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Women In History We Tend To Leave Out of the Equation

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. John's chapter.

March is here, and with it comes International Women’s Month! From fearless activists to groundbreaking scientists, women have made a significant impact on the world, shattering stereotypes and paving the way for future generations. The following women may not have been in the spotlight, but they have made significant impacts on their communities, their countries, and the world. 

Hattie McDaniel

Born in Wichita, Kansas, Hattie McDaniel was the first Black woman to win an Oscar for her role in the 1939 film, Gone With the Wind. Despite this achievement, she wasn’t allowed to sit with her co-stars because the venue was segregated. In addition, McDaniel faced significant discrimination throughout her career, often relegated to playing stereotypical roles. Nonetheless, she continued to break barriers with her talent and determination, paving the way for future generations of Black actors in the film industry.

Wilma Mankiller

Born in 1945 in the Cherokee Capital of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Wilma Mankiller was an activist, community organizer, and the first woman to serve as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. In 1985 after being elected as the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, she led the Cherokee Nation through a period of tremendous growth and progress, initiating programs to improve healthcare, education, and infrastructure. During her tenure, the Cherokee nation’s population doubled and the tribal budget increased to reach over 150 million. Mankiller’s commitment to her people and her unwavering dedication to social justice earned her numerous accolades, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, and induction to the National Women’s Hall of Fame. 

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh

Born in 1876, Sophia Duleep Singh was a prominent suffragette and activist for women’s rights in the United Kingdom. She was raised in England to Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last Sikh ruler of the Punjab. Despite Britain taking everything away from her family and being exiled to England, she fought for British women’s right to vote. Sophia became involved in the suffragette movement in 1909 and quickly rose to prominence due to her aristocratic background and outspoken views. She participated in several high-profile suffragette protests, including the Black Friday demonstration in 1910, where she was arrested alongside other suffragettes. During World War I, she volunteered as a nurse and helped to establish a hospital for wounded Indian soldiers. In 1929, she was awarded the Suffrage Fellowship, in recognition of her contributions to the movement. 

Dolores Huerta

Born in Dawson, New Mexico, Dolores Huerta was an American labor leader and civil rights activist. Huerta began her activist work in the 1950s as a community organizer, working with the Community Service Organization (CSO) to advocate for better working conditions and civil rights for Hispanic-Americans. In 1962, she co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW). As the UFW’s lead negotiator and lobbyist, Huerta played a key role in securing better wages and working conditions for farm workers in California and across the United States. She also helped to lead the UFW’s historic grape boycott in the late 1960s, which brought national attention to the struggles of farm workers and led to improvements in their working conditions. In addition to her labor activism, Huerta has been involved in various social justice causes, including women’s rights and environmental justice. She has been a strong advocate for political representation and has worked to increase voter registration and participation in the Latin community. In 2012, Huerta received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and continues to advocate for farm workers, immigrants, undocumented immigrants, and women’s rights all across the nation.

Patsy Mink

Born in Maui, Hawaii in 1927, Patsy Mink was an American politician and civil rights activist who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1965 to 1977, and again from 1990 until her death in 2002. Mink was a role model for women and people of color in politics. In 1964, she became the first woman of color to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Hawaii’s first congressional district. During her time in Congress, she fought for women’s rights, civil rights, and social justice. Mink co-authored Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibited gender discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. The law had a profound impact on women’s sports, opening up opportunities for women to participate in athletics at all levels. In addition to her work for women’s rights, Mink was a strong advocate for civil rights and fought against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

Shirley Chisholm 

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Shirley Chisholm was an American politician, educator, and author who became the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress. In 1964, she ran and became the second African-American in the New York Legislature. In 1968, she won a seat in Congress and introduced more than fifty pieces of legislation that strove for racial and gender equality. In 1972, when Chisholm sought to be the Democratic party’s presidential nominee, she would often be criticized, saying that she was playing “vaginal politics” and was blocked from participating in the initial televised primary debates. Despite this, she continued and co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Cause while being a strong advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment. 

Dr. Antonia Novello

Born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Antonia Novello is an American physician and public health administrator who served as the 14th Surgeon General of the United States from 1990 to 1993. Novello received her medical degree from the University of Puerto Rico and later completed a pediatric residency at the University of Michigan. In 1990, Novello was appointed Surgeon General by President George H.W. Bush, becoming the first woman and the first Hispanic person to hold the position. While in her position, she focused on promoting public health and raising awareness of health issues affecting women, children, and minorities. After leaving office, Novello continued to be a leading voice in public health, serving as the Commissioner of Health for the State of New York.

Minnette De Silva

Born in Kandy, Sri Lanka Minnette de Silva was an architect, artist, and pioneer of modernist architecture in South Asia. She was the first female architect in Sri Lanka and the first Asian woman to be elected an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects. De Silva’s most famous works include the Mahaweli Development project in Sri Lanka and the St. Bridget’s Convent in Colombo. She was also a prolific artist and designer, creating furniture, textiles, and jewelry. She received numerous awards and honors for her contributions to architecture, including the Sri Lanka Ratna national award and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Zaha Hadid

Born in Baghdad, Iraq and raised in London, England, Zaha Hadid was a British architect, designer, and artist. Hadid worked for several architecture firms, including the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in Rotterdam, before establishing her own firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, in London in 1980. Hadid’s designs were characterized by their fluid, organic forms and futuristic aesthetic. She was known for pushing the boundaries of what was possible in architecture and for incorporating cutting-edge technology and materials into her designs. One of her famous works resides in New York City, the Condominium next to the High Line is one of Zaha’s most impressive residential buildings found in Manhattan.

Sabrina Sarwar

St. John's '23

Sabrina is a native New Yorker attending St. John's University.