5 Strong, Inspirational Women You Might Not Know About, But Should

In honor of March being National Women’s History month, I thought it would only be appropriate to tip our hats to some of history’s greatest female activists, athletes, scientists and more. I would like to encompass as many different types of bodies, backgrounds, and ethnicities in this article, all the while keeping it concise and hopefully slightly unconventional. The ladies I will be mentioning may be our contemporaries, or they may be huge influences in our pasts. Either way, their work has been remarkable, brave, innovative and progressive, and should serve as inspiration for women today. So, without further adieu, here is a list of 5 strong, leading women that you should (but might not) know about:

  1. Ashley Graham

    I would like to start off with a relatively famous social figure and model, as well as  body positivity activist- Ashley Graham. Ashley is an internationally sought-after model, first being noticed as the first Sports Illustrated plus-sized model, and then going on to shoot and work with Vogue Paris, St.Tropez, Fendi, Tommy Hilfiger, and Marina Rinaldi. Now, Ashley is active on social media promoting body positivity, has given Ted Talks, and wrote a book about confidence and rejecting social standards for female beauty. women with different body types Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

  2. Ella Baker (1903-1986)

    Ella Baker was a Virginia born Civil Rights activist, who played a key role in the NAACP, MLK’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Her early life was filled with racial injustices, which she began fighting against during her college years and onward. Throughout the rest of her life, Baker involved herself in multiple racial and gender justice organizations, propagating for economic justice and equality and black voter representation. She helped set up the Friendship fund, which was used to fight against Jim Crow laws in the South, and established the SNCC, which was a huge nonviolent movement for students fighting for racial equality. Overall, Baker was an enormous contributor to the fight for racial equality, and has left her mark on and established many key organizations of the era.  masked protestors Photo by Guillaume Issaly from Unsplash

  3. Maria Agnesi (1718-1799)

    Maria Agnesi was born in Bologna, her father being a professor at the city’s university. Due to her talent in languages, her father encouraged her studies and provided her with tutors for Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Spanish and French, and she was brought up debating with her father’s colleagues about topics such as celestial mechanics and elasticity. She was also educated in the sciences and philosophy, and in combination with her ability to read works by international authors, Agnesi grew up to be a broadly educated woman. Up until the age of 40 or so, Agnesi was unable to pursue her studies due to her responsibility to care and educate her 21 siblings. During that time, she combined all of her 200+ debate speeches into a philosophy book called “Philosophical Propositions”, and wrote the first female-written mathematics book for her brothers’ education. Upon her father’s death, Agnesi used her newfound freedom to continue her learnings, and to establish a home for the poor and ill. She was made director of an elderly care home, where she lived out her final days. By the time of her death, Agnesi had given away all of her belongings to goodwill, and has left behind a legacy of education and goodwill.

       4.Cathy freeman

          Freeman has been competing since an early age, winning her first medal at a mere 8 years old in a school championship. With her sport of choice being track sprints, Freeman competed in the 2000 Olympics, taking home Australia’s 100th gold medal. Freeman is seen as inspiration for her culture, setting an example and showing younger generations that their history should not and cannot hold them back. She is also viewed as a reconciliation between the Aboriginal population and the rest of Australia, giving a glimpse to a future with fewer tensions and more national inclusivity. 

       5. Tammy Duckworth

           Tammy Duckworth was a helicopter pilot in the US army, and was pursuing her PhD at Northern Illinois University before her unit was mobilized in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2004, Duckworth tragically lost both her legs and partial use of her right arm in combat, but declined retirement and continued her service. During her convalescence at Walter Reed, Duckworth became an advocate for veterans and established the first national program to relieve symptoms of PTSD. By 2009, Duckworth was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the US Assistant Secretary for Veteran Affairs, where she fought against veteran homelessness and led initiatives for female veterans. By 2016, Duckworth had been appointed to the US senate. She is the first Senate member to give birth while in office, as well as the first Thai-American to earn a seat in congress. 

We live in a wonderful time and place where opportunities for women are only growing. We are blessed to have the privilege to join the workforce, contribute to science, fight for our country and participate in the government. All of this would not have been possible without leading, progressive women that repeatedly proved societal preconceptions wrong through their own achievements. This list is just a few examples of female revolutionaries that are closing the gender gap and showing that girls can truly run the world- I hope that learning about them might inspire you to help them prove just that.

Women gather around a table Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels