Historically, women have not gotten the recognition they deserve. In addition to the presidents, kings and war generals the history books have taught us about, there is a number of equally important women we tend to forget. In honour of international women’s day, we have compiled a list of 10 historical and bad-ass women all feminists should know of. These activists have fought relentlessly for what they believe in, and their struggles have and will go down in history books.
1. Emmeline Pankhurst
One of the founding mothers of the British Suffragette movement, Pankhurst is an icon any feminist should remember. Although her militant tactics have been widely criticized, her activism eventually led to women gaining the right to vote in the United Kingdom in 1918. She is depicted by Meryl Streep in the 2015 movie Suffragette, which is about the Suffragette movement.
2. Shirley Chisholm
Not only was Shirley Chisholm among the first women elected to the United States Congress, but she was also the first black woman to ever do so in 1968. She was furthermore the first black woman to run in a major party’s presidential nomination, although she was unsuccessful. Chisholm is known for her statement “if they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair”, and has been hailed for never compromising her beliefs in order to please the party leadership.
3. Bessie Coleman
Bessie Coleman was the first woman of both African American and Native American descent to hold a pilot’s license in 1921. Since there were no opportunities for women or African Americans to learn to fly in the US, Coleman saved up to travel to France, returning to the United States to perform fly shows. Coleman, unfortunately, passed away young but served as an inspiration for countless men and women.
4. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
A current Supreme Court Judge in the United States, Bader Ginsburg faced an uphill climb to get where she is today. As one of few women at Harvard Law School, Bader Ginsburg ran the Harvard Law Review, cared for her newborn daughter and at the time sick husband, and somehow managed to finish her schooling at the top of her class. Her legal carrier has been focused on gender rights and equality in the U.S. A movie about her life, On the Basis of Sex, is in theatres now.
5. Olympe De Gouges
Olympe de Gouges was eventually killed for her opinions about women’s rights post-1789 in France. As tensions rose before the French Revolution, the playwright became a political activist and penned the famous Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen in 1791, after the French Constitution, which centred only around the rights of man, was ratified. Her plight for equality has since become historical.
6. Ahed Tamimi
You probably have heard of one of the most fearless modern activists, Ahed Tamimi. The Palestinian activist is from the West Bank and was imprisoned as a 16-year old for slapping and kicking Israeli soldiers during the weekly Nabi Saleh protests against the Israeli regime and occupation of Palestinian territory. Now at 18, Tamimi hopes to study law to use it in her struggle for Palestinian independence.
7. Nadia Murad
Nadia Murad became a household name after winning the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for her work against sexual violence. When she was 21 years old, her Yazidi village in Iraq was captured by ISIS. She and her female relatives and friends were sold as sex slaves by the ISIS soldiers. Since fleeing, Murad has proved she is a survivor more than a victim and has used her platform to fight for justice for the Yazidis, who were victims of one of the most brutal genocides of the 21st century.
8. Sidonie Gabrielle Colette
Colette is considered by many to be a feminist icon. The writer broke away from an oppressive marriage, writing about the hardships of female independence in the early 1900s. She also had many female relationships, something which at one point led to riots in Paris, after she kissed her girlfriend Mathilde De Morny on-stage during a performance. Collette defied all the roles society tried placing her in, and her life is currently being brought to life in cinema by Keira Knightley.
9. Halide Edib Adivar
Novelist, nationalist and political leader Halide Edib Adivar was a central figure in the building of modern day Turkey. Her novels frequently criticised the low social status of women in the Ottoman Empire and later in Turkey, and she became an important force in the Turkish Independence War. Her person has been subject to controversy, as she was behind assimilation policies and the “Turkification” of Armenian school children, although she was against the genocide of the Armenian population. Nevertheless, she was a woman who fiercely defied the roles society tried assigning to her and fought for equal rights.
10. Clare Hollingworth
Clare Hollingworth was the first reporter to report the outbreak of World War 2 when she spotted German forces along the Polish border, getting ready to invade. Defying the roles that her family and society wanted her to occupy, Hollingworth worked as a war reporter throughout her life. The New York Times described her as “the undisputed doyenne of war correspondents”.
Happy international women’s day!