarnacion Alzona
Amy Klobuchar is an American Senator and attorney from Minnesota. She attended Yale University and went to law school at the University of Chicago. Her work is powered by the love she has for her state.
Klobuchar is the first woman to represent Minnesota in the senate. As a Senator, Klobuchar established herself as a bipartisan coordinator and liberal. In the 2020 election, Klobuchar ran for president in which she advocated for investments in infrastructure and a public option for healthcare.
“Courage means standing next to someone you don’t always agree with for the betterment of the country.” -Amy Klobuchar
Marie-Olympe de Gouges was a French writer active during the time of the French Revolution. She challenged conventional views on female inferiority, arguing instead that the oppression of women by men was the same as tyranny.
Olympe de Gouges's most famous work, The Rights of Women and the Female Citizen, gained her notoriety as a controversial figure. Inspired by Enlightenment thought, de Gouges participated in political and social causes, including the right to divorce, maternity hospitals, and the rights of orphaned children and unmarried mothers.
“Women, wake up; the tocsin of reason sounds throughout the universe; recognize your rights.” -Olympe de Gouges
Sojourner Truth was a women’s rights activist and abolitionist who was born into slavery. After she escaped the shackles of slavery, she freed her children and helped many others gain freedom. She was also the first black woman to win a court case against a white man. Additionally, she was a strong advocate for intersectional feminism, shown in her now famous speech “Ain’t I A Woman.” She is an inspiration to many people for the struggles she overcame and her unrelenting desire to help others.
“I feel safe in the midst of my enemies, for the truth is all powerful and will prevail.” -Sojourner Truth
Isadora Duncan was one of the first dancers to successfully oppose ballet techniques and traditions in the West, thus credited with creating Modern Dance. She was an activist for free-love and feminism.
“From all parts of her body shall shine radiant intelligence, bringing to the world the message of the thoughts and aspirations of thousands of women. She shall dance the freedom of woman,” Duncan said in a lecture, which has since been considered the manifesto of modern dance and women’s liberation.
Bertha “Birdie” Parker Pallan is known as the first female Native American archaeologist. From discovering her own findings in a pueblo site to finding evidence of the first human occupation in North America, Bertha gained recognition for her important role in these discoveries. She also documented the culture and lives of Californian Native American tribes through her position at the Southwest Museum’s journal, Masterkey.
Additionally, Bertha was able to consult with Hollywood films about the representation of Indigenous actors and culture, since she was an actor before pursuing archaeology.
Mae Jemison is a highly accomplished African-American professor and astronaut. She attended Stanford University and Cornell University, where she studied chemical engineering and received her doctorate respectively.
She then became the first African-American woman to enter space as a NASA astronaut. In space, Mae conducted experiments on two bone cells, learning about what factors cause bone loss. After retiring from NASA, she became a professor at Dartmouth College. Today, she continues to advance her and others’ knowledge of medicine through her works with the World Sickle Cell Foundation and Center for Prevention of Childhood Malnutrition.
“Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations...If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won't exist because you'll have already shut it out ... You can hear other people's wisdom, but you've got to re-evaluate the world for yourself.” - Mae Jemison
As a member of the Feminist Five, a group of young Chinese feminists, Li Maizi is an inspiring young woman and LGBTQ+ activist. Her performative protests against misogyny and bigotry transformed modern Chinese feminism. One of her performances was the “Blood Brides” performance, which gained international recognition and support.
Fun Fact: In 2015, she appeared on 100 Women(BBC), a series by BBC highlighting important 21st century women.
“Everything we did was for gender equality in China, it’s not for anything else.” -Li Maizi
Margaret Hamilton is an American computer scientist, software engineer, and business owner who created the software that successfully sent humans to the moon. As a pioneer in the field of computer science, she is credited in coining the term “software engineering,” Hamilton has received numerous awards along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. Hamilton’s work remains influential still to this day as she is an example of female success in STEM in a time where women were not seen as capable of doing well in fields dominated by men.
“Don’t let fear get in the way and don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t understand’—no question is a dumb question.” -Margaret Hamilton.
Nancy Wake was one of the allied forces’ most celebrated women over the course of World War II. As a journalist who became a French resistance agent, Wake dedicated herself to helping Jews and Allied soldiers escape France. After helping hundreds escape during the years of 1940 to 1943, her activities finally appeared on the radar of the Nazi German secret police, known as the Gestapo. She became Gestapo’s #1 Most Wanted Person and was forced to flee France for her safety.
After escaping the Gestapo, Nancy Wake reached England and was trained in the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), an English governmental intelligence unit that worked closely with French resistance. She was vital in the famous D-Day battle, not only leading some attacks, but also establishing supply and ammunition drops in preparation for D-Day.
Her contributions to the allied forces were recognized, as she received 12 different medals from 5 different countries and became one of the most decorated women of the Second World War.
“Freedom is the only thing worth living for. While I was doing that work, I used to think it didn't matter if I died, because without freedom there was no point in living.” -Nancy Wake
As the co-founder of the United Farm Workers Organization and the person who coined the Spanish phrase “Sí se puede” (Yes we can), Dolores Huerta is an extraordinary woman who advocated for labor worker’s rights and raised awareness as a woman in politics throughout her entire life. For her dedication and commitment to the Mexican labor movement in gaining fairer wages, she earned a variety of awards such as the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights (1998), Presidential Medal of Freedom (2012), Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship (2002), and Community of Christ International Peace Award (2007). She continues to spearhead civil rights movements through her organization called the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
“Because we do need women in civic life. We do need women to run for office, to be in political office. We need a feminist to be at the table when decisions are being made so that the right decisions will be made… Because when we did this strike, and especially when all of the people went on the march to Sacramento, the women had to take over the picket lines.” -Dolores Huerta, Civil Rights Activist
Mariam-uz-Zamani was the wife of Akbar and was known as Jodha. As a Hindu person married to a Muslim ruler, she encouraged Akbar’s religious tolerance and inclusive practices. She was also one of the most significant and influential figures during the reign of her son, Jahangir. She is most known for embodying the Mughal Dynasty’s multi-ethnic empire.
Even as a woman of high status, she experienced many obstacles and hate for being the Hindu Queen of a Muslim-dominated empire, but remained strong by advising both her husband and her son during their reigns.
Christine Jorgensen was the first American transgender woman to have her story told and popularized throughout the United States. She became a role model for transgender individuals and used her large platform to advocate for the community by writing books, giving lectures, and publishing articles in famous newspapers. She was unafraid to defy norms in order to be her true self and was one of the greatest pioneers for gender reassignment.
Jorgensen also ran a successful nightclub and acted in many theatrical productions. She spread awareness about transsexual people by giving speeches at her nightclub and after the curtain calls at the plays she acted in.
“I gave the sexual revolution a good swift kick in the pants!”-Christine Jorgensen
Madeleine Albright is a highly influential figure who served the United States government. She is best known for her service to the United States of America in her position as ambassador to the United Nations as well as the Secretary of State.
Albright is now a celebrated author of several memoirs and was granted the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
“There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.” -Madeleine Albright
Rosalind Elsie Franklin was an English chemist who earned her Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Cambridge University. She applied her knowledge of physical chemistry and crystallography to research deciphering the structure of DNA. DNA was known to be a biological molecule at the time, but very little was known about its structure or function.
Franklin began working as a research associate at King’s College in London in 1951, where she applied her expertise in X-ray crystallography to DNA fibres. Around 1953, she and her graduate student, Raymond Gosling, took a photograph that would irrevocably change the course of history, science, and medicine. Named “Photo 51,” the image clearly showed the helical structure of DNA.
Most notable for her revolutionary photograph, Rosalind Franklin also made important contributions to the fields of coal research and virology. Her data allowed for James Watson and Francis Crick to better understand the structure of DNA molecules, and in fact, she came to the same conclusions as they did. Her colleague, Maurice Wilkins, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Watson and Crick, however, she had passed away at the time and was never recognized for her work.
Franklin once said “science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated,” and she lived by that—she worked every day until her death.
Jin Xing is an internationally acclaimed dancer and talk show host. As a budding young artist, she enrolled in China’s state dance troupe and mastered a variety of dance styles. She has toured all over the world as a trainee, dancer, and choreographer. Jin also established China's very first private contemporary performing arts theatre, which has won many accolades for combining Eastern and Western styles. Jin is also a prominent public figure— she hosts her own talk show which accumulates more than 100 million views each week.
When she was 28, Jin underwent gender reassignment surgery, transitioning from male to female. She is the only transgender Chinese celebrity, and has recently begun setting her eye on politics to advocate for LGBTQ rights and against misinformation.
Her story is one of self-expression, which she has explored through gender and movements.
“For this world, one Jin Xing is enough. I don’t want my students to copy my movements or techniques. I want them to learn from the mindset I hold toward dancing...I must thank contemporary dance for allowing me to release my inner self and express myself”. -Jin Xing
Jahanara Imam was a Bangladeshi political activist and writer. She was called “Mother of Martyrs” (Shaheed Janani) for bringing justice to the people in the wake of the liberation war of Bangladesh and for raising efforts to bring war criminals to trial. Her book Ekattorer Dingulee (1986) is one of the most important and remarkable accounts of the liberation war of 1971.
In the early stages of her career, Eileen Chang gained prominence as a writer in Shanghai, China, which was then occupied by Japan. Chang fled the country after her husband, Hu Lancheng, was discovered to be a Japanese spy during the Communist takeover. Later on, her works were rediscovered and she began to write books again while also delving into writing screenplays for Hong Kong films.
Chang became known as one of the most influential Chinese novelists of the twentieth century. Her stories explored themes of love and family in the context of Communist China. Her most important contribution involved an alternative wartime story that came from first-hand accounts of Chinese salvation and revolution. Her many plays, novels, and short stories have allowed many to gain insight into the grand changes China found itself involved in, and her literary fictions have portrayed history in a more modern context.
“Books are the best friends. The only drawback is it will deepen myopia, however, still worthwhile.” -Eileen Chang
Boudica was the Queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe who spearheaded a rebellion against oppressive Roman rule in ancient Britain. Although the revolt failed, her forces managed to defeat 70,000 Romans and their supporters. She trained as a warrior and fought in several battles, which was especially rare for a woman at the time. Boudica is renowned as a hero and symbol of courage and justice.
“Nothing is safe from Roman pride and arrogance. They will deface the sacred and will deflower our virgins. Win the battle or perish, that is what I, a woman, will do.” -Boudica to Tacitus (Roman historian)
Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor was the first woman in America to graduate from dental school and receive a doctorate in dentistry. She was turned away numerous times solely due to the fact that she was a woman, but she never let herself be discouraged. Instead, she actively pursued every opportunity she could. She was an inspiration and advocate for women in dentistry. She was also a devoted supporter of women’s rights and the women’s suffrage movement.
“People were amazed when they learned that a young girl had so far forgotten her womanhood as to want to study dentistry.” -Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor
Referred to as the “Goddess of Cardiology,” Dr. Sivaramakrishna Iyer Padmavati is a pioneer in cardiology who transformed the field at a time when there were very few cardiologists, much less women. She has lived and studied in Myanmar, England, Switzerland, America, and India. She expanded the knowledge of cardiovascular diseases and preventive measures in India and has left a lasting legacy as India’s first and oldest female cardiologist, one that enabled many others to follow her path and pursue cardiology. In recognition of her achievements, she was awarded the two highest honors given to a citizen in India: the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan.
Dr. Padmavati and her fellow researchers were responsible for the discovery of the extent of the harmful health effects that cooking smoke had on the lungs of many Indian citizens in rural areas.
“I pursued cardiology because there were very few courses available to women when I went to college, unlike today” -Dr. Sivaramakrishna Iyer Padmavati
Rukmini Devi Arundale was one of the most prominent figures in Bharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance form, and has made numerous contributions to the art. She transformed what it meant to be a dancer in the eyes of the public and founded Kalakshetra, a style and academy of dance. She fought for the revitalization of the arts as well as other issues, such as animal welfare.
She was the first Indian woman to be nominated into the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Parliament, and was also awarded the Padma Bhushan, a renowned award given to civilians for their contributions in India. As a member of Parliament in India, she brought light to important topics and passed legislation regarding these issues, including vegetarianism. Rukmini was also included in a Google doodle for International Women’s Day in 2017, which highlighted 13 women; she was the only Indian woman included.
Rukmini brought Bharatanatyam into the public eye and helped it become one of the most respected art forms worldwide.
“We dance with our bodies, but we finally forget them and transform them.” -Rukmini Devi Arundale
Margaret Thatcher was the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She was nicknamed the “Iron Lady” because of her uncompromising nature and leadership style. Thatcher was the longest serving prime minister of the 20th century, winning three consecutive terms. Born the daughter of a local businessman in 1925, she went on to study at Oxford where she earned a degree in chemistry, before later qualifying as a barrister and winning a seat in the House of Commons. She then became a part of the shadow cabinet, and was elected leader of the Conservative Party in 1975. She served as leader of the opposition in the House of Commons, and eventually was elected prime minister after an economic and political turmoil led the conservative party to return to power.
Margaret Thatcher’s policies and political views became known as Thatcherism. Thatcherism advocated for the privatization of nationalized industries and trade union legislation. Even though she was criticized by many for some of her controversial policies, the advancement she made for women is undeniable. Margaret Thatcher held a great deal of power in Britain, breaking countless barriers and proving that one’s sex does not define a leader.
"If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman." - Margaret Thatcher
As a Chinese obstetrician and gynecologist at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Lin Qiaozhi conducted research on numerous neonatal diseases and disorders. Lin became the first woman in China to be appointed director of a hospital department of obstetrics and gynecology. Lin delivered over 50,000 babies in her medical career. She never got married and never had children of her own, but tagged every newborn as “Lin Qiaozhi’s Baby” on their name tags.
Dr. Lin became well-known and loved by Chinese people, from Premier Zhou Enlai to the local people. In fact, she was called a “living Buddha” by numerous patients, many of whom named their babies for her. After an illness left her bedridden, Lin wanted to create a research center. This proposal was later approved and a research institute was established within the Chinese Academy of Medical Science.
"I'd rather stay single to study all my life!” -Lin Qiaozhi
Abby Stein was the first openly transgender person to ever leave the Hasidic Jewish community. Despite being disowned by her religious community, Stein used her experiences in order to educate others about the LGBTQ+ community and help them discover their own identities. To this day, she speaks to countless groups that typically do not accept the LGBTQ community in order to create a more loving and accepting environment for all.
“Some religions might have at least a facade of a very anti-LGBT or very non-progressive culture so to speak...that you can’t be religious [as an LGBT person]...I’m telling you from personal experience that, yes, you can.” - Abby Stein
Jade Snow Wong was the author of The Fifth Chinese Daughter, an autobiography that describes her struggles to balance her traditional Chinese values and her upbringing in the United States. She was also known by the names Constance and Connie Ong. She lived her entire life in San Francisco, California, but this did not stop people across the globe from empathizing with her experiences growing up as an Asian American girl.
She was also a talented ceramicist who began selling her ceramics in Chinatown after she persuaded a merchant to allow her work to be showcased in front of his store window.
Her career as a writer and pottery creator quickly took off and gained popularity. She worked with many organizations and her ceramics were later exhibited at different museums around the nation.
“The peace and stability of a nation depend upon the proper relationships established in the home.” -Jade Snow Wong, The Fifth Chinese Daughter, 1950
Anna May Wong/Wong Liu Tsong is one of the first global Chinese-American movie stars and an important icon in cinema. She started her career in the 1920s, a time period where roles depicting Chinese/East Asians were fulfilled by actors/actresses with Chinese drag and yellow face attire. Known for her artistic range and style, Wong was involved in 60 films over the course of her life in both the United States and Europe. She also directed her own documentary called “My China Film” in 1936 about her experiences in mainland China during her first and only trip there. In the first television series to star an Asian American actress, Wong played lead actress in “The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong.”
“I was so tired of the parts I had to play. Why is it that the screen Chinese is always the villain? And so crude a villain--murderous, treacherous, a snake in the grass.” -Anna May Wong
Helen Zia is an award-winning journalist and author known for her outspoken criticism of political and social issues such as discrimination against minorities, lack of opportunities for women, hate crimes, domestic violence, and homophobia. In 1997, she testified before the US Commission on Civil Rights to relay how the media negatively impacted minority groups. Thirteen years later, in 2010, she testified as a witness before the US Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case that legalized same-sex marriage in California.
Zia served as a Torchbearer stationed in San Francisco for the 2008 Beijing Olympics despite the backlash she faced.
“It is more important than ever to stand tall, and link arms, and to raise our voices and especially point to the needs of our marginalized communities: of color, of women, queer communities, immigrants.” -Helen Zia
During the 1940s, Hedy helped support the Allied powers through her fame and innovations. Her invention of frequency hopping helped to develop weapon systems, Bluetooth, and Wifi.
Renowned as the Mother of Bluetooth and Wifi, she was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
“Hope and curiosity about the future seemed better than guarantees. The unknown was always so attractive to me and still is.” - Hedy Lamarr
Sobekneferu was the first female pharaoh of Egypt for which there is definitive proof of her rule. She came to power when Amenemhet IV died without a male heir, making her next in the line of succession. Sobekneferu reigned for close to three years and eleven months and commissioned beautiful complexes in Hawara, Heracleopolis Magna, and Crocodilopolis. Her death marked the end of both the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt and Golden Age of the Middle Kingdom.
Marion Bills was one of the first women pioneers in psychology. She was known for her work in industrial/organizational psychology during the first half of the 20th century. Upon receiving her PhD in experimental psychology, she taught at universities such as University of Kansas and Miami University.
Bills conducted extensive research in personnel psychology and published her works in prestigious scientific and nonacademic journals. She was awarded and recognized by several professional societies. She served as a board committee member at American Association of Applied Psychology and the first female president at APA’s division 14. Despite the societal norms of marriage and women becoming housewives during her time, Marion Bills was never married and devoted her time to research.
Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi was the first female Indian physician. She immigrated to the United States to study Western medicine and graduated with a degree. She was contacted directly by Queen Victoria, the empress of India at the time, who wrote her a congratulatory message for setting an example for millions of women in India to pursue a higher education. She received a grand welcome when she returned to India, and the editor of the newspaper Kesari praised her as “one of the greatest women of our modern era.” In 1997, the International Astronomical Union named one of the craters on Venus after her - “Joshee.”
“Be grateful for challenges because... Had there been no difficulties and no thorns in the way, then [each woman and] man would have been in his primitive state and no progress made in civilisation and mental culture.” -Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi
In the Civil War, Clara Barton passed through battle lines and distributed supplies, looked for missing people, and helped wounded soldiers. After the Civil War, Barton traveled to Europe where she was introduced to the Red Cross, and founded the United States branch of the organization, where she served as president for 23 years.
Barton changed how women were able to help in the medical field and was recognized for her efforts by President Abraham Lincoln. She fought hard for women’s suffrage and believed that “the right to her own property, her own children, her own home, her just individual claim before the law, to her freedom of action, to her personal liberty” was important for all women. She delivered speeches educating others on women’s rights and worked alongside female activists.
“You glorify the women who made their way to the front to reach you in your misery, and nurse you back to life. You called us angels. Who opened the way for women to go and make it possible? … For every woman’s hand that ever cooled your fevered brows, staunched your bleeding wounds, gave food to your famished bodies, or water to your parching lips, and called back life to your perishing bodies, you should bless God for Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances D. Gage and their followers.” - Clara Barton, 1882
Gladys West is an American mathematician who performed calculations for U.S. military satellites and programmed a computer to model Earth’s shape with unprecedented precision. Her work for the American government throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s laid the foundation for what eventually became modern Global Positioning System (GPS) technology that is used around the world.
Born in 1930 in rural Virginia, Gladys West worked hard to pursue an education to leave the sharecropping community where she was born. She earned a scholarship to attend Virginia State University and later worked at the Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren, Virginia, becoming the second Afrian American woman to ever work there. In 2018 at the age of 87, West was inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame for her contributions to the invention of GPS.
“When you’re working every day, you’re not thinking, ‘What impact is this going to have on the world?’ You’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this right.’” -Gladys West
Founder of the Women's Rights Recovery Association and the feminist journal, Tianyi, He-Yin Zhen was a pioneer in radical feminism. She introduced and spread revolutionary feminist ideas, paving the way for Chinese radicals following her. The Women’s Rights Recovery Association and Tianyi were both successful attempts at creating solidarity between Chinese women.
He-Yin Zhen was exiled to Japan, but her work still influenced many Chinese citizens.
“The goal of equality cannot be achieved except through women’s liberation.” -He-Yin Zhen
Jane Addams was a driving force for the social movements throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
With the help of her friend, Ellen Gates Starr, Addams founded the Hull House─the first settlement house in the United States, in Chicago, Illinois. The purpose of the house was for educated women to share their various areas of knowledge and skills, which varied from educational subjects like art and literature to household skills, such as cooking and cleaning.
In 1931, Addams was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and is one of history’s quintessential female leaders.
“Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.” -Jane Addams
As a pioneer for the women’s rights movement in Southern Asia, Begum Rokeya published Sultana’s Dream, a look into a utopian society of female-driven life. Rokeya founded the Sakhawat School which offered literacy and educational opportunities to generations to come. In 1916, she created the Bengali Muslim Women’s Association, serving as a platform for increased female visibility and social progessivism.
“A lion is stronger than a man, but it does not enable him to dominate the human race. You have neglected the duty you owe to yourselves and you have lost your natural rights by shutting your eyes to your own interests.” -- Begum Rokeya, Sultana’s Dream
Indira Goswami, better known by her pen name Mamoni Raisom Goswami, was a celebrated Indian writer who overcame great challenges to write extensively about underprivileged communities, such as the atrocities inflicted on Indian widows. Goswami was the recipient of several awards throughout her lifetime, including the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1983, the Jnanpith (the highest literary award in India) in 2000, and the Principle Prince Claus Laureate from the Netherlands in 2008 are just three of the many.
In addition to being a prolific writer, Goswami helped mediate peace talks between the state government and the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the Assamese rebel organization that seeked to establish Assam as an independent state. Her efforts helped initiate the People’s Consultative Group, a peace committee dedicated to sustaining peace talks between the government and ULFA.
Ismat Chughtai was a revolutionary feminist, novelist and screenwriter during the late 20th century. She used writing as an outlet to express her thoughts on femininity and women's rights.
Chughtai was severely criticized for her outlook on the roles of women, but never backed down even after she was arraigned for writing a (now critically-acclaimed) novel which touched on unconventional topics.
She wrote numerous novels which grew to be bestsellers not only in India, but in the United States as well. She co-directed her own movie based off a book she had written, which was voted one of the best films of 1948.
Chughtai was a firm believer that women should voice their opinions, and established herself as a voice for young Indian and Muslim women in the late 1900s.
"I do not think men and women are two different kinds of beings. Even as a child, I always insisted on doing everything that my brothers did." - Ismat Chughtai
Anita Hill is a prominent American lawyer, professor, and activist who revolutionized women’s rights in the workplace. In 1991, Hill accused Clarence Thomas, a U.S. Supreme Court nominee, of repeated sexual harassment during their time working together in the U.S. Department of Education and the Equal Opportunity Commission. As a result, Hill encouraged citizens throughout the United States to hold men accountable and to resolve hostile work environments.
Following the trial, she continued to advocate for civil rights and women’s rights, wrote Speaking Truth to Power, and co-edited Race, Gender, and Power in America: The Legacy of the Hill-Thomas Hearings. Currently, Hill continues to promote awareness of sexual harassment to create equity in the workplace and in society.
“But I think it would be irresponsible for me not to say what I really believe in my heart to be true - that there are some serious inequities that we face as women and that we can work to address these inequities.” - Anita Hill
Dr. Chieko Asakawa is an innovative computer scientist whose work drastically changed the way people with limitations view the outside world. Dr. Asakawa paved the way for accessibility technology despite having had lost her sight at the age of 14. She pioneered paths for individuals with limitations to navigate their lives, such as the first Homepage Reader and digital Braille editor. She continues her research to this day.
“Make the impossible possible - by never giving up.” - Dr. Chieko Asakawa.
Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte was the first female Native American to obtain a medical degree. As a young girl, she witnessed a white doctor refusing to treat a sick person due to their Native American ethnicity. This issue motivated her to become the remarkable doctor she was. Dr. Picotte spread her influence upon her tribe on the Omaha Reservation by being the only physician for 1,350 miles and never turning down anyone regardless of their ethnicity, gender, or age.
Towards the end of her life, in 1913, Dr. Picotte fulfilled her dream of opening her own hospital in the reservation town of Walthill, Nebraska.
“It was only an Indian and it did not matter. The doctor preferred hunting for prairie chickens rather than visiting poor, suffering humanity.” -Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte
In 1926, Grazia Deledda became the first and only woman to this date from Italy to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. She is most notably known for her novels Elias Portolu, La Madre, Cosima, and Fior di Sardegna.
Growing up in the small town of Sardinia, Italy, Deledda attended basic elementary school while learning that she loved to write, and convinced her parents to continue her studies. Her books and collections of poems—some written under pseudonyms—mix elements of the real world with themes of tradition, moral dilemmas, and, of course, bits of feminism.
"I write novels and short stories: this is my specialty. I find it right and good that women think, study, and work. " -Grazia Maria Cosima Damiana Deledda
Sara Josephine Baker was the first woman to ever hold an executive health position in the United States. Despite facing prejudice from being a female physician within a male-dominated field, Baker persevered and became extremely successful in improving sanitation and public health in New York City. In addition, she revolutionized infant care, drastically reducing infant mortality.
“Sick people need immediate help, understanding, and humanity almost as much as they need highly standardized and efficient practice.” -Sara Josephine Baker
Author of the book Gul-e-dodi, Nadia Anjuman’s poetry spoke to the unheard women of Afghanistan for many years. The reason for her tragic death is the same reason why she started writing poetry: repression against women.
Her work still has a great impact on society today by inspiring Afghan women to speak up for themselves and their rights.
“I have loved poetry, and the chains with which six years of captivity under Taliban rule bound my feet led me to haltingly enter the arena of poetry with the foot of my pen. The encouragement of like-minded friends gave me the confidence to pursue this path, but even now when I take the first step, the tip of my pen trembles, as do I, because I do not feel safe from stumbling on this path, when the way ahead is difficult, and my steps unsteady.” -Nadia Anjuman
Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer in 1951. She was treated at Johns Hopkins University, where a few cells from her cervix were sampled and given to doctors without her consent. Doctors used Lack's cells in his cancer research in which they discovered that her cells were immortal, meaning they could be kept alive and grow indefinitely.
For the past 70 years, Lacks’s cells have been used to make huge advancements in science and medicine. However, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding her cells due to lack of consent and awareness leading to debates over what rights individuals have in regards to their genetic material and tissue.
“Henrietta’s were different: they reproduced an entire generation every twenty-four hours, and they never stopped. They became the first immortal human cells ever grown in a laboratory.” - Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Vera Rubin was an American astronomer who studied the orbital speeds of galaxies and discovered the presence of dark matter in the universe. She was also an advocate and inspiration for women in science.
Vera was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1981 and was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.
“There is no problem in science that can be solved by a man that cannot be solved by a woman.” -Bright Galaxies, Dark Matters by Vera Rubin
Grace Lee Boggs founded several political organizations, held lectures to demand for human rights, organized marches against racism, and wrote about her vision for an American cultural revolution. She is most known for advocating for African-American, women’s, and children’s social rights.
Her Chinese name is 玉平 (Yu Ping), which translates to “Jade Peace.”
“You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” -Grace Lee Boggs
Faith Ringgold is an artist and writer, known for her unique forms of art such as soft sculpture, masks and story quilts. She used her talents to express the nuances of black culture and history in her art due to her passion for civil rights and activism. Author of multiple wonderful children’s books, Ringgold has combined her love for art and storytelling to pass along important life lessons to children.
Ringgold has almost 75 awards including an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts and the NAACP Image Award.
“You can't sit around and wait for somebody to say who you are.” -Faith Ringgold
Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected into Congress in 1916 as a Representative from Montana, and she was reelected in 1940 as a Representative for a different district in Montana. She joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association as a lobbyist and helped gain the vote for women in Montana in 1914, she established the Georgia Peace Society and was the main speaker and lobbyist for the National Council for the Prevention of War between 1929 and 1939. She devoted her life’s work to pacifism and social advocacy.
“We’re half the people; we should be half the Congress,” Rankin remarked, calling for more equal representation of men and women in Congress.
Zhang Haidi is the Chairwoman of China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF). With a strong mission to promote the wellbeing of persons with disabilities in China, Zhang advocates for the establishment of better workplace opportunities for persons with disabilities in China.
A paraplegic since early childhood, she has been called the Helen Keller and Pavel Korchagin of China.
"Don't sell yourself short, and try your best to build a happy family life," is her advice to other disabled individuals.
Gisella Perl was the first woman and only Jew to graduate secondary school in Sighet, Romania, at only sixteen years old. She was also the first Jewish woman to attend the University Medical School in Kolozsvar.
Perl became a very successful and knowledgeable gynecologist, and used her intellectual capabilities to save the lives of women in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust.
“I treated patients with my voice, telling them beautiful stories, telling them that one day we would have birthdays again, that one day we would sing again.” -Gisella Perl
Lakshmibai, Queen of Jhansi, is an Indian legend who defied the British forces that occupied her land. When the British East India Company refused to accept her adopted son as legitimate and moved their forces into her lands, she joined a group of resistance fighters and helped amass an army to fight against the British in the famous Revolt of 1857. Due to her brave actions, she is sometimes referred to as the “Joan of Arc of India”.
The Indian National Army created an all-women regiment in 1943, bearing her name, in order to acknowledge her great bravery and service to India. Even now, the term “Jhansi Ki Rani” is used to describe brave women in India.
“I will not give my Jhansi at any cost.” - Rani (Queen) Lakshmibai
Mary Quant is an English designer born in England in the 1930s. She has been an icon in the fashion world, but not many people know of her lasting impacts on the clothing industry. She is the pioneer behind the miniskirt and hotpants of the 1960s which are still largely seen on people today.
Quant used the freedoms of the Swinging Sixties to put together clothing that women proudly wore. She designed clothing items that became staples of fashion and changed the closets of women in England and all over the world. She made a large impact on fashion history and has gone down as an influential designer of the 1960s and beyond.
“Fashion is not frivolous. It is a part of being alive today.”- Mary Quant
Wu Yi was a prominent figure in the first decade of the 21st century. Petroleum engineer turned politician, Wu Yi rose through the ranks of China’s Communist Party and was the Vice Premier of the State Council from 2003-2008. She oversaw trade negotiations and hammered out several agreements herself.
During the SARs outbreak, Wu Yi stepped up as Minister of Health and implemented sweeping social distancing procedures, publicized hospital records, and enforced World Health Organization recommendations to stop the spread of the epidemic. Having saved thousands of lives, she was hailed as the “Goddess of Transparency” and offers an important model for dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Forbes magazine ranked her second in The Most Powerful Women in the world in 2004, 2005, and 2007 and third in 2006.
Shirin Ebadi was the first Iranian woman to ever serve as a judge in the Iranian justice system. However, after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, she was immediately dismissed from her position, given that the new Islamic government forbade women from serving as judges.
Justifiably upset, she went on to advocate for women and human rights. Ebadi is most well known for her work as a human rights activist and establishing the Defender of Human Rights Center, an NGO based in Iran, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.
“Women are the victims of this patriarchal culture, but they are also its carriers. Let us keep in mind that every oppressive man was raised in the confines of his mother's home.” -Shirin Ebadi
Qiu Jin is considered the “Joan of Arc” of China. In a male-dominated society, Qiu Jin defied traditional Confucian gender norms and pursued her ambitions. She became a revolutionary martyr for women’s liberation: she spoke out against arranged marriages, foot binding, and urged women to get an education. She also founded a school and started China’s first feminist magazine.
“Feet bound so tiny, hair combed so shiny; tied, edged, and decorated with flowers and bouquets. We spend our lives only knowing how to rely on men- for everything we wear and eat we rely on men.”-Qiu Jin
Benazir Bhutto was the first woman to be elected Prime Minister of Pakistan but also the first female to be elected head of state of any Muslim country. She was highly educated and attended both Harvard University and Oxford University. She became chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party and fought for social justice.
Bhutto was exiled from Pakistan but still was able to direct her party and ensured their success in elections.
“Clearly it's not easy for women in modern society, no matter where they live. We still have to go the extra mile to prove that we are equal to men. we have to work longer hours and make more sacrifices. And we must emotionally protect ourselves from unfair, often vicious attacks made on us via the male members of our family.” -Benazir Bhutto
Matilde Hidalgo de Procel was the first woman in Ecuador to gain a medical bachelors and doctorate degree at a university, the first woman to vote in Ecuador, and the first woman elected into the government of Ecuador as Vice President of the Municipal Council.
Matilde was awarded with a National Merit Award by Presidential Decree in 1956, and even became a founding member of the Medical Federation of Ecuador
“The woman is a mystical temple where hope is locked, that the homeland in the distance has managed to see. But, in order to wisely fulfill her divine mission, she must wander through the blue immensity…”
“El Deber de la Mujer” (The Duty of Women) by Matilde Hidalgo de Procel
Founder of the magazine, Zaban e Zanan, Sedigheh Dolatabadi fought for women's rights in Iran her whole life. Through journalism, Dolatabadi founded the first women's magazine (for women by women) in Iran as well as became the first Iranian woman to speak at an international conference. Through philanthropy, Dolatabadi founded the first all-girls school in Iran and founded another school for underprivileged girls.
After her death, Dolatabadi's tomb was desecrated by Islamic vigilantes who fought against her progressive beliefs.
"I will never forgive women who visit my grave veiled" -Sedigheh Dolatabadi