In honor of Women’s History Month, in a new series of posts, we bring to you five women who challenged the status quo, stood up to the patriarchy, and said, “not today.”
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)
An English writer and fierce women’s rights advocate, Mary Wollstonecraft’s seminal work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published in the late eighteenth century argued that the female sex is not inferior. Rather, women only seemed inferior to men because they were not given the same education. While men were taught history, economics, philosophy, and geography, women were taught music, embroidery, and painting. How was it a fair judgment to say women were ‘less than,’ when their educations were entirely different? Wollstonecraft contended that both women and men are rational beings and given the same opportunities, were equal to each other.
Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973)
The first woman elected to the United States Congress, Jeannette Rankin got an early start as a social worker in Washington. Rankin ran for her seat as a progressive Republican. She was a suffragist and the only senator to vote against U.S. participation in both World War I and World War II. Of her decision, Rankin said, “As a woman, I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.”
Lucy Hicks Anderson (1886-1954)
An African American trans woman who would not let the law dictate whom she could and could not marry, Lucy Hicks Anderson fought for trans rights at a time when such rights were unheard of. Before there was such a term as transgender, Anderson argued, “that a person could be of one sex, but actually belong to the other.” When it was learned that Lucy was biologically male, authorities tried her for perjury. Lucy was convicted and put on probation, but she didn’t let this stop her. She was a woman, and no law could say otherwise.
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)
A brilliant, self-taught artist, Frida Kahlo is most known for her self-portraiture and celebration of indigenous Mexican traditions. Using bold colors, thick lines, and magic realism, Kahlo created powerful, thought-provoking works about womanhood, sexuality, and the patriarchy. Her paintings, both showing magical realism, and surrealism have a dream-like quality, but don’t let that fool you. Kahlo said of her work, “I don’t paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality.” It didn’t matter that art was male-dominated Frida made her own way, and has since become a feminist icon.
Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007)
A woman taken before her time, the late prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, challenged social norms and called for a fair and democratic government. Despite the assassinations of her family members and barrage of death threats, Bhutto worked tirelessly to spread democratic ideals and to educate Pakistan’s population on what it was to have an equal and fair government. Bhutto believed in the separation of church and state and was assassinated for her politically secularist beliefs. Though she knew her fight could lead to her death, Bhutto didn’t stop advocating for her people. She will be forever remembered as a leader who put her countrymen first.
These women and countless others deserve their time in the spotlight. Is there a woman who has inspired you? Tell us about her in the comments!