By Gabrielle Bennett Senior Content Specialist
Updated February 01, 2024

It’s the most wonderful time of the year; it’s Women’s History Month! Each year, we take a month to celebrate all the women who made this world despite every obstacle heartily placed in front of them. From silent protests to outright cries for rights, women have used every trick in the book to rip what they deserve from the hands of a broken system. If baby’s going to be raised with an eye toward equality, feminist baby girl or gender-neutral names for Women’s History Month will keep the fight alive all lifelong.

Quannah Chasinghorse, b. 2002

An Alaskan Indigenous woman, Chasinghorse has worked to kick open the door to a notoriously challenging industry. She is a young model and activist who uses her influencer platform to shine a lot on Indigenous fashion and rights. Her activism focal points are climate justice and sustainability and the equal rights of Natives and their sovereignty. She is a member of the Hän Gwich'in and Oglala Lakota tribes and is known as a land protector, fighting the fight given to her by her ancestors. She was listed in Teen Vogue’s Top 21 Under 21, and with the platform she’s built for herself, she’ll undoubtedly be making a few more lists like that along her path to equal rights.

Malala Yousafzai, b. 1997

A Pakistani activist making waves worldwide, Malala Yousafzai is a writer and a fighter in equal measure. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, making her the youngest laureate yet. Her tireless advocacy work has been in the pursuit of equal access to education in Pakistan and for women and children. Unfortunately, she is the victim of near-peril for her beliefs; she survived a gunshot to the head when she was just 15. But this didn’t deter her fighting spirit. Her memoir, I Am Malala, details her life so far as a girl who fought for basic human rights and nearly died in the process and as a woman who will never be stopped.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, b. 1989

Powerhouse Puerto Rican Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a political activist from the Bronx in New York, has been making history for years. She was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at the age of 29, and soon after, in 2019, she entered the US House of Representatives for New York’s 14th district. She is known for her forward-thinking, outspoken politics, and these ideals led her to her victory over the 10-term incumbent. Throughout her political terms, she hasn’t stopped fighting for the people who need it most, fundraising and advocating all year long—even raising a whipping $200,000 for food pantries and other charitable organizations on just a three-hour twitch stream.

Sharice Davids, b. 1980

Sharice Davids is no stranger to making history. She is a queer, Ho-Chunk Native American and Congressperson. She was one of the two first Native American women voted into Congress and the first LGBTQIA+ member to be elected in the state of Kansas. Throughout her political career, Davids has regularly fought for the rights and living conditions of Indigenous people in the United States. She focuses on boosting the state of living in regard to community development and economic growth to enable Natives to succeed in the current climate.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, b. 1977

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer changing the face of feminism. She thoroughly recognizes feminism as equality and has even delivered TED Talks on the matter, most famously her talk “We should all be feminists.” However, she’s also prolific in her own solo pursuits, authoring Americanah, We Should All Be Feminists, and Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, among many others. She moved to the United States at 19 and proceeded to collect degrees from Eastern Connecticut State University, Johns Hopkins University, and Yale University. She’s also been awarded fellowships from Princeton and Harvard, among plenty of honorary doctorates from around the world. She is recognized as a world leader thanks to her countless accomplishments in her fight for equal rights, and, undoubtedly, her career isn’t stopping anytime soon.

Ayanna Pressley, b. 1974

A woman of many firsts, Ayanna Pressley is used to making history. She overcame her fair share of adversity, seeing her father’s journey from struggling drug addict to sober published author, and grew up to become well-educated and deeply respected. She was the first African American woman to be elected to the Boston City Council and the first African American woman to be elected to Congress from Massachusetts. She uses her platform to continue her legacy of a robust activism career, including her open advocacy of Planned Parenthood and bodily autonomy rights regarding the Supreme Court rulings in 2022. Pressley is also known for her progressive policies and advocacy of bills supporting thousands of small businesses.

Tarana Burke, b. 1973

Tarana Burke is best known for the movement she started well before its sails caught wind in 2016 and onward. She started the #MeToo movement in 2006 and has become known as a leader for sexual harassment and assault victims. She’s from Harlem and has spent decades of her career giving a platform for African Americans and other minority communities.

Laverne Cox, b. 1972

An African American actress and unrelenting LGBTQIA+ advocate, Laverne Cox is an icon. She is the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy. Due to her work as Sophia Burset in Orange is the New Black, she gained critical acclaim. Since this life-changing role, she’s been as transparent as anyone could ask for in the hopes of saving anyone in the queer community from the hardships she faced as an adolescent. When she was just eleven years old, she had received enough backlash about being a boy with a penchant for femininity that she attempted suicide. She thankfully survived and went on to live a non-binary life for a while before embracing her mic-drop-worthy femininity and becoming the beloved actress and activist she’s known as today.

Sarah Deer, b. 1972

A member of the Muscogee Creek tribe and a professor at the University of Kansas, Sarah Deer is a determined and prolific writer and lawyer. At the University of Kansas, Deer is a Professor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and in the School of Public Affairs and Administration. Throughout her career, she’s made the fight for the rights of victims of sexual and domestic violence her defining characteristic. In 2013, she played a large role in reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. This act was to expand tribal jurisdiction for the prosecution of non-Natives for domestic and sexual violence. Shortly after this, her book The Beginning and End of Rape was published in 2015. The subject matter was closely tied to her activism and compared destructions in the modern era.

Naomi Klein, b. 1970

Adding one more to the ranks of the countless women fighting for the rights of women everywhere, Naomi Klein was born fighting. By the age of 30, she was an accomplished author and activist; she covered issues surrounding globalization, capitalism, climate change, feminism, and political analysis, and is still writing and filmmaking today. During her time as a journalist, Klein’s won awards for her contributions to the climate justice movement, including the Sydney Peace Prize and Izzy Award for outstanding achievement in independent media and journalism.

Michelle Obama, b. 1964

If you aren’t aware of the best First Lady in American history, then buckle up! During her terms as First Lady to President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama set up several initiatives to outlast her time in the White House. As the first African American First Lady, she would have made history anyways, but she has never been one to let “good enough” be her stance. She launched organizations and initiatives such as Let’s Move!, Joining Forces, Reach Higher, and Let Girls Learn. These all were designed to better the lives of Americans through wellness, health, education, and employment opportunities. But before her time in the White House, Obama worked as a Harvard-educated lawyer in city services and medical centers.

Audra Simpson, b. 1962

A political anthropologist and Mohawk Native, Audra Simpson is a fighter for the rights of Indigenous people. Her weapon of choice is education, and she does so from her lectern at Columbia University, where she’s a Professor of Anthropology. Her focus as an Indigenous feminist is on the “politics of recognition.” Her published work, Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States, identifies gaps in the public knowledge of Indigenous presence. She actively dismantles stereotypes, educating the public on tribal community and national identity.

Ellen Ochoa, b. 1958

If you’ve looked to the stars with awe and wonder, you’re not alone. Hispanic American Ellen Ochoa took that awe several steps further, going to space aboard the Discovery shuttle in 1993. She was the first Hispanic American woman to do so, and she went on the nine-day mission to study Earth’s ozone layer. She became a research engineer and joined NASA in 1988, and just two years later was selected to be an astronaut. She earned her Bachelors in Physics and her Masters and PhD in engineering from Stanford. But these feats are not her only claims to fame; she was Johnson Space Center’s first Hispanic director.

Sonia Sotomayor, b. 1954

A Bronx native and Puerto Rican history-maker, Sonia Sotomayor, was the first Hispanic American to become a member of the Supreme Court. She’s known since the young age of ten that she would become an attorney, and she did that and more after graduating from Princeton University and Yale Law School in 1976 and 1979, respectively. Favored by presidents for many terms, Sotomayor was nominated for the Southern District of New York in the US District Court by President George HW Bush in 1991, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by President George Clinton in ‘97, and—of course—the previously mentioned Supreme Court appointment by President Barack Obama in 2009.

bell hooks 1952–2021

Gloria Jean Watkins, better known as her pen name bell hooks, was a feminist and defender of racial, female, and class rights. She was an author, activist, and “Distinguished Professor in Residence at Berea College.” She earned these titles through her works Ain’t I A Woman?, Black Women and Feminism, The Feminist Theory, and many more. She believed fully in the movement of feminism, claiming it as the method to ending sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.

Sylvia Rivera, b. 1951

Of Venezuelan and Puerto Rican descent, Sylvia Rivera has fought tirelessly for the rights of the queer community. When she was young—just ten—she faced severe violence and discrimination and quickly learned to fight for herself. This fight for her survival turned her toward a life of activism, and after Stonewall in ‘69, she and her friend Marsha P. Johnson worked together to form groups helping the underprivileged. A staunch advocate for the LGBTQIA+ youth, she formed Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries with the help of her friend yet again.

Madonna Thunder Hawk, b. 1940

A woman hell-bent on getting the rights of her people, Madonna Thunder Hawk has been fighting the good fight for decades. She’s been an activist in the Civil Rights movement, a leader in the American Indian Movement, an organizer in the Dakota Access pipeline protest, a liaison for the Lakota People’s Law Project, and co-founder of the American Indian Organization of Women of All Red Nations. Her focuses have often been dedicated to gaining the rights of Indigenous women and families, climate justice, and the protection of lands.

Maya Angelou, 1928–2014

Maya Angelou won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 in honor of her many decades spent fighting against racial discrimination and oppression in the United States. Over the course of 50 years—and some after her death—she was recipient of over 50 major awards and honors. For her prolific work as a writer of 36 books, seven autobiographies, five collections of essays, and 167 poems, she would eventually become the owner of over 50 honorary degrees, too. She tirelessly fought for Black Americans and gender-based oppression, and her relentlessness ushered in change and hope in minds all around the world.

Bertha Wernham Wilson, 1923–2007

Another incredible figure in Canadian history, Bertha Wernham Wilson was a leader in higher education. She was born and raised in Scotland, but in 1949—after receiving her Master’s and teaching diploma—she emigrated to Canada. As a founder of the research department at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, she was responsible for shaping the research efforts around the country. She eventually became the first female justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Mary Eliza Church Terrell 1863–1954

A well-known African American activist, Mary Eliza Church Terrell fought for women’s suffrage and equality for all Americans. She was born the year of the Emancipation Proclamation, but the fight for equality definitely didn’t end there. Terrell was a woman of multiple historical firsts. She was one of the first Black women to earn a college degree in the US and earned a Master’s degree soon after. She was the first woman to be elected president of the Bethel Literary and Historical Society. And she was also the first Black woman to be a member of the District of Columbia’s Board of Education. With her legacy and incredible track record laying the groundwork, she was also a speaker several times for the National Woman Suffrage Association, where she spoke about the issue concerning specifically Black women.

Alice Paul 1885–1977

Alice Paul was also a leading figure in the women’s suffrage movement. Much like Susan B. Anthony, she was a radical woman for her time. She joined the same organization Anthony was the president of, but she left because the policies were considered too timid. She was a founder of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage which would later merge and become the National Woman’s Party in 1917. She was an activist through and through, organizing marches, rallies, and protests at the White House. Like many activists, Paul was repeatedly imprisoned, but she never quit on the fight for the right to vote.

Jovita Idár, 1885–1946

A woman who walked so feminists of today could run, Jovita Idár was an activist all her life. She was a Mexican American woman who diligently fought for her rights and others sharing her background. But her biggest splash in history was her public condemnation of Woodrow Wilson’s decision to send US troops to the border. Using her father’s paper for the publication of this outcry resulted in Texas rangers showing up on her doorstep to shut down the paper. But Idár refused to relent, literally standing in the way of the rangers until they eventually left. Unfortunately, they later were able to stop the paper's publication, but Idár never stopped her fight for the equal rights of women and underrepresented people.

Dr. Emily Howard Stowe 1831–1903

In 1867 Canada, Dr. Emily Howard Stowe became the first Canadian woman to practice medicine, starting her practice in Toronto. Having fought for the right to get her medical education, she led the charge for women’s right to education and voting. She was a founder of the Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association and the Toronto Women’s Literary Club. Though the latter sounds like a book club, its goals pertained to improving access to higher education and working conditions and rights of women.

Susan B. Anthony 1820–1906

If you’ve learned about women’s suffrage, you’ve likely heard about Susan B. Anthony. She was a leader of the movement, serving as president of the Nation Woman Suffrage Association from 1892–1900. Her contributions eventually led to the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution in 1920, which gave women the right to vote.

Lucy Stone 1818–1893

Known for her activism in the suffrage and abolitionist movements, Lucy Stone was a staunch proponent of equality. She attended Oberlin College in 1847, after which she became a lecturer for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. She also organized women’s rights conventions, including the 1850 Worcester First National Woman’s Rights Convention. In 1866, she was a founder of the American Equal Rights Association. She campaigned for equality all her life, and upon dying of stomach cancer at 75, she said, “I am glad I was born, and that at a time when the world needed the service I could give.”
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