Hashtag after hashtag has graced the internet the past few weeks in honor of Women’s History month, detailing triumphs under the belt of the female gender identity. Politics, STEM, LGBTQ+ activism - you name it, and there’s a gal for it! Take a peek through 29 of the neatest women of the 20th and 21st centuries to keep you hyped for the rest of #WomensHistoryMonth2018.
Ruby Rose (1986 -)
Ruby Rose broke headlines in 2014 with her short film, "Break Free," exploring the vast spectrum of gender identity and what it means to be gender nonconforming.
Rose has acted in movies and television shows since at least 2013, including "Orange Is the New Black" and "Pitch Perfect 3." In addition, Ruby Rose is an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness and LGBTQIA + equality, continuously encouraging creative self expression.
“Gender fluidity is not really feeling like you’re at one end of the spectrum or the other. For the most part, I definitely don’t identify as any gender. I’m not a guy; I don’t really feel like a woman, but obviously I was born one. So, I’m somewhere in the middle, which - in my perfect imagination - is like having the best of both sexes.”
Kimberlé Crenshaw (1959 - )
Since 1986, Kimberlé Crenshaw has been a reputable Professor of Law at University of California - Los Angeles. She currently splits her time between UCLA and the Columbia School of Law, she teaches about the relationship between race and law and the importance of recognizing intersectionality when discussing social issues.
Crenshaw was a founder of the Critical Race Theory movement, has published multiple works on her intersectionality theories, and in 2008, joined a "selective group of scholars" at the Center of Advanced Behavioral Studies in Stanford.
“Nonwhite and working-class women, if they are ever to identify with the organized women’s movement, must see their own diverse experiences reflected in the practice and policy statements of these predominantly white middle-class groups.”
Dr. Laura Esserman and Dr. Shelley Hwang
Dr. Laura Esserman (left) and Dr. Shelley Hwang (right) have made tremendous strides in the early recognition and treatment of breast cancer.
Dr. Esserman, of University of California - San Francisco, has been at the forefront of oncology with the development of the I-SPY TRIAL model, intended to "accelerate the identification and approval of effective new agents" for those with high-risk breast cancers.
In addition, she led the development of the Athena Breast Health Network throughout the University of California system, has had work published in over 200 scholarly articles, and has been internationally recognized and awarded.
Dr. Hwang, of Duke University, advocates for non-invasive procedures of treating breast cancers, specifically ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, cancer that affects the milk ducts but has not spread to other parts of the breast. Hwang's cutting-edge research initiatives have allowed alternative forms of treatment to be offered to low-risk breast cancers like DCIS that do not necessarily require a mastectomy.
In addition to her own work, Hwang is active within the National Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Steering Committee and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis Committee.
Both women were given a spot on TIME's 2016 100 Most Influential People list.
Gabriela Brimmer (1947 - 2000)
Gabriela "Gaby" Brimmer was a pioneer in lending a voice to people with disabilities, as she herself suffered from cerebral palsy. Non-verbal and bound to a wheelchair for her entire life, Gabriela's nanny, Florencia, worked with Gaby and provided her a support system that flourished her communication skills. Before her passing, Gabriela was an accomplished author, advocate, and the founder of the Association for the Rights of People with Motor Disabilities in her home country of Mexico.
“How can I scream when I can’t talk? How can I stop loving with the seed of a woman inside? God, if life is so many things that I am not, and never will be, give me the strength to be what I am.”
Jess Davidson is an advocate for sexual assault prevention and awareness on college campuses, having implemented policy changes and educational opportunities throughout her time at the University of Denver. She's been featured in the Huffington Post and the New York Times and has presented her work to multiple organizations, including Google.
In 2014, she was recognized as a "top female leader in college politics" by MSNBC, and in 2016, was named an It's On Us White House Champion of Change by former Vice President Joe Biden. She currently serves as the Interim Executive Director for End Rape On Campus, or EROC.
Angela Davis (1944 -)
Angela Y. Davis has been an activist for the majority of her life, beginning with influence from the Communist Party of the United States and the Black Panthers. She's known for her work throughout the Civil Rights era, advocacy for prison reform and incarcerated persons' rights, and women's rights. Davis' activism came with a price, as she was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list in 1970 for "false charges" and fired from her teaching position at UCLA in 1969 for her association with the Communist Party.
Over the last two decades, Davis has spoken in all 50 U.S. states, had essays published in multiple journals, and has authored 9 books. Today, Angela Y. Davis is Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of California - Santa Cruz.
“We all have a certain measure of responsibility to those who have made it possible for us to take advantage of today’s opportunities.”
Nicola Sturgeon (1970 -)
Nicola Sturgeon is the current First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party and has held these titles since 2014. She is the first woman in Scotland to hold either of these positions, let alone both at once. Previously, Sturgeon served as a member of the Scottish Parliament (1999-2007) and was the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (2007-2012) and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment, and Cities (2012-2014).
“Political parties have to convince people that there is a real reason to vote and that will re-engage them in politics.”
Li Maizi (1989 -)
2 days before International Women's Day in 2015, Li Maizi - along with four other women known as the "Feminist Five" - was arrested in China and held for more than thirty days. Her crime? "Picking quarrels and provoking trouble" by planning demonstrations against sexual harassment and domestic violence, and handing out stickers.
Since her release, Maizi has spoken around the world regarding her advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights and feminism in China, and the difficulty she's faced as a gay feminist in a country that looks down upon such identities.
"I am a lesbian and an international slut; not very decent."
Maria Toorpakai (1990 -)
Maria Toorpakai is a professional Pakistani squash player, having defied odds by even playing, as girls in her home of South Waziristan don't have the same opportunities as boys. Until the age of 16, she dressed as a boy in order to safely play. When it was revealed that she is a female, the Taliban began threatening her and her family, but it did not deter her. She stayed in Canada, practicing with coach Jonathan Power, and has represented Pakistan in numerous squash competitions despite her expected role.
“In our society people celebrate when a boy is born and they are aggrieved when a girl is born - this attitude must change. I want every tribal girl to have the same chances as other girls.”
Tarana Burke (1973 -)
Tarana Burke is credited as the first user of the saying "Me, too" as a way to promote advocacy and awareness regarding sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct. This was in 2006, the same year Burke founded Just Be Inc., a nonprofit organization created for the "health, well being and wholeness of young women of color." In addition to the Me Too movement and Just Be Inc., Burke serves as the Senior Director for Girls for Gender Equity, a campaign set on "removing barriers and create opportunities for girls and women to live self-determined lives."
“My hope is that in fifty years we’ll have a generation that has grown up their whole lives hearing about consent and boundaries.”
Sylvia Rivera (1951 - 2002)
Sylvia Rivera was an activist for the gay and transgender community, a spokesperson for the homeless population, and a self-proclaimed drag queen. She is said to have been present at the Stonewall Riots, in which the LGBT+ community, people of color, and impoverished individuals clashed with local police, although this claim has been disputed in the past. Rivera did, however, absolutely co-found the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, a subset of the Gay Liberation Front movement, and was politically active until her passing.
“I’m not missing a minute of this - it’s the revolution!”
Jaha Dukureh (1989 -)
Jaha Dukureh is a Gambian activist focused on women's rights, and, specifically, the end of female genital mutilation (FGM). Dukureh was subject to such treatment in Gambia when she was a "little more than a week old," and has worked relentlessly since arriving in America at age 15 to put an end to the practice.
In 2013, she founded the organization Safe Hands for Girls in order to bring awareness to the complexity and prevalence of FGM; the organization has since evolved to advocate against all forms of violence against women and to provide them with resources when necessary.
“There is such a culture of silence about female genital mutilation. If you stand up and say, ‘This happened to me,’ people will scrutinize you, but someone has to stand up and say, ‘This can’t go on happening.’ This is a human rights abuse and it has to stop… Until the education of a girl is a right and not a privilege, we are failing our women.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933 -)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. She graduated from Columbia Law School in 1959 and was appointed to the court by Bill Clinton in 1993. The Notorious RBG's opinions have consistently represented the underrepresented, including women (especially in the 90s), and the mentally ill. Her being a reputable Justice doesn't stop her from voicing her personal opinions, as she did at Trump: "I can't imagine what this place would be - I can't imagine what the country would be - with Donald Trump as our president."
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made… It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”
Judith Heumann (1947 -)
Judith Heumann is an internationally known advocate for disabled persons' civil rights. She has been involved in white house affairs for years, having served as the Director for the Department of Disability Services for the District of Columbia. In 2010, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State. Previously, in 1970, she founded Disabled In Action after the New York City Board of Education refused her application for a teaching license due to her disability.
“Disabled people are no different from any other group around the world. With appropriate opportunities and supports, we are able to contribute to the economic and social well-being of [our] communities.”
Emma González (2000 -)
Emma González survived the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She became an activist for tighter gun control after the incident, shocking the world with her "We call BS" speech towards Trump and the NRA. González is lending her voice to an incredible movement, rallying students all around the country with the #NeverAgain demonstration she co-founded.
“Adults like us when we have strong test scores, but they hate us when we have strong opinions.”
ImeIme Umana is a student at both Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government, having earned a Bachelor's in African American Studies and Government from Harvard in 2014. She's been involved in campus politics since enrollment and has held numerous positions within different committees.
She was the Community Action Chair of the Harvard University Institute of Politics, Professional Development Chair for Public Interest for the Harvard Black Law Student Association, and interned with the Public Defender Service. Now, Umana is the first African American woman to be President of Harvard Law Review.
Mona Hanna-Attisha (1976 -)
Mona Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician and advocate for public health credited with exposing the Flint Water Crisis in 2014. She currently works as an associate professor at Michigan State University and has earned the Heinz award due to her work in Flint.
“Read to your kid, talk to them, stimulate them, put them in early literature programs, enroll them in preschool.”
Gail R. Martin (1944 -)
Gail R. Martin was a pioneer in the field of stem cell research. In December 1981, she published a paper in which she described the isolation of these stem cells, the first of its kind, and developed the term "embryonic stem cell." Her work in biology and anatomy earned her the Guggenheim Fellowship for Natural Sciences, U.S., and Canada award. She is currently Professor Emerita in the Department of Anatomy at the University of California - San Francisco.
Maria Elena Salinas (1954 -)
Maria Elena Salinas served as an anchor for Univision for more than 30 years before her retirement, giving a voice to Hispanic America while advocating positive social change. She spoke primarily in Spanish, allowing immigrants and those who speak Spanish as their first language in the United States an outlet to keep informed about what was happening in the country; she provided guidance during the time that her career overlapped with the Trump presidency. Salinas has won four awards for her broadcasting, journalism, and attentiveness to quick work in 1999, 2014, and 2015.
“El papel de la mamá está en ayudar a los hijos a aflorar de manera correct sus sentimientos.”
Halsey (1994 -)
Halsey is a singer-songwriter and has been very open regarding her sexuality and mental illness. She proudly exclaims that she is bisexual, bipolar, and biracial, giving representation to those who identify similarly or have similar experiences (but, don't refer to her as "tri-bi" as she really detests it).
In January 2018, Halsey exemplified courage through her breathtaking speech at the NYC Women's March, speaking on her own experiences with sexual assault and misconduct and allowing other women solace in the fact that they were not alone.
“I want any kid who listens to my music to see that I am confident with all elements of my personality that I can’t change.”
Opal Tometi, Alicia Garza, and Patrisse Cullors
Opal Tometi (left), Alicia Garza (middle), and Patrisse Cullors (left), are credited as the founders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement after the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's murderer. Beyond the hashtag, the women's movement has worked to provide safe environments to foster diversity and inclusivity, empower black folks regardless of gender identity and familial situation, and to bring a sense of community to areas all around the country.
“Students have always played a huge role in movements… challenging not just their own student bodies, but also the communities that they are in.” - Patrisse Cullors
Ibtihaj Muhammad (1985 -)
Ibtihaj Muhammad is an American saber fencer and is a team member of the American Olympic fencing team. She is the first woman to compete on any American Olympic team while donning a hijab, which she wears proudly to signify her belief in the Islamic religion. Her world championship accomplishments include 5 team medals: 4 bronze in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015, and 1 gold in 2014. At the Rio 2016 Games, she earned 12th place individually and a bronze medal for the team.
“I can’t tell you why it happened to me, but I know that I’m Muslim. I have an Arabic name. And even though I represent Team USA and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn’t change how you look and how people perceive you.”
Sonia Sotomayor (1954 -)
Sonia Sotomayer is one of eight Associate Justices on the United States Supreme Court; she is the first Hispanic justice, and therefore, the first Latina justice. She was appointed by President Barack Obama in August of 2009, indicative of her liberal leaning. She graduated from Yale Law School 1980, passed the bar exam the same year, and has been involved in politics and legislation since.
"The Latina in me is an ember that blazes forever."
Haya Fatima Iqbal
Haya Fatima Iqbal is a Saudi Arabian filmmaker and journalist currently stationed in Pakistan. These interests have allowed her to film documentaries, and provide insight for web and television media; she also writes for printed and digital sources. In 2016, Iqbal made it to the Oscars as a co-producer for "A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness," a documentary following 18-year-old Saba - she was a victim of an attempted honor killing by her own father. In addition to Iqbal's presence in sociopolitical issues, she's also multilingual: fluent in English and Urdu, "familiar" with Sindhi and Punjabi, and can navigate Arabic and Farsi.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (1977 -)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian author and self-proclaimed feminist. She's orchestrated a handful of TED talks, including "We should all be feminists" and "The danger of a single story." Adichie speaks at length about the treatment of women in Nigeria, shedding light on the disparities between what feminism looks like in different countries, and stresses that an important step to equality is "raising our children differently." Adichie has won many awards for her writing, including the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2007, the MacArthur Fellowship in 2008, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 2014.
“If you don't understand, ask questions. If you're uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It's easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here's to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.”
Amber Heard (1986 -)
Amber Heard is an actress, having appeared in Friday Night Lights, Justice League, and The Playboy Club. Heard originally came out as bisexual in 2010, but has since stated that she doesn't want to label her sexuality as any one thing, and has been an outspoken advocate for women in abusive relationships, and visibility for LGBTQ+ people.
She was married to Johnny Depp for 15 months between 2015 and 2017, citing his alleged alcohol and drug use, as well as emotional and physical abuse as reasons for the divorce. Because of these experiences, she's given a voice to women in Hollywood regarding abuse, and has spoken up for women in demeaning roles on multiple occasions.
“I would love to see women be able to be powerful, complex, opinionated and taken seriously, even if they are beautiful. Even more, I would love to see women held to different standards, other than the superficial ones that we’re held to.”