1. Margaret Sanger
“When motherhood becomes the fruit of a deep yearning, not the result of ignorance or accident, its children will become the foundation of a new race.”
Margaret Sanger dedicated the majority of her life to fighting for women’s right to contraceptives. She is often referred to as the founder of the original Planned Parenthood, and even lead the discovery to the birth control pill, creating an accessible and female-controlled form of contraceptive. Her crowning life-achievement was seeing the undoing of Comstock Laws, ruling birth control a constitutional right to all women in the United States.
2. Grace Abbott
“I stand on the sidewalk watching it because the responsibility is mine and I must, I take a very firm hold on the handles of the baby carriage and I wheel it into the traffic.”
Often referred to as “The Mother of America’s 43 Million Children,” Grace Abbott led the fight against child labor and founded the Immigrants Protective League. She headed the Children’s Bureau from 1921-1934 and went down in history as a warrior for children and immigrants.
3. Emma Goldman
“I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.”
Coined as an anarchist, #GirlBoss Emma Goldman was a Russian Immigrant who was a passionate advocate for freedom of expression, sexual freedom, birth control, equality and independence for women, radical education, union organization and workers’ rights. She was known for her writing career, where she spoke of what she referred to as the “true” America: “The history of progress is written in the blood of men and women who have dared to espouse an unpopular cause, as, for instance, the black man’s right to his body, or the woman’s right to her soul.”
4. Mary Harris (Mother) Jones
“I’m not a humanitarian, I’m a hell-raiser.”
Founder of the Social Democratic Party and an iconic union acitivist, Mary Harris Jones is a long-celebrated social progressive. As an Irish Catholic Immigrant Mother Jones was no stranger to hard work and tragedy, having lost her entire family to the Yellow Fever and then championing through to help establish the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905. She is still celebrated for her contributions today.
5. Ida B Wells-Barnett
“One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap.”
Born from a family of slaves, Ida B Wells-Barnett was a champion of free-speech and the fight for African-American justice. She is known for using her newspaper Memphis Free Speech and Headlight to lead the anti-lynching campaign in the 1890’s, as well as going on to become a crucial element in other groups leading the fight for people of color. She is also the founder of the National Association of Colored Women and the first African-American kindergarten in her community.
6. Angela Davis
“Racism, in the first place, is a weapon used by the wealthy to increase the profits they bring in by paying Black workers less for their work.”
A member of the U.S. Communist Party, a radical activist, scholar, professor, and author of popular works promoting gender and racial equality, Angela Davis has spent her life fighting an unjust system in and out of the legal system. She is the founder of Critical Resistance, which works to abolish the ideal of privately run prisons profiting off of black bodies. She has become a world-wide icon in the fight for the oppressed, and remains so to this day.
7. Carrie Chapman Catt
“In the adjustment of the new order of things, we women demand an equal voice; we shall accept nothing less.”
Upon ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and gaurenteeing women across the country the right to vote, Carrie Chapman Catt founded the League of Women Voters. She was a renowned leader of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, having led multiple suffraget organizations in the fight for gender equality. To this day, she is honored as a leader and a symbol in the continued fight for women not only in the United States, but around the world.
8. Shirley Chisholm
“The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, “It’s a girl.””
As the first African-American woman of color ever elected to the U.S. Congress, the first black candidate to receive a major parties nomination for President of the United States, AND the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Shirley Chisholm is a name that you should never forget. In addition to all of this, she was an educator, which very much reflected throughout her political career. She played an integral part in the founding of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children program, (otherwise known as WIC) which is still in place today. As a woman of color in a position of power, Chisholm made a point to only hire women in her office, half of which were also African-American, due to the immense discrimination she faced as both a woman and a person of color throughout her time in office.