Fierce Revolutionary Women Through History

Fierce Revolutionary Women Through History

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Women have always played vital roles in revolutionary uprisings, contrary to popular patriarchal narratives. Throughout history, thousands of women have fought against regimes they perceived as oppressive, either with the pen, the podium, or their own fists. In honor of July 4th, here are a few of their stories.

1. Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814): The Conscience of the American Revolution

Called a “real genius” and “the most accomplished woman in America” by her good friend John Adams, Mercy Otis Warren was born into an intellectual, political family in West Barnstable, Massachusetts in 1728. As an adult, she moved to Plymouth, raised five sons, and was by all accounts an elegant, genteel woman of impeccable manners and taste.

But Warren was also a radical revolutionary. She called her home “One Liberty Square” and headed a salon of patriots fed up with oppressive British rule. She wrote hugely influential, pointed political plays and poems which were printed in Boston papers.

“She cast her patriot friends as heroes and her Loyalist enemies as villains,” her biographer Gretchen Woelfle writes, “with names like Rapatio, Simple-Sapling, Crusty Crowbar, Hector Mushroom and Hum Humbug.” In The Squabble of the Sea Nymphs, Warren’s meditation on the Boston Tea Party, she wrote: “The fair Salacia, victory, sings, in spite of heroes, demigods, or kings; She bids defiance to the servile train, the pimps and sycophants of George’s reign.”

In 1805, her masterwork, the three-volume History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution was published, becoming the definitive Jeffersonian Republican version of America’s birth. In it, Warren reminds future American citizens:

“The elective franchise is in their own hands; that it ought not to be abused, either for personal gratifications, or the indulgence of partisan acrimony…The principles of revolution ought ever be the pole-star of the statesman, respected by the rising generation.”

2. Claire Lacombe (1765- ?): Her Greatest Role Was Revolution

It was a steaming July day in Paris in 1792. In the midst of a meeting of the revolutionary Legislative Assembly, a beautiful, unknown black-haired woman with the mannerisms and rich voice of a seasoned performer stood up to speak:

“Legislators! A Frenchwoman, an actress at the moment without a part; such am I; that which should have caused me to despair fills my soul with the purest of joy. As I cannot come to the assistance of my country, which you have declared to be in danger, with monetary sacrifices, I desire to offer it the devotion of my person. Born with the courage of a Roman matron and with hatred for tyrants, I shall consider myself happy to contribute to their destruction…Perish all despots to the last man!”

For the next three years, Claire Lacombe, a struggling provincial actress, would become a star among the most extremist elements of the French revolution. Known as “Red Rosa,” she danced atop the ruins of the Bastille, was shot in the arm during the storming of the Tuileries, and co-founded the radical, influential feminist “Republican Revolutionary Society” (also known as the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women). These “enraged” women of the maligned lower-class fought for equal rights and the destruction of all aristocrats.

Militant and fierce, Lacombe and her “dragoons” terrified the men of the revolution. In 1794, Lacombe was thrown in jail, and women’s clubs were outlawed. When she was released 16 months later, “she mingled with the crowd outside,” Lacombe’s biographer Galina Sokolnikova wrote, “and vanished into obscurity.”

3. Margarita Neri (Date of Birth and Death Unknown): The Rebel Queen of Morelos

In 1911, the Los Angeles Times breathlessly reported on revolutionary battles taking place in Guerrero, a southern coastal state in war-torn Mexico. “Petticoat leads band of Rebels,” the headline blared, in a story picked up all across North America. Margarita Neri, “La Neri” or “Pepita” to her 700-plus followers, was a young, wealthy convent girl who was incensed over outrageous taxes. So, she raised an army against the Mexican government. La Neri ,“although beautiful in feature,” was a daring raider.

“The Rebel Queen of Morelos” was the daughter of a Mayan Indian and a former Mexican general who had rebelled against the strongman government of President Diaz over a decade before. Years after her father’s death, she took up his fight, and in the process became a legendary figure during her own short lifetime. Brutal and fiery, the red-headed Neri was known for her passionate dancing—and her threat to personally “decapitate Diaz.” Her troops were infamous for their violence—looting, burning and pillaging whole towns. So feared was La Neri, it was said the Governor of Guerrero hid in a crate and fled her forces in a panic. Neri was reportedly eventually executed, but the place and time of her death are unknown.

4. Qiu Jin (1875-1907): China’s Joan of Arc

“With all my heart I beseech and beg my 200 million female compatriots to assume their responsibility as citizens. Arise! Arise! Chinese women arise!”- Qiu Jin

In 1904, Qiu Jin, a wealthy Chinese wife, mother, poet, and feminist, tired of the severe patriarchal restraints placed on her intellectual and political development, shocked Beijing society. Leaving her family behind, she sailed to Japan to enroll in college and meet with like-minded Chinese revolutionaries, who sought to overthrow their corrupt government. She described the journey in her poem, “Regrets; Lines Written En Route to Japan”:

Unbinding my feet I clean out a thousand years of poison,
With heated heart arouse all women’s spirits.

Alas, this delicate kerchief here,
Is half stained with blood, and half with tears.

When she returned to China in 1906, Jin had morphed into a fearless revolutionary leader, famous for her swordplay, cross-dressing and bomb-making skills. She ran the Datong School—recruiting young revolutionaries—and started a radical feminist magazine called the Chinese Women’s Journal. In 1907, Jin passed from brilliant activist to martyr, when she was tortured and beheaded at the age of 31 for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the Qing government.

5. Esraa Abdel Fattah (1978-present): Egypt’s Facebook Revolutionary

In 2008, Abdel Fattah started a Facebook group in support of a textile workers’ strike in Egypt. Her gutsy activism gained her fame—and a nickname— “the Facebook Girl.” It also landed her in jail. But it was her revolutionary actions in 2011 that would make her a profound symbol of social action—and a target of Egypt’s government—to this very day.

As one of the leaders of 2011’s January Revolution and Arab Spring, Abdel Fattah led a small group of protesters into Tahrir Square, protesting the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. As their numbers swelled to the thousands, she bravely recorded her experiences in the Square on Facebook and Twitter, bringing the Egyptian revolution into the world’s consciousness. “We feared being arrested or killed,” she recalled later that year, “but we were achieving the dream of justice and democracy.” For her actions, which helped lead to the overthrow of the Mubarak government, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

However, Abdel Fattah has seen her dream of democracy replaced by a repressive regime much like the one she fought to overthrow. She has been persecuted by the government, and in the fall of 2017 was referred to military prosecution and is not allowed to leave Egypt. “I lived through those 18 days in 2011 like a wonderful utopia,” she said in January 2018. “But we were idiots—idiots to believe Morsi’s promises of democracy. Sometimes I think there’s no hope… But if I stopped my activism, I’d feel I was betraying everyone who’s died or gone to prison.”

Women in the American Revolution

Women played critical roles in the American Revolution and subsequent War for Independence. Historian Cokie Roberts considers these women our Founding Mothers.

Women like Abigail Adams, the wife of Massachusetts Congressional Delegate John Adams, influenced politics as did Mercy Otis Warren. It was Abigail Adams who famously and voluminously corresponded with her husband while he was in Philadelphia, reminding him that in the new form of government that was being established he should “remember the ladies” or they too, would foment a revolution of their own. Warren, just as politically astute as Adams, was a prolific writer, not only recording her thoughts about the confluence of events swirling around Boston but also dabbling in playwriting. She was a fierce devotee to the patriot cause, writing in December 1774, four months before the war broke out at Lexington and Concord, “America stands armed with resolution and virtue, but she still recoils at the idea of drawing the sword against the nation from whence she derived her origin.” In 1805 she published History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution.

Mercy Otis Warren Wikimedia Commons

Women often followed their husbands in the Continental Army. These women, known as camp followers, often tended to the domestic side of army organization, washing, cooking, mending clothes, and providing medical help when necessary. Sometimes they were flung into the vortex of battle. Such was the case of Mary Ludwig Hays, better known as Molly Pitcher, who earned fame at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. Hays first brought soldiers water from a local well to quench their thirst on an extremely hot and humid day and then replaced her wounded husband at his artillery piece, firing at the oncoming British. In a similar vein, Margaret Corbin was severely wounded during the British assault on Fort Washington in November 1776 and left for dead alongside her husband, also an artilleryman, until she was attended by a physician. She lived, though her wounds left her permanently disabled. History recalls her as the first American female to receive a soldier’s lifetime pension after the war.

Phillis Wheatley, an enslaved African American living in Boston, took up the pen and wrote poetry, becoming one of the first published female authors in America and the first African American woman to be published. Her 1773 collection Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Her poems focused on patriotism and human virtues. She even wrote a poem about George Washington, “To His Excellency, George Washington” in 1775, which she personally read to him at his Cambridge headquarters in 1776 while he was with the Continental Army in Massachusetts besieging the British. Her visit was the result of an invitation from Washington. Wheatley obtained her freedom upon the death of her master in 1778.

New York teenager Sibyl Ludington, was the female equivalent of Paul Revere, though she rode twice as far as Revere and in a driving rainstorm in April, 1777. Her ride took her through Putnam and Dutchess Counties, New York where she roused local militia to fight a British force that had attacked nearby Danbury, Connecticut. The Daughters of the American Revolution erected a heroic equestrian statue to Ludington in Carmel, New York along the forty mile route she traveled.

The story of one of the most famous revolutionary women, Betsy Ross, is likely just that - a story. Ross is often credited with sewing the first American flag, thirteen red and white stripes with thirteen stars in a field of blue in the corner. Subsequent research, however, shows that the story only surfaced around the Centennial, 1876, and was promoted by Ross’s grandson William Canby. Given that Congress passed the Flag Act in June of 1777, nearly a year after Ross is purported to have made the flag, the story is likely apocryphal.

"The Birth of Old Glory" depicts the supposed creation of the first American flag by Betsy Ross. Wikimedia Commons

As wives of the common soldier often followed the Continental Army so, too, did the wives of general officers. General Henry Knox, the Continental Army’s Artillery Commander married the vivacious and popular Bostonian Lucy Flucker, the daughter of Bostonian Loyalists. Once she and Henry were married, all ties between her and her family were cut. Henry and Lucy were devoted to one another and she would join him whenever she could while he was on campaign. She endured the bitter encampment at Valley Forge and became fast friends with the wife of General Nathanael Greene, the equally popular Kitty. George Washington’s wife, Martha Custis, spent every winter with her husband wherever the army was camped. In fact, once George Washington left his beloved Mount Vernon estate in 1775 to attend the 2nd Continental Congress in Philadelphia, he did not return to his home until 1781, as the combined American and French Army maneuvered south from the city of New York to Yorktown, Virginia, where the war was eventually won. The wives of generals were as equally helpful in matters of caring and providing compassion to sick and wounded soldiers, as were the wives of the common soldiers.

Ordinary women also endured the horrors of the battlefield when those fights came to their doorstep. Sally Kellogg of Vermont and her family escaped the gods of War in 1776 when the War for Independence found its way into the northern reaches of upstate New York and Benedict Arnold’s makeshift fleet and the British Navy clashed on Lake Champlain during the Battle of Valcour Island. As the Kellogg family made good its escape by water, Sally’s family “fell in between Arnold’s fleet and the British fleet,” she later recalled. As the family rowed to safety at Fort Ticonderoga, the exchange of gunfire between ships could be seen and heard Sally recalled, “but happy for us the balls went over us. We heard them whis.” Nevertheless the war continued to follow the Kellogg family. A year later, after having relocated to Bennington, Vermont the Kelloggss were once more forced to be witnesses to carnage and once again upon recollection Sally claimed the results were, “a sight to behold. There was not a house [in Bennington’s vicinity] but was stowed full of wounded.

Not unlike women eighty years later who disguised themselves as men to serve in the armies of the Civil War, women of the Revolutionary Era also itched to get into the fight, do their part for the cause, and be engaged in a historical moment. One of the best examples of a woman who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Continental Army was Deborah Sampson from Uxbridge, Massachusetts. Amazingly, she also has a paper trail concerning her combat service in the army, where she fought under the alias of Robert Shurtliff, the name of her deceased brother, in the light infantry company of the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment. She mustered into service in the spring of 1782 and saw action in Westchester County, New York just north of the City of New York where she was wounded in her thigh and forehead. Not wanting her identity to be revealed during medical care she permitted physicians to treat her head wound and then slipped out of the field hospital unnoticed, where she extracted one of the bullets from her thigh with a penknife and sewing needle. The other bullet was lodged too deep and her leg never fully healed. Her identity was finally revealed during the summer of 1783 when she contracted a fever while on duty in Philadelphia. The physician who treated her kept her secret and cared for her. After the Treaty of Paris she was given an honorable discharge from the army by Henry Knox. Like other veterans of the Continental Army she was continually petitioning the state and federal government for her service pension. She later married and had three children settling down in Sharon, Massachusetts. To help make ends meet she often gave public lectures about her wartime service. By the time she died in 1827, she was collecting minimal pensions for her service from Massachusetts and the federal government. In her memory a statue stands today outside the public library, in Sharon, honoring her Revolutionary War service and sacrifices.

Many women of all stripes and from all backgrounds recognized the value of the American cause and stepped up to serve the cause of the new nation as best they could.

Fierce Revolutionary Women Through History - HISTORY

The majority of colonial women made small, but vital contributions to the Revolutionary War effort. Betsy Ross' mythical creation of the first flag of the United States is the most famous female achievement of the Revolutionary era, but it is only one example of the many stories of women making a difference during and after the war. The success of the boycott of British goods in the 1760's and early 1770's was acknowledged to have depended largely on the dedication of American women and their willingness to alter their patterns of consumption. Many women made products at home, especially clothing, thus facilitating the boycott without overstepping the bounds of the domestic sphere. Other women tried to impact the struggle for independence and the development of principles for the new nation through their husbands. Abigail Adams corresponded frequently with her husband, once cautioning him to "remember the ladies" at the Continental Congress of 1776. Although the social mores of the time did not easily permit female participation in the Revolutionary war, many women managed to take more direct action in support of the patriotic cause. In October of 1774, 51 women from the Society of Patriotic Ladies at Edenton, North Carolina, signed a statement declaring their commitment to the patriot cause and their intention to do so all in their power to further that cause. In Philadelphia, Esther Berdt Reed organized the fundraising, purchase of materials, and production of shirts for the American Continental Army. She and the women with whom she worked raised $7,500 in a few weeks, a huge amount at that time. When Reed died in a dysentery epidemic, several other women, including Benjamin Franklin's daughter, Sarah Franklin Bache, continued her work.

Some women even participated in the military side of the war. Many women found themselves in the position of having to defend their homes and families from attacks by British and Native American troops. American artist Patience Lovell Wright smuggled secret information to American forces in Philadelphia, concealed in her wax figures. Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler, wife of Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler, burned the wheat fields around Albany, NY, in order to prevent British forces from harvesting them. Her action inspired others similar acts of resistance. Mary Ludwid Hays, was nicknamed "Molly Pitcher" because she carried water to American soldiers during the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. She even operated her husband's cannon when he fell in battle. Hays was made a sargeant by General Washington and, after the war, received a pension and was buried with full military honors. Betty Zane saved a fort that was under siege by Native Americans during one of the final Native American attacks of the Revolutionary War. She carried gunpowder to replenish the depleted supply of the colonial forces. According to an anonymous journal entry, on August 17, 1775 in East Hartford, Connecticut, a "corps of female infantry," twenty women in all, marched "in martial array and excellent order" to a store. They proceeded to attack and plunder the shop, taking two hundred and eighteen pounds of sugar with them. It is not clear whether this incident actually occurred, but it is well-documented that Deborah Sampson dressed as a man and enlist in the Continental forces in 1782. She served with distinction for a year and a half, and earned a monthly disability pension after the war. Margaret Cochran Corbin also fought and was seriously wounded in the war, and received a pension from the state of Pennsylvania.

Women were also involved in the chronicling of the war. In 1777, Mary Katherine Goddard printed the first official copy of the Declaration of Independence, and paid the post riders to carry it throughout the colonies. Lady Christian Henrietta Caroline Acland, also called Lady Harriet, wrote a narrative of her experiences traveling from England to the American colonies, which was hailed as "one of the brightest episodes in the war." One of the earliest historians of the war was Mercy Otis Warren, whose three-volume History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution was published in 1805.


During initial stages of settlement, the need for labor in the Americas exceeded gender discrimination, and women were able to acquire jobs outside the home, even physically taxing jobs. This was especially true in frontier communities. One example is Susanna Wright, who, in 1771, was acting as legal counselor, unofficial magistrate, and local physician for her neighbors on the frontiers of Pennsylvania.

This social and economic equality resulted from survival necessity, however, and did not indicate any fundamental shifts in social philosophy. The American colonies adhered to the concept of couverture, derived from English common law, according to which married women were considered one with their husbands, and "the very being or legal existence of the woman [was] suspended" after marriage. After independence, these gender inequities were not significantly addressed. Nevertheless, some progress was made. Massachusetts legislation from 1787 led to the granting of property rights to women by allowing women who had been abandoned by their husbands to sell property. One year later, women gained the right to be elected to office in the United States, although only in New Jersey were women allowed to vote, and that too was outlawed by 1806. For African-American women, the Revolutionary War made little impact on their lives. They continued to be slaves in every state, except for Massachusetts, which moved toward emancipation in the 1780's. Many continued to be abused by their mistresses, raped by their masters, and put down by their male coworkers. No rights of citizenship were extended to African-American women, and any successes they achieved was only permitted within a circumscribed area. One example of such sheltered success was Phillis Wheatley, a celebrated African-American poet. Abolitionists used her as an example proving that Africans were not congenitally intellectually inferior. Nevertheless, although she was a firm supporter of independence for the colonies, she was not a proponent of emancipation for slaves. In fact, her poetry expressed thankfulness that she had been delivered from the "darkness" of Africa to the "light" of America.

Native American women faced different social circumstances, depending on the social organization of their tribe. In many tribes, Native American women lived in patterns of sexual segregation. In some New England tribes, for example, women and men ate separately. Tribes as the Ute and Shoshone in the Great Basin region gave women very low social status. In addition, "women's work," usually including domestic and agricultural labor, was generally seperated from "men's work," usually warrior and hunting duties. In other tribes, however, Native American women had more access to positions of power than did their European counterparts. Some tribes, such as the Iroquois of northern New York and the Pueblos of the Southwest, were matrilineal, determining kinship through maternal lines. Such societies allowed women, such as Mary (Konwatsi'tsiaienni) Brant, to obtain status as important political figures. The Cherokee nation had a Women's Council, led by women such as Nancy (Nanye'hi) Ward. Ward also sat as a member of the Council of Chiefs, and took her husband's place in battle when he fell during confrontation between the Creeks and the Cherokees in 1776. In addition to political positions, squaws had authority in the religious sphere, sometimes assuming roles as shamans or priests, which allowed them to practice medicine. In some cases, women acted as both shamans and warleaders. Some women even engaged in trade. Nevertheless, although women were able to hold positions with varying levels of authority within their tribes and clans, most Native American cultures remained heavily male-dominated. Since the vast majority of Native Americans sided with the British, many of the Native American heroes and heroines were individuals who would not have been acclaimed by the patriot Americans. Mohawk leader Mary Brant, for example, was known for having used her considerable influence among Native Americans to keep them loyal to the British. The Revolutionary War probably affected Native American women more through the disruptions of daily life it caused than through any liberal concept which the patriotic struggle may have espoused. In any case, the ideals of a "republican woman" were probably not intended to apply to non-European women, so that the political and social developments which may have arisen from American independence were largely irrelevant to Native Americans. In fact, many tribes might have been better off if Great Britain had won the war, since the British had much more genial relations with most tribes than did the colonial settlers.


Unlike many of their European counterparts, European women in the new republic were expected to know how to cook and efficiently run a household, as well as be able to engage her husband in serious discourse. However, the education available to most women was insufficient to properly facilitate the fulfillment of such demanding roles. Few families educated their daughters beyond the elementary level, and almost no women attended college. Eventually, schools which accepted women or were designed for women were founded in the new nation. "Adventure schools," generally located in the homes of the instructors, were founded in various locations in the colonies. These school emphasized instruction in music, dancing, drawing, painting, needlework, etc., with little attention paid to reading, writing, or mathematics. One of the most well-known adventure schools was founded in Philadelphia in 1754 by Anthony Benezet. In the south, daughters of well-to-do families were taught by tutors. Other, more academically or practically oriented schools included the Moravian Young Ladies Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, opened to non-Moravian girls in 1785, and Sarah Pierce's school in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1792. Such schools trained young women in reading, grammar, geography, history, music, arithmetic, and sometimes astronomy and foreign languages. Schools such as the Katy Ferguson School for the Poor, founded and named after a former slave, dealt with the more urgent need for basic literacy among the poor. The Ferguson School recruited students from the poorhouses on New York, and began in 1793 with 28 black and 20 white students. After the war, several New England academies began to accept women and to allow them to study the same subjects as men, although schools such as Yale University still refused to accept even fully-qualified female students.

Women such as Mary Wollstonecraft in England and Judith Sargent Murray wrote in defense of women's rights. Although most American women might not have publicly approved of Wollstonecraft's views, such as a criticism of marriage, her 1792 book, Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which went through several editions in the United States. Men like Thomas Paine and, later, John Quincy Adams, spoke out in support of women's political and social rights. The bulk of women's writings which survive today seem to suggest that most were less concerned about political equality than about the acknowledgment of the importance and value of the private domestic sphere, which they judged to be equal to the public political sphere. According to Abigail Adams, "if man is Lord, woman is Lordess - that is what I contend for." Most of these writings are from Protestant European middle and upper class women, making it difficult to gage the sentiments of other women of the Revolutionary Era.

While most women of the Revolutionary Era might not be classed as "feminists" in the modern sense, they were among the first to seriously examine the role of women in American society. This, together with their active role in the war itself, laid the groundwork for much of the feminist thought and protest that would occur in the next generation with the dawn of the movement for women's suffrage.

Here are the 12 women who changed the world

1. Jane Austen (1775 – 1817)

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

Portrait of Jane Austen circa 1790

The OG rom-com queen, Jane Austen defined an entire literary genre with her shrewd social observations and wit. Born into a family of eight children in England, Austen started writing her now classic novels, such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, in her teens.

Her novels are funny, endearing, and questioned women’s roles within society. Austen had to hide her identity as the author of some of the most popular novels of her day and it wasn’t until her death that her brother, Henry, revealed to the public that she was the real author. Her literary influence remains and the themes and lessons from her novels still hold up today.

2. Anne Frank (1929 – 1945)

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

A 12 year old Anne Frank doing her homework

The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the most honest, powerful and poignant accounts of World War II and was written by a German teenage girl. The Franks were a Jewish family living in Germany, then Austria throughout Hitler’s rise to power and during World War II. The family hid in a secret annex with four other people throughout the war but were discovered and sent to concentration camps in 1944. Out of the Frank family, only Anne’s father survived, and he made the decision to publish Anne’s diary.

The Diary of Anne Frank has been translated into almost 70 languages and is an intimate portrayal of one of the most inhumane moments in history and is able to educate us on the universal human qualities of emotion, passion, love, hope, desire, fear and strength.

3. Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou is one of the most influential women in American history and was a poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist, whose award-winning memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman.

Angelou had a difficult childhood. As a black woman growing up in Stamps, Arkansas, Maya experienced racial prejudices and discrimination all throughout her life. At the age of seven, Angelou was assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend, who was then killed by her uncles as revenge. The incident traumatised Angelou to the point that she became a virtual mute for many years.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as well as her other works have been one of the loudest voices in the civil rights movement, and explore subjects such as identity, rape, racism, and literacy, and illustrate how strength of character and a love of literature can help overcome racism and trauma.

4. Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603)

“Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind.”

The Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I painted in 1588

Elizabeth called herself ‘The Virgin Queen’ because she chose to marry her country instead of a man. It might seem like ancient history now, but Queen Elizabeth I is one of the most successful monarchs in British history, and under her, England became a major European power in politics, commerce and the arts.

Elizabeth had a rocky road to the throne and technically should never have been allowed to reign, both because she was a woman and because her mother was Anne Boleyn, the much-hated ex-wife of Henry VIII.

However, Elizabeth I proved all the naysayers wrong and has become one of the greatest female leaders. Known for her intelligence, cunning and hot-temper, ‘The Virgin Queen’ was one truly one of the great women in history.

5. Catherine the Great (1729 – 1796)

“Power without a nation's confidence is nothing.”

Portrait of Catherine the Great painted in 1780

Catherine the Great is one of the world’s great historical figures and the Prussian-born Queen is one of the more ruthless women to make this list.

Stuck in a loveless marriage to the King of Russia, Catherine orchestrated a coup to overthrow her wildly unpopular husband Peter III, and then named herself Empress of the Russian Empire in 1762.

Catherine is credited for modernising Russia and established the first state-funded school for girls, reeled back the power of the church within the state and encouraged the development of the economy, trade and the arts.

She is also known for her healthy sexual appetite, having numerous lovers right up until her death who she would often gift with an abundance of jewels and titles before sending them on their way to make room for their replacement. Now there’s a woman who knows what she wants.

6. Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883)

“Truth is powerful and it prevails.”

Sojourner Truth is one of the most inspirational black women in America’s history and her words belong to one of the most famous speeches by any woman. An African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist, Truth delivered a now famous speech at the Ohio Women’s Right’s Convention in Akron, 1851, that has come to be known as “Ain’t I a Woman?”

Truth was separated from her family at the age of nine and was subsequently sold for auction as a slave along with a flock of sheep for $100. In 1829, Truth escaped to freedom with her infant daughter Sophia, but her other two children had to be left behind.

Truth began to advocate for the rights of women and African Americans in the late 1840’s and was known for giving passionate speeches about women’s rights, prison reform and universal suffrage. Truth, who died in Michigan in 1883, is known as one of the foremost leaders of the abolition movement and one of the earliest advocates for women’s rights.

7. Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005)

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free. so other people would be also free.”

Rosa Parks was on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, when the bus driver asked her to stand up and give her seat to a white man. Parks, a black seamstress, refused and in doing so sparked an entire civil rights movement in America.

Born in 1913, Parks moved to Alabama at age 11, and attended a laboratory school at the Alabama State Teachers’ College for Negroes, until she had to leave in 11 th grade to care for her ill grandmother.

Before 1955, Parks was a member of Montgomery’s African-American community and in 1943 joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, where she became chapter secretary.

In 1955, Alabama was still governed by segregation laws and had a policy for municipal buses where white citizens only were allowed to sit in the front, and black men and women had to sit in the back. On December 1 st , there were no more seats left in the white section, so the bus conductor told the four black riders to stand and give the white man a whole row. Three obeyed, Parks did not.

Parks was subsequently arrested, and her actions sparked a wave of protests across America. When she died at the age of 92 on October 24, 2005, she became the first woman in the nation’s history to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.

8. Malala Yousafzai (1997 - Present)

“I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls.”

Malala Yousafzai displays her medal and diploma during the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony in 2014

Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan on July 12, 1997. Yousafzai’s father was a teacher and ran an all-girls school in her village, however when the Taliban took over her town they enforced a ban on all girls going to school. In 2012, at the age of 15, Malala publicly spoke out on women’s rights to education and as a result, a gunman boarded her school bus and shot the young activist in the head.

Yousafzai moved to the UK where she has become a fierce presence on the world stage and became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, at 17 years old. Malala is currently studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford.

9. Marie Curie (1867 – 1934)

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Polish-born Marie Curie was a pioneering physicist and scientist, who coined the term radioactivity, discovered two new elements (radium and polonium) and developed a portable x-ray machine.

Currie was the first person (not woman) who has won two separate Noble Prizes, one for physics and another for chemistry, and to this day Curie is the only person, regardless of gender, to receive Noble prizes for two different sciences.

Currie faced near constant adversity and discrimination throughout her career, as science and physics was such a male-dominated field, but despite this, her research remains relevant and has influenced the world of science to this day.

10. Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852)

“That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal as time will show.”

An Alfred Edward Chalon watercolor of Ada Lovelace painted in 1840

Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and the world’s first computer programmer. Lovelace was born into privilege as the daughter of a famously unstable romantic poet, Lord Byron (who left her family when Ada was just 2 months old) and Lady Wentworth.

Ada was a charming woman of society who was friends with people such as Charles Dickens, but she is most famous for being the first person ever to publish an algorithm intended for a computer, her genius being years ahead of her time.

Lovelace died of cancer at 36, and it took nearly a century after her death for people to appreciate her notes on Babbage’s Analytical Engine, which became recognised as the first description for computer and software, ever.

11. Edith Cowan (1861 – 1932)

"Women are very desirous of their being placed on absolutely equal terms with men. We ask for neither more nor less than that.”

Her face is on our $50 dollar note and she has a University named after her in Western Australia, but what you may not know is that Edith Cowan was Australia’s first ever female member of parliament and a fierce women’s rights activist.

Edith’s childhood was traumatic, to say the least. Her mother died while giving birth when Cowan was just seven years old, and her father was accused and then convicted of murdering his second wife when she was 15 and was subsequently executed.

From a young age Edith was a pioneer for women’s rights, and her election to parliament at 59 in 1921, was both unexpected and controversial.

During her time in parliament Cowan pushed through legislation which allowed women to be involved in the legal profession, promoted migrant welfare and sex education in schools and placed mothers on equal position with fathers when their children died without having made a will.

Edith died at age 70, but her legacy remains to this day.

12. Amelia Earhart (1897 – 1939)

“Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”

Amelia Earhart stands in front of her bi-plane called 'Friendship' in Newfoundland on June 14, 1928

Amelia Earhart was the definition of a rule breaker. An American aviator who became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and the first person ever to fly solo from Hawaii to the US, Amelia was a pioneering aviator and a true female trailblazer.

Earhart refused to be boxed in by her gender from a young age, born in Kansas in 1897 Amelia played basketball growing up, took auto repair courses and briefly attended college. In 1920, Earhart began flying lessons and quickly became determined to receive her pilot's license, passing her flight test in December 1921.

Earhart set multiple aviation records, but it was her attempt at being the first person to circumnavigate the globe which led to her disappearance and presumed death. In July 1937, Earhart disappeared somewhere over the Pacific, and was declared dead in absentia in 1939. Her plane wreckage has never been found and to this day, her disappearance remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the twentieth century.

Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman in the world to graduate from medical school. Blackwell was also a pioneer in the education of women in medicine.

Gertrude Stein was a writer and associate of many of the 20th century's cutting-edge writers and artists. Her salon in Paris was a center of modernist culture. She's known for her stream-of-consciousness style.

Obstacles to Overcome

Suffrage Challenged the Existing Order: Custom and laws in many countries had placed men as supreme in public sphere and within the family. Deep cultural beliefs in male/female differences in altitudes and abilities supported this situation, and giving the women the vote posed a direct threat to male powers and privileges. Changes in women’s reforms, such as access to education or property rights, were justified because they were viewed as an improvement in women’s social position. Suffrage, on the other hand, challenged the existing order by threatening the basis of women’s subordination in society. Granting suffrage was a revolutionary act.

Conservative Kuwait lawmakers recently blocked women’s vote by arguing that giving women would essentially double women’s power. Citing claims that Islam and Kuwaiti custom bar women from holding office, the head of the Parliament’s human rights committee in May, 2005, said that men “are technically the head of the nation here.”

Many Women didn’t Want it. This rationale swayed many a male legislator. It is true that at times even well educated women in countries with high percentages of female illiteracy joined men who claimed that as long as the majority of women were still illiterate and ignorant, it would be dangerous to extend them the vote. The anti-suffrage groups in the U.S., for example, were mainly led by women.

New York City, 1920

Fear of a Lose of Female rights. Some women and men worried that if the concept of male “protection” of women were broken, women would be forced to compete with men in areas which they were not prepared to. Giving women political independence would even change male/female roles in the family structure, severely damaging it.

Women’s Essential Femininity would be Sacrificed. Most women did not want to give up what they saw as essential characteristics of their female nature if voting meant that they would have to enter the rough and disorderly realm of politics. There were fears that when women entered the public arena their “natural” roles of wife and mother would be undermined. In South America, feminists were most successful when they developed ideas for improving women’s condition that did not challenge some basic social values. Suffrage became only one part of the process of social change which recognized the need first to address women’s problems associated with their health and work.

Feminist and suffrage supporters in non-western regions tended to be accused of blindly imitating Western women, who were perceived as aggressive and shameless. Japanese women’s internationalism was attacked using this very argument. In the years leading up to World War II, members of the Japanese Diet increasingly portrayed women’s suffrage as immoral and as running counter to Japanese customs.

National Needs Come First: In countries fighting for their independence from colonial rule there was pressure on women to wait their turn. Even Gandhi, who had brought women into the public struggle for self sufficiency from Great Britain, stated that although he wanted women to take their proper place by the side of men, the timing was wrong for a “votes for women” campaign women instead should use their energies “helping their men against the common foe.” Women suffrage supporters, too, tended to be more nationalistic than feminist, arguing that votes for women were necessary so that they could imbue their children with ideas of nationalism.

Resistance of Liberal/Left Politicians: Some supporters of progressive legislation worried that acts by women’s militant suffrage would harm the “larger” cause of progressive politics. There further was concern that once given the vote, women might all vote for conservative parties. Women in Mexico sadly missed the chance to gain suffrage in 1930s because of these fears. In 1934, General Lázaro Cárdenas drafted a bill to implement female suffrage, which was passed by both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, was ratified by the states, and only needed formal declaration to be made into law. That declaration never came. The presence of a number of street demonstrations, a threatened hunger strikes by feminists, and fears that women would be unduly influenced by the clerical vote, unnerved Cárdenas at the last moment. Since the suffrage campaign was not a mass movement, it was easy to let the needed declaration slip away. Mexican women did not receive federal vote until 1958.

Suffrage Granted and the Denied: Suffrage, or its promise, has been granted and then retracted at various times. During the liberalization phase of Japan’s Meiji government in the 1880s, it seemed that Japan’s “first feminists” were going to achieve their goal of political participation. But all was ended in 1889 with the passing of laws which not only denied women voting rights, but even the right to join political parties. In the 1920s, Japanese feminists campaigned again, but the growing imperialism of the Meiji state and rising tide of Japanese militarism in the early 1930s turned Japanese suffragists back. When the Japanese military took control of the country in the 1930s, all democratizing movements were suppressed. It took people like Ichikawa Fusae decades of arguing that women’s suffrage was a fundamental human right before it was enshrined in the new Japanese constitution of 1945.

In 1956 in Egypt, thirty-three years after feminists had first demanded suffrage, the revolutionary government granted women the right to vote. But from the start, the state and official Islam obstructed women’s political rights by banning feminist organizations and suppressing the public expression of their views. Thus the same year that the state granted women the right to vote, women were suppressed as independent political actors.

Similarly Iran, which had granted women suffrage in 1963 and passed numerous women’s equal rights legislation in the 70s, repealed all these gains when the revolutionary government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to power in 1979. Women were eliminated from all decision-making positions within the government, dress requirements were enforced, and women’s organizations were declared corrupt and disbanded. The future looks brighter today. A growing urban, middle class is making some progress by situating women’s rights within the cultural framework of Iran, and noting that in order to modernize, Iran must improve the status of women.

Irish Cartoon, 1913

Gender Differences in Art

These sources, using examples of both genders in art history, give a different perspective on the way revisionist historians look at the representation of women. By critiquing the way men are portrayed, a conclusion can be drawn by contrasting the portrayal of women.

Art History Webmasters Association

Noted as an an illustrated lecture for a Bluffton College Forum, Oh What a Difference Gender Makes: Gender in the Visual Arts , is one of the most informal sources of information pertinent to this research guide. Although Mary Ann Sullivan provides the reader with many examples to prove her point, she does so in a quick manner, leaving the art to support her argument rather than the writing itself. The series includes essays on: Gender Definitions in Portraits , Depictions of Male and Female Nudes , Depictions of Motherhood and Fatherhood , Gendered Working Roles , and Critiques of Gender Roles .

I felt this was essential for sources and because it compares both genders, rather than just one, despite the title,

Ann Sulli van, M. “Oh What a Difference Gender Makes: Gender in the Visual Arts.” 2002. Accessed on November 23, 2014.

“It’s through art history that we see what contemporary art can only suggest: how art over time promotes cultural codes, and as part of its historicizing and status-raising functions–the very functions that make art attractive to the affluent and powerful–art normalizes and perpetuates the specific conventions for a society’s arrangement of sex and gender relations and the objects accorded them by the requisites of the dominant homosocial order.”

In this source, Roger Denson takes a look at homosocial order in history, as portrayed by art. The author takes examples from pre-historic, Renaissance and post-Renaissance art to show just how factual is the representation of gendered activities in art history. I’ve decided to include this source in this research guide because I feel Denson supports his arguments with heavy amounts of examples and provides a research paper on the representation of women in art with an angle that has not been reached by the other sources in this guide.

Thank you!

Write to Julia Zorthian at [email protected] and Olivia B. Waxman at [email protected]

Daughter to Russian Jewish immigrants, Abzug was a lawyer specializing in labor and civil rights in 1950s and 󈨀s New York. With the start of the Vietnam War she became a vocal member of the anti-war movement. Once elected to Congress, in 1971 she took a &ldquopeople&rsquos oath&rdquo (administered by her fellow New Yorker, Shirley Chisholm) on the steps of the House after taking the official congressional oath of office. Known for her brash personality, she pushed for an end to the war, women&rsquos rights and the needs of underdogs. She was known for saying “This woman’s place is in the House&mdashthe House of Representatives.”

As wife to President John Adams, and her husband&rsquos confidante and adviser, she opposed slavery and pushed for women&rsquos rights and education. Her famous line &ldquoremember the ladies&rdquo was followed by urging her husband not to “put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.&rdquo While her husband traveled on revolutionary and political duties, she took over and managed the family farm and business affairs. She was also mother to another President, John Quincy Adams, though she died before he attained the office.

Julia Addington became the first woman elected to public office in Iowa in 1869 when she became the Superintendent of Schools in Mitchell County&mdashwhich, though records from the time may be incomplete, likely makes her the first woman ever elected to office in the U.S. When some challenged the legitimacy of her election because she was a woman, the state Attorney General ruled that she was allowed to continue in her role, setting an important precedent.

In 1997, she became the first woman to be Secretary of State, and the highest-ranking woman ever in the U.S. Government. She knew the importance of that work: her Czech parents fled Nazi Germany in 1939, and she became a naturalized citizen while in college, but, having been raised Catholic, it was only as an adult that she learned her family was Jewish and that many relatives had died in the Holocaust. She used her position to advocate for human rights, push NATO to intervene in Kosovo in 1999 and normalize U.S. relations with China and Vietnam, and became the first Secretary of State to travel to North Korea.

Anderson, a Michigan state legislator in 1925 and 󈧞, was the first Native American woman elected to a state legislature. (She was from the La Pointe band of the Chippewa tribe, also known as the Ojibwe.) She focused on issues of public welfare and public health, including supporting prohibition and combating tuberculosis. She had previously been a teacher, studying at the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kans., before returning to Michigan.

Tammy Baldwin, a junior Senator from Wisconsin, is the first openly gay person elected a U.S. Senator and the first woman in the senate from Wisconsin. The progressive Democratic congressperson had previously served in the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2013. In office, she has advocated for health care reform and sponsored action related to women’s rights, such as the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act of 2007. She serves on several subcommittees for the Senate Committee on Appropriations, including for the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.

As Director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration from 1936-1944, she also advised President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on minority affairs and interracial relations, advocating for blacks to be served by New Deal policies, and was the head of FDR&rsquos &ldquoBlack Cabinet&rdquo&mdashan unofficial but important role. The Women&rsquos Army Corps was integrated because of her work as a member of the advisory board. The daughter of former slaves, Bethune thought education was key to racial equality, and started a school in Daytona Beach, Fla., which later became one of the few colleges of its time open to black students. Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935 and served as vice president of the NAACP from 1940 until her death in 1955.

California Senator Barbara Boxer retired from her position in 2017 after serving as California&rsquos junior senator since 1993. During her time in office, Boxer championed efforts to improve medical research and improve health care, sponsored legislation protecting the environment and wrote the 2004 Freedom of Choice Act, which would have prohibited government from interfering with a woman&rsquos right to abortion. She was the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and has said she is planning to work now to help get more Democrats elected.

Braun was one of the “year of the woman” candidates in 1992 who decided to run for higher office after Anita Hill&rsquos testimony during Clarence Thomas&rsquo confirmation hearings. She became the first woman of color elected to the U.S. Senate, representing Illinois from 1993 through 1999. Once elected to the Senate, she worked to advance women&rsquos rights, civil rights, gun control and more, including the historic preservation of Underground Railroad sites. In 1993, she convinced the judiciary committee not to renew a design patent for the United Daughters of the Confederacy as it included the Confederate flag.

Appointed to fill her husband Thaddeus Horatio Caraway’s U.S. Senate seat after his sudden death on Nov. 6, 1931, the Arkansas Democrat ran for the seat on her own in 1932 and thus became the first woman elected to the upper chamber of Congress. (Rebecca Latimer Felton had been officially the first woman in the Senate, but she served by appointment and only for a single day in 1922.) The prohibitionist earned the nickname “Silent Hattie” because she only spoke 15 times in the 14 years that she served, but quietly voted for important measures like President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms, U.S. entry into World War II after the Pearl Harbor attack and the first federal loan funding for a state college. Though she paved the way for women in the chamber, she was less progressive on the broader civil-rights front while she was the first woman to endorse and vote for the Lucretia Mott Equal Rights Amendment, she voted most of the time with the larger block of Southern Senators, against an anti-lynching bill and a poll tax ban.

Chao became the first Asian-American woman to serve in a presidential cabinet when President George W. Bush appointed her Secretary of Labor in 2001. In the eight years she held the position, Chao aimed to improve overtime regulations for workers and worked for more secure regulations for unions and workers&rsquo retirements. In January, she was confirmed as the Secretary of Transportation in a 93-6 vote.

With a Masters in early childhood education from Columbia University, Chisholm was steadfast in advocating liberal causes&mdashher campaign motto was &ldquounbought and unbossed.&rdquo As the first African-American woman elected to Congress, she represented a overwhelmingly Democratic constituency in a newly redistricted Brooklyn neighborhood and in 1971 was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. The following year she ran a historic campaign for the Presidential nomination (&ldquoI ran because somebody had to do it first&rdquo), and helped create the Congressional Women&rsquos Caucus in 1977. While in Congress, she championed her district&rsquos interests, from daycare-funding to minimum wages for domestic workers, and criticized Congress for being run by &ldquoa small group of old men.&rdquo

In 2016, she was the first woman nominated by a major party for President of the United States. A lawyer by training, during her husband Bill Clinton’s time as President, she was the first First Lady to have an office in the West Wing, and while the healthcare reform plan she spearheaded during that time failed to pass, she successfully worked with members of Congress on the creation of Children&rsquos Health Insurance Program. Prior to her unsuccessful run for the White House, she was also the first woman to serve as a U.S. Senator from New York (2001-2009) and served as Secretary of State (2009-2013) in the Obama administration.

Tammy Duckworth, previously a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois, came to the Senate recently after beating the state&rsquos incumbent Senator, Republican Mark Kirk, in 2016. She served as an Army helicopter pilot during the Iraq war, where she lost her legs and injured her arm. As a member of Congress, she has parlayed her personal experience in advocacy for veterans, by working on programs to help with P.T.S.D. and homelessness.

A California Senator since 1992, Feinstein is known for standing up for people (and to people). During her quarter-century in the Senate, she’s helped create AMBER alerts and the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, and she was the first woman to chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In 1978, she became the first woman to be mayor of San Francisco when she came into the position, from her role as president of the Board of Supervisors, following the assassination of then-mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk.

The Queens congresswoman (1979-1985), who once sat on the prestigious House Budget Committee, was the first woman to chair the Democratic platform committee and became the first woman vice-presidential candidate for a major party when Walter Mondale picked her to be his running mate in 1984. They lost to Ronald Reagan. Questions about her personal finances and that of her husband would thwart future U.S. Senate runs.

Her position as Secretary of Commerce for George H.W. Bush wasn’t the first time Franklin had worked in the White House in the early 1970s she recruited women for high-level jobs as a staff assistant to President Richard Nixon. Next she was appointed to the new Consumer Product Safety Commission and spent six years there, overseeing changes like the first child-resistant caps for pill bottles and safety changes to children’s furniture and toys. As Secretary of Commerce she increased exports and pushed market-opening initiatives to normalize commercial relations in Russia, Japan, Mexico and China.

Gabby Giffords was a U.S. Representative from Arizona until she resigned in 2012 after incurring a severe brain injury during an attempted assassination. She was a contentious figure in her state for her support of health care reform and her stance on illegal immigration. Since the shooting, Giffords has become one of the nation’s most visible advocates for gun control.

Nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, from a previous position as a United States Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit judge, this Brooklyn opera buff boasts many firsts: first woman to serve on two major law reviews (Harvard Law Review and Columbia Law Review), first tenured female Columbia Law School professor and co-author of the first casebook on sex discrimination. She’s known for her opinions on gender equality, notably the landmark United States v. Virginia, which allowed women to attend Virginia Military Institute.

Ella T. Grasso was the governor of Connecticut from 1975 to 1980, and the country&rsquos first female governor who had not been married to a previous governor. Grasso notably shut down all roads and businesses in Connecticut during a terrible snowstorm in 1978 and was lauded for her cool head in an emergency situation. Before being elected governor, Grasso had previously served as a member of the U.S. and state Houses of Representatives.

As a congresswoman from Michigan, serving from 1955 to 1974, she successfully fought to have women included in the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She later filed a discharge petition in 1970 to get the Equal Rights Act out of committee, where it had been held up almost every year since it was first introduced in 1923, and to a vote. (Although it was passed by both the Senate and House, it failed to be ratified by a sufficient number of states before the deadline.) After she decided to leave Congress, she served two terms as Michigan&rsquos lieutenant governor.

Fannie Lou Hamer fought for civil rights as a leader of the movement and member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and also co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964. She got involved with efforts to register black voters in the South in 1962, and during her time with SNCC took part in peaceful demonstrations that left her exposed to beatings and violence. As the Vice Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Hamer opposed her state’s all-white delegation at the Democratic Convention in 1964, where her alternative party captured the national spotlight for the civil-rights movement. Hamer unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1964, but took part in forming the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971.

Named Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1977, Harris became the first black woman to hold a Cabinet position. At Senate hearings for her appointment, Senators questioned how someone of her elevated position could understand the needs of the people the department of Housing and Urban Development focused on. “Senator, I am one of them,&rdquo Harris said. &rdquoYou do not understand who I am. I am a black woman, the daughter of a dining car worker. I am a black woman who even eight years ago could not buy a house in parts of the District of Columbia. I didn’t start out as a member of a prestigious law firm, but as a woman who needed a scholarship to go to school. If you think I have forgotten that, you are wrong.” She later served as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (1979-1981).

As a federal district judge for Arizona, Humetewa&mdasha member of the Hopi tribe&mdashis the first Native American woman to be a judge at that level, and has dedicated her career to making a difference on Native American legal issues. She was previously a U.S. Attorney for Arizona, professor at Arizona State University College of Law, a judge in the Hopi appellate court, assistant counsel for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and&mdasheven before she went to law school&mdasha victim-witness advocate at the U.S. Attorney&rsquos office in Arizona.

The Texan was the first African-American woman to preside over a legislative body in America when she was elected president pro tempore of the Texas Senate, and went on to serve in the House of Representatives from 1973 to 1979 and become the first African-American keynote speaker at a Democratic National Convention. She became famous during the Watergate scandal when she declared, as a freshman member of the judiciary committee (which was considering articles of impeachment against President Nixon), &ldquoMy faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.&rdquo She argued that if her colleagues didn&rsquot consider evidence sufficient, &ldquothen perhaps the 18th-century Constitution should be abandoned to a 20th-century paper shredder.&rdquo

The first woman to serve as U.S. Solicitor General, she was also a law professor, advisor to President Clinton and Dean of Harvard Law School before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 2010. As Dean of Harvard Law School, she was known for building consensus among professors reluctant to collaborate, and as Solicitor General, she was responsible for representing the government before the Supreme Court&mdashbeginning with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Malcolm, who founded EMILY’s List in 1985, is the exception to the rule for our list, in that she is not noticeable for actually running for office herself. When she founded that organization, no Democratic woman had ever begun a Senate career in her own right. Malcolm and the friends she enlisted to help aimed to change that by raising early money for female candidates. (The organization’s name stands for Early Money is Like Yeast.) EMILY&rsquos List has a hundreds-long list of women&mdashDemocratic and pro-choice women&mdash who they&rsquove helped elect to local and state office as well as to Congress. The organization recruits and trains women to run successful campaigns for political office and supports them along the way.

The senior Senator from Missouri, Claire McCaskill became the first elected female Senator from her state in 2007, and has come to be known as one of the most moderate members of the entire Senate. In 2014, she introduced the Victims Protection Act into the Senate, aiming to protect sexual assault survivors in the military.

At the point of her decision to retire in 2017 at age 80 &mdash about which she posed the question, &ldquoDo I spend my time raising money? Or do I spend my time raising hell?&rdquo &mdash her 40 years of work on Capitol Hill made her the longest-serving woman in Congress. A social worker before serving on the Baltimore City Council, her first campaign for Senate was unsuccessful, but two years later, in 1976, she was elected to the House. She served five terms before she was elected to the Senate in 1986, when TIME wrote that she was “blunt, outspoken and feisty” and “a fierce debater, with a fondness for pointed quips.” Mikulski pushed local advances for Maryland, like environmental protections or highway funding helped protect the New Horizons mission to Pluto when budget concerns jeopardized it in 2002-3 pushed to advance women’s rights by championing legislation like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and supporting shelters for victims of domestic violence and was the first woman to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee. She also co-wrote two mystery novels and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

As the first Asian-American woman in the House of Representatives, representing Hawaii from 1965 to 1977 and again from 1990 to 2002, Mink co-sponsored Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 with fellow congresswoman Edith Green, barring gender discrimination in academics and athletics at schools receiving federal funding. This law dramatically changed opportunity and participation in sports for women across the country, among other things. In addition to championing women&rsquos rights, civil rights and education reform, Mink was an early critic of the Vietnam war.

The first African-American First Lady and a lawyer by training, Obama made the First Lady’s role more relatable than ever by utilizing social media platforms to promote her healthy eating, arts, girls’ education and college initiatives. One of her most significant legacies has been the first modernization of nutrition labels in over 20 years. Her popularity in the polls at times surpassed that of her husband, earning her the nickname “The Closer” on the campaign trail.

The first female Supreme Court Justice, O’Connor was nominated by Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the Senate 99-0. She was known for upholding states’ rights and was often a swing vote, perhaps most famously by casting the deciding vote in Bush v. Gore, making George W. Bush president. She is also famous for letting Roe v. Wade stand in abortion cases, rejecting challenges to the use of affirmative action in higher education and for writing the opinion reiterating that all U.S. citizens are entitled to due process in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, in which she wrote that &ldquoa state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation&rsquos citizens.&rdquo

Sarah Palin shot from relative national obscurity as the Governor of Alaska to countrywide prominence when John McCain named her his running mate&mdashand the first female vice-presidential nominee for the Republican party&mdashin 2008. She grew to be one of the most prominent voices for the Tea Party movement as a pro-life and pro-gun-rights advocate. As governor, she notably signed a bill that would allow an Alaskan gas pipeline, and since she stepped down in 2009, she has been a political commentator and television star.

The Bay Area congresswoman became the highest ranking elected female leader in the U.S. when she was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2007. She helped push through President Obama’s historic health care law, the law that raised fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks for the first time in 32 years, the first federal minimum wage increase in a decade&mdashfrom (from $5.15 to $7.25)&mdashand the largest college aid expansion since the G.I. bill.

As Labor Secretary from 1933-1945, she was the first woman to hold a cabinet position. Perkins was an architect of FDR&rsquos New Deal, saw to much of the implementation of policies like minimum wages and unemployment compensation, and drafted the Social Security Act. She majored in physics and chemistry at Mount Holyoke, but an economic history course that required her to tour nearby factories sparked her life&rsquos work. Having been a social worker, high school teacher and colleague of Jane Addams at Chicago&rsquos Hull House, she moved to New York, where she witnessed the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. She would later say that was &ldquothe day the New Deal began.&rdquo

The Republican social worker became the first woman to be elected to Congress when she was elected to represent Montana in the House of Representatives in 1916. Coming from a state that passed women’s suffrage in 1914, she came up with the idea for a committee on women’s suffrage and as a member, started the House floor debate on a constitutional amendment that would give women the right to vote. (The amendment was ratified in 1920, after Rankin’s term had ended.) She was also a noted pacifist, voting against the USA’s entrance into both World War I and World War II.

Janet Reno became the first female Attorney General of the United States after President Bill Clinton appointed her in 1993, and she held the post during eight years punctuated by high-profile cases. During her tenure, she notably took the fall for the failure of a deadly Waco, Tex., police raid that went awry, declined to appoint independent investigators into Clinton&rsquos campaign finances in 1997 and extended the Whitewater investigation into Clinton&rsquos land deal to include the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The relative Washington outsider had previously served as a Florida State Attorney for 14 years.

Serving in President George W. Bush’s administration, she became the first African-American woman to serve as Secretary of State and national security advisor. She held the record for most miles traveled by a Secretary of State until John Kerry broke it in April 2016 she got the White House to support nuclear negotiations with Iran and North Korea, and she was the first Secretary of State to go to Libya in over 50 years.

As Governor of Texas from 1991-1995, Richards left her mark, appointing more women and minorities to official positions&mdashincluding the first women and African-Americans in the Texas Rangers&mdashthan any of her predecessors had. She also worked to improve the prison system, and vetoed bills that would have allowed concealed carry of handguns and damaged the environment. (She&rsquos also mother to Planned Parenthood&rsquos Cecile Richards and three other children.) In 1988, as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention, she famously said of Republican Nominee George Bush: &ldquoPoor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.&rdquo In addition to her work in public office, she helped raised awareness about alcoholism by being public about her own treatment in 1980.

Rogers represented Massachusetts in Congress from 1925 to 1961. During World War I, she volunteered with the YMCA and Red Cross and continued to work with military hospitals after the war ended, while her husband served in Congress. After her husband&rsquos death in 1925, she ran in the special election to fill the remainder of his term&mdashshe won, and then won another 17 elections after that. She introduced legislation that created the Women&rsquos Auxiliary Army Corps in 1942 and in 1944 helped draft the G.I. Bill of Rights, which, among other provisions, helped WWII veterans afford college tuition and provided for low-interest home and small business loans.

As the longest-serving First Lady (12 years), she hit the road to promote the work of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration and her public policy interests via nationwide press conferences, radio segments and her daily, syndicated newspaper column “My Day.” Having pioneered the activist role of the First Lady, she was later appointed a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly by Harry S. Truman, after FDR died, and served as the first chairperson of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights when it drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the wake of World War II.

Ros-Lehtinen became the first Cuban American and Hispanic woman to be elected to Congress in 1989, and is now the most senior Florida member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the most senior female Republican in the House. Born in Havana, Ros-Lehtinen lobbies for the Cuban government to enact political changes that will benefit its citizens, and was a prominent supporter of ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba. She was also the first Republican in the House to support same-sex marriage, announcing her support in 2012.

Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first American woman to be a Governor after her husband died and she took over his office in 1924. Her political career was only beginning: After that, she eventually served as vice chair of the National Democratic Committee, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her the Director of the Mint in 1933. Under her leadership, the mint started printing the Roosevelt dime and the Jefferson nickel.

Phyllis Schlafly was a prominent political activist of the late 20th century, known for her outspoken positions against the women&rsquos liberation movement and the Equal Rights Amendment, which she campaigned against. She rose to prominence when her book in support of GOP candidate Barry Goldwater, A Choice Not an Echo, sold more than three million copies in 1964. Though she never successfully won an election, she ran for Congress in 1952 and 1970.

“Little Patsy” was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives 12 times &mdash and was the second&ndashyoungest woman ever elected to Congress. She sat on the House Armed Services Committee and championed issues pertaining to women and families, most notably the Family and Medical Leave Act and the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act. Her responses to sexist comments made national headlines, too. For instance, when a male colleague asked how she could balance the job with being a mother of two small children, she replied, &ldquoI have a brain and a uterus. I use both.”

The Maine Republican was the first woman to win election to both houses of Congress and the first to be put forward as a presidential candidate at a national political convention in 1964 (she earned the support of 27 delegates but lost to Barry Goldwater). One of her best-known moments was her June 1, 1950, speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate denouncing her colleague and Red Scare proponent Joseph McCarthy (R-WI): “The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as ‘Communists’ or ‘Fascists,'” she said. “Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.”

Sotomayor grew up in the Bronx and has said that the TV show Perry Mason was responsible for &ldquoigniting the passion&rdquo that led her to pursue a legal career. In 1992 she was appointed a federal judge in the Southern District of New York&rsquos U.S. District Court and five years later was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals, beginning the role in 1998. In 2009, President Obama nominated her to the Supreme Court, and she became the first Hispanic person to serve as a justice.

The Democratic Senator from Massachusetts has become perhaps the most high-profile progressive of her party. After presiding over the Troubled Asset Relief Program as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel following the 2008 economic crisis, Warren beat incumbent Republican Scott Brown to become the first woman to represent Massachusetts in the Senate in 2012. She pushed for the 2011 creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect buyers by monitoring financial sector institutions.

This First Lady of the United States (1915-1921) is often described as the first woman president, based on her power to decide which issues would be brought to President Woodrow Wilson’s attention after he suffered a stroke that left him largely incapacitated in 1919. Among those issues was the League of Nations. Some historians argue that, by refusing to compromise with key U.S. Senators who were opposed to the U.S. joining the pact, she contributed to leaving the world vulnerable to the rise of fascist leaders in the lead-up to World War II.

In 1872, Woodhull became the first woman to run for president. Having been, along with her sister, one of the first female stockbrokers, she helped launched a newspaper dedicated to women&rsquos suffrage and reform. In 1871, she argued before the House Judiciary Committee that women were covered by the 14th and 15th Amendments and so already had the right to vote. The Equal Rights Party, an offshoot of the National Woman Suffrage Association, nominated her for president and decided on Frederick Douglass as her running mate, though it&rsquos unclear if he even acknowledged the nomination. She supported rejecting conventional moral standards for men and women, advocating &ldquofree love&rdquo alongside workers’ rights, healthcare and more. Just days before the election she was arrested on obscenity charges she eventually moved to England.

Fierce Revolutionary Women Through History - HISTORY

"Revolutionary Chicanas want the
liberation for our people
and all oppressed peoples."
-Elizabeth Martinez

The Chicano Movement:

The mid to late sixties were a time for radical organization by minority groups. Following the Civil Right Movement (which peaked from 1955-1965) many separate movements began to emerge. There was the Young Lords Party formed by the Puerto Ricans in Chicago and New York, the Black Panthers formed in the California bay area, and the Chicano Movement started to emerge in many different forms.

The first part of the Chicano Movement began with Cesar Chavez and the creation of National Farm Workers Association. This organization later became the United Farm Workers (UFW). He and co-founder Dolores Huerta organized grape strikes, non-violent protests, hunger strikes, and marches against the farmers. Some of the major accomplishments of the UFW include improved working environments (the outlaw of DDT), unemployment benefits, and the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. 19

The Alianza Federal de Mercedes, founded by Reies Lopez Tijerina, was a group that focused on Chicano history within the United States. It wanted to "restore" ownership to those who lived on the land prior to the Mexican- American war. The motto of this movement was "The Land Is Our Inheritance, Justice Is Our Creed." Alianza, as well as the UFW, focused most of its attention on rural and land-related issues. They had failed to address issues of the barrio.

The Crusade for Justice , founded in 1965 by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, did address urban Chicano communities. The goals of this organization were to establish communities controlled by Chicanos and to embrace their cultural nationalism. It focused on Chicano youth and was mainly comprised of students. They rejected assimilation and embraced their culture. They fought to have their culture become part of the curriculum in their schools. It was an organization for "Chicano Power."

La Raza Unida party was formed a in Crystal City, TX, in 1970 by Jose Angel Gutierrez. It attempted to "institutionalize Chicano students in national political terms and on a nation wide basis." Crystal City was 80% Mexican-American but they had no representation in the city counsel or on the school board. They organized a boycott against the school through walkouts. Through student walkouts at school, the adults in the Chicano Communities were reached. On April 4th, 1970 four Chicanos from the La Raza Unida party were elected to the school board. Because of the success of La Raza Unida party in Crystal City, many other cities and states in the southwest United States organized their own branches of the party.

These are a few of the major organizations that took place in the Chicana/o movement in earlier and later part of the sixties. Other groups include: the Brown Berets, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA), and many other student organizations. 21

The Anglo Feminist Movement:

The Anglo Feminist Movement came to life in two different ways. The first was with the formation of the National Organization for Women (NOW) which was started in 1966. Adult women and men were those represented in this part of the movement. They wanted equality for women in government, employment and labor unions. The other movement consisted of young women most of them were currently in just out of college. It was unofficially named the Women's Liberation Movement. The majority of them had been active earlier in the civil rights and antiwar movements. This group was considered more radical than NOW. They focused on issues such as reproductive rights, violence to women, and sexuality. They wanted to change the patriarchal society. Both groups were comprised primarily of women whom were white and middle class to upper class. Some of the main victories of Women's Liberation Movement was the legalization of abortion in 1973, laws dealing with rape and abuse to women, laws pertaining to sterilization, affirmative action programs, and Title IX passed in 1972. 11

The Chicana Feminist Movement:

In March 1969 the Denver Youth Conference took place. At this conference a workshop was held discussing the role of women in the movement. The women of this workshop stated, "It was the consensus of the group that the Chicana woman does not want to be liberated." This was one of the principle actions that sparked the Chicana Feminist Movement. Soon after this, woman began to organize. In May 1971 over 600 Chicanas met in Houston, TX for the Mujeres Por La Raza Conference. The two largest workshops held at this conference were "Sex and the Chicana" and "Marriage- Chicana Style." A survey was taken at this conference showed that 84% of the women there felt as though they were not encouraged to seek professional careers and education was not considered important for Chicanas, 84% thought that there was not equal pay for equal work, and 72% felt as though there was discrimination towards them in La Raza. 4 Along with organizing women's caucuses and holding conferences Chicanas also know that getting their words out there was important as well. In 1973 Encuentro Femenil, the first Chicana Feminist journal, was published. This journal explores the sexism and racism facing Chicanas at the time. It also made distinctions between its movement and the Anglo Feminist Movement. There were other important publications emerging at this time such as the newspaperHijas de Cuauhtemoc and a book of articles called La Mujer En Pie de La Lucha. 5 Chicana feminism, which paralleled to the Chicano movement, helped the Chicana become recognized as a valuable asset in her community. A few prominent names in Chicana Feminism are Mirta Vidal, Anna NietoGomez, Martha Cotera, and Gloria Anzaldua. There are many more that emerged from the feminist and Chicano movement in the seventies and eighties. The struggles for these women were not always easy ones.

The Chicana could not rely on the men in the Chicano Movement or the women in the Women's Liberation Movement. Each of the movements wanted the Chicana to sacrifice her needs for the larger movement. Women who fought for their rights were often told by both groups that they had to choose between being women and being Chicana.

Chicanos and Chicano loyalists often accused Chicanas of being venditas or traitors to the movement and compared to Anglos of the Women's Liberation movement. They are viewed as being anti-family, anti-cultural, and anti-man. They accused them of trying to split the movement and not supporting the cause. The Chicano movement often ignored the request of Chicanas to incorporate issues such as abortion and reproductive choice (along with other issues important to Chicanas) into their platform. This backlash from the community forced Chicanas to discuss how Chicana Feminism should relate its movement to the rest of the Chicano Movement. 20 Loyalists to the Chicano movement felt that racism needed to be addressed before sexism. They used arguments against Chicanas were disrupting the roles or males and females with in the Chicano community. The more independent she became, the more she was labeled by the movement as Mujer Mala (or Bad Women) and the more they were accused of taking up the Anglo woman's fight.

Chicana had two main arguments to counter these accusations. They pointed out historical independent women in Chicano and Mexican history. They used examples of women who fought in the Mexican Revolution. They used examples of indigenous women prior to colonization by Spain and how they were strong, independent equals in the society. They also used nun and writer Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, and more modern references of UFW co-founder and activist Dolores Huerta. The other argument used by Chicanas was "the need to remake the family in struggle against Anglo domination." This was different from the Anglo movement because there was not much importance placed on the family structure in the Anglo movement. Through restructuring the family Chicanas thought the movement would progress further. They wanted to change the traditional gender roles imposed on them while recognizing the importance of the family structure in the Chicana/o community.

There were other differences between the Women's Liberation movement and the Chicana Feminist movement was the inclusion of race and class. The Anglo women focused on gender and felt that Chicanas should choose gender over culture. Chicanas had faced oppression concerning all three of these and did not think that one was more important than the other. Also, Chicanas lack of participation in the Anglo Feminist movement helped to reassure Chicano loyalists that they were not traitors to their culture and community. 22 The Women's Liberation movement viewed the Chicana women, and other minorities as well, as all similar. The classism of the movement failed to recognize the diverse background that these women came from. Anglo feminists felt superior not only in race but in class and often undermined and disregarded the ideology of different minority feminist movements. 26

Assessment Questions

The Anti-Vaccination League and the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League formed in response to __________.

  • smallpox quarantine laws
  • mandatory smallpox vaccination laws
  • polio vaccination laws
  • support for vaccination

The vaccine preservative __________, which contains a form of __________, has been removed from most childhood vaccines.

A prominent vaccine controversy in the 1990s involved allegations about the __________ vaccine contributing to autism.

Watch the video: H ιστορία πίσω από τον αγώνα των γυναικών για ίσα δικαιώματα (October 2022).

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