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Breanna Coon / Her Campus
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Feminists of the ancient times

The word “feminism” was first coined by French philosopher and utopian socialist Charles Fourier in 1837, and that’s when the concept was officiated. As we look throughout human history, we can find the names of several badass women from ancient times who fought relentlessly for female rights and equality. Here are some of them:  

Hatshepsut (1508-1458 B.C.)

Only the third ever female pharaoh and the first female who attained the full authority of ruler, Hatshepsut proved to the bigoted Egyptian court just how capable ladies can be. She pulled the country out of a dark era of political, economic and social unrest into a much more stable state. 
Seizing the throne from her young stepson seven years after the death of her husband, she faced a great amount of resistance and mutiny from her courtiers who could not accept a female pharaoh, but she faced it all confidently. She undertook several ambitious projects related to architecture, agriculture and trade policies, which helped Egypt flourish. Hatshepsut referred to herself as King and not Queen, to emphasize on equality of genders in ruling a nation.

Queen Boudica (60 A.D.)

The story of this legendary Celtic queen teaches women to fight for themselves and not to back down and sit in silence after being humiliated or challenged. When her husband King Prasutagus died, his will stated that the kingdom be divided between his daughters and the Roman emperor. However, ancient Roman policy did not allow female rulers, so the empire snatched the entire kingdom and publicly humiliated Boudica and her daughters by raping them. Boudica decided she would not just let this pass, and with no man to fight for her daughters, she decided to fight for them herself. The queen gathered 100,000 of her tribesmen to form an army and fight against the Roman Empire. Her victories almost forced Emperor Nero of Rome to consider pulling out of Britannia, but a fatal loss in one battle ended in her death. 

Bettisia Gozzadini (1209-1261)

Bettisia was the first ever female professor in history, but how she got to that point is an awe-inspiring tale. This strong-willed lady woke up one day and decided that she would prove to the world that women can be successful lawyers. Since women weren’t allowed to enroll into universities, she disguised herself as a man to get into law school. Then she proceeded to show the biggest middle finger ever to the men of the society by graduating in 1236 as the top student of her class! She opened up her own practice afterwards and impressed everyone so much with her performance that she was called upon by her former professors to join the university as one herself. You go girl! 

Helen of Anjou (1236-1314)

Later gaining the title St. Helen, the Queen of what is now known as Serbia shocked everyone by opening an all-female school during a time now famously known as the Dark Ages, when the majority of the population, regardless of gender, were illiterate. She also contributed greatly to the cultural birth of her country by having its first ever library and monastery made. When she was threatened for her all female school, she retired as a nun to teach in the school, doing her best to ensure that no one could threaten her or her girls!

Balaram Das (1400-1499)

Yes, Balaram is a man! In fact, he happens to be the first ever feminist scholar in history. He is also the very first instigator of the concept of feminism in the Indian subcontinent. He did this by writing his book Lakshmi Purana, which showcased the intense gender discrimination in their society and was taken as a protest against male hegemony. His works and influence are what motivated the very first feminism movement in India, in the state of Odisha.
 

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535)

Another man! Heinrich was an occult philosopher and one of the most influential writers of renaissance esoterica, who wrote a book called Declamatio de nobilitate et praecellentia foeminei sexus (Declamation on the Nobility and Preeminence of the Female Sex, 1529). His book described his ideas on why he thought the female sex was superior. In a time when misogyny was the norm in society, this was monumental. Although one of the less popular of his works, the book is now considered one of the biggest contributions to the renaissance of feminism. 

Jane Anger (1589)

It’s a shame that no one knows the actual identity of this woman, as she had written what is considered one of the most savage pamphlets ever in history! The literature and philosophies of the time in which she lived can be classified as highly misogynistic and usually involved putting women within certain tropes and stereotypes that were highly demeaning. In her pamphlet, “Her Protection for Women”, she referred to male English scholars as a “a bunch of sex crazy chauvinistic pigs”, and literally destroyed their writings by pointing out, with quotations from writings of major male scholars of the time, how the language used to describe women was perverted and degrading. She went on to construct a whole new writing style, which she used to rewrite aforementioned quotations into something more acceptable.   

Modern day feminists fight strongly and confidently today for female representation and rights in a society which is still so very patriarchal. However, we have come to a point of time where women are so much better off, due to the physical and verbal fights and contributions of countless figures in human history.   There are countless tales and legacies of women and men who have stood up for women’s rights and equality in horribly misogynistic societies, where all women were considered to be good for were household chores and childbirth. They have helped to shape our society to be as equal as it is today. However, there is still so much work to be done, and we owe it to these people, known and unknown, to give it our best to create a society of true gender equality and female empowerment.    

Nanjiba Showkat

Waterloo '24

Hi! I am first year Accounting and Finance student from the University of Waterloo with a passion for writing and obsession with literature and arts.
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