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Influential Women to Celebrate During Women’s History Month

Last month was LGBTQA+ History Month and this month it’s Women’s History Month; it’s important to remember and celebrate the contributions made by women, for women, throughout history and in contemporary society. These are just a handful of women that I feel should be remembered in the coming weeks, but there are tons more out there that deserved to be celebrated. 

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf was a modernist writer and became a member of the Bloomsbury group at the start of the tweentieth century. With this association came a liberal approach to both sexuality and gender which she incorporated into her writing. After meeting writer Vita Sackville-West, they became romantically involved and her book Orlando was described as being her love letter to Sackville-West. In the book, gender and sexuality are fluid and challenged social attitudes at the time. Later, A Room of One’s Own was published, an essay that focused on a woman’s right to an education. It highlighted creativity’s dependence on a reliable income and a space to let it flourish.

Joan Jett

American rock musician Joan Jett paved the way for women in the music industry. In an article about Jett’s feminist legacy, she is quoted arguing that women are more than capable to master instruments but acknowledges that ‘they’re not allowed, socially — it’s a societal thing.’ The Runaways included Sandy West, Lita Ford and Cherie Currie, and they played all over the world while facing resistance in a music scene that made no effort to break down gender boundaries. Their fight for acceptance inspired women to reject the restrictions enforced by other male-dominated careers.

Marsha P Johnson

Marsha P Johnson was a black American trans woman and sex worker who is known as the one of the first to fight in the Stonewall riots in 1969. It is believed that she was the first to throw the first brick during the riots. Johnson was also a gay liberation activist and co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries with her close friend Sylvia Rivera. Being trans and a sex worker, Marsha challenged society’s expectations of what a woman needs to be and broke down the walls designed to restrict women from expressing themselves.

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman, born Araminta Ross, was an American humanitarian who was also a scout, spy, and nurse during the Civil War. She was born a slave and escaped, running from her husband and family. She returned to the South repeatedly in order to help other slaves escape through the Underground Railroad. Tubman tested society’s view that women are emotional and weak, proving they can be brave and do what was originally considered to be ‘men’s work’.   

Ellen Page

Canadian actress Ellen Page has starred in many movies and played a wide variety of different characters. Most importantly, she is a women’s rights activist, political activist, and has passionately campaigned for LGBTQA+ equality. In an article by The Guardian, Ellen Page asks ‘how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?’. She says, ‘feminism always gets associated with being a radical movement – good. It should be.’

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is an activist and humanitarian from Pakistan. She is the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate and is known for her human rights advocacy for education and for women in her region of Pakistan where girls had been banned from attending school. In 2012, Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban in an attempted assassination but that didn’t put a stop to her activism. At 19, Malala has already done more than many others do in a lifetime and is definitely someone to remember and celebrate during March.

Of course, there are countless influential women who have historically fought for women’s rights in the past. Equally, there are iconic figures today who are constantly altering the way society treat women. Take the time this month to find out about new women who have fought for equality, or have simply challenged the expectations that women are forced to to adhere to. 

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