Part of the Marley & Moose mission is about women empowering women. We also strongly believe in educating our own children, three boys, and a baby girl, about the important contributions of women in the world we live in, as well as the possibilities of the women of our future. As part of this, we want to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of women throughout history. These 13 amazing women are just a small sample of the powerful females that have forever changed our world for the better.
We hope you will use this list as a launching pad with your children to learn more about the vital work that women have done and continue to do to shape the world we live in. As part of Women’s History Month and International Woman’s day, we encourage you start a conversation with your children and learn more about one woman on this list every other day. On the days in between, find a female historical figure not on this list and do the same. Be sure to share with us in the comments who we should learn more about and share with our own littles.
Ruth Bader GinsbergEmbed from Getty Images
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, affectionately known as RBG, was the second female justice on the United States Supreme Court, as well as the first female Jewish justice. She was considered a member of the moderate-liberal bloc on the court and a staunch supporter of women’s rights. In her own words as part of the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU which she is a co-founder, “Women’s rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy.”
Maya Angelou was an author, poet, and civil rights activist. She is most well known for her autobiographies, including the book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ranked by Time Magazine as one of the most influential books of modern times. Even though the book was banned in many schools at the time due to addressing the taboo subject of sexual abuse with frank honesty, it was a New York Times Bestseller for two years. Among her many other accomplishments, she was the first female inaugural poet in U.S. presidential history, she won a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award, three Grammys, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. She holds over 50 honorary degrees.
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter known for her folk art self-portraits. A debilitating bus accident left her in constant pain, unable to carry a baby, and often bedridden, yet she continued to consistently paint brilliant self-portraits which examined and explored her own identity. Frida has become a cult icon of feminism since her death. Her trademark eyebrows have become a symbol of feminist self-expression and empowerment, rejecting stereotypes of beauty.
Harriet Tubman escaped enslavement to became one of the most iconic figures in American history. Known best as the conductor of the underground railroad, a network of people offering shelter and provisions to help enslaved African Americans escape to the north. She has been personally credited with helping free between 70 and 300 enslaved people. She was quoted as saying “I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”
Later, she became the head of an espionage and scout network for the Union Army during the Civil War. Before her death, Tubman married a Union soldier, joined Susan B. Anthony in raising funds for women’s suffrage, and opened a home for the elderly in New York. Harriet Tubman can now be seen on the new U.S. $20.00 bill honoring her legacy.
Malala YousafzaiEmbed from Getty Images
Malala Yousafzai grew up in Pakistan where equal rights for girls and women continue to be a challenge. Girls in Pakistan experience many disadvantages, including limited access to health care, education, employment, and in some cases some basic freedoms like leaving the home without a male companion. At the young age of 11, Malala began speaking out about inequalities and the right to education for girls. A few years later while on a school bus, a masked gunman boarded the bus and shot her in the neck and head. Miraculously, Malala survived. Since her recovery, she set up the Malala Fund focusing on providing and ensuring safe and quality education for girls all over the world. At the age of 17, Malala became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Rosa Parks was a civil rights leader in the United States. Her refusal to give up her seat on a segregated bus to a white man led to the Montgomery bus boycott. When asked to stand up, Parks said “I thought of Emmett Till – a 14-year-old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after being accused of offending a white woman in her family’s grocery store, whose killers were tried and acquitted – and I just couldn’t go back.” After her arrest, she encouraged black passengers to boycott the Montgomery busses for over a year. She became a civil rights icon for her effective implementation of civil disobedience and collaborated with the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ultimately as a result of the boycott, Alabama’s racial segregation laws for busses were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Marie Curie was a Polish physicist and chemist who became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize and the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice. To this day she is the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two different fields. Under difficult circumstances, Curie and her husband conducted pioneering research in radioactivity, a term she coined. In 1903 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for the discovery of radioactivity. She won a second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry in 1911 for the discovery of polonium (named by Marie in honor of her motherland) and shortly thereafter radium. While her contributions are difficult to understand and quantify by the average person, Cornell University professor L. Pearce Williams once said that her “work was epoch-making” and “forced a reconsideration of the foundations of physics.”
Most astounding was that to attain her incredible achievements in science, she had to overcome exceptional barriers because she was a woman. Additionally, she was known for her modest lifestyle, giving her Nobel Prize money to family and friends and insisting monetary awards and gifts be given to scientific institutions instead of herself.
Patsy Mink was the first Japanese-American woman to practice law in her home state of Hawaii. She did not stop there, however, as she later became the first woman of color and the first Asian American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives where she served a total of six terms. She then became the first Asian American to run for the Democratic nomination for president. A primary author for Title IX, Patsy lead the development of this comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex for students and employees in educational institutions. After her death, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Title IX was actually renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.
Ada LovelaceEmbed from Getty Images
Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician, commonly called the world’s first computer programmer. While she did not technically program on the first computer, she developed the world’s first algorithm for what was called an “analytical engine.” The engine was a steam-powered programmable computer designed by Charles Babbage. Unheard of at the time Lovelace described how a machine might compute beyond numbers, such as composing elaborate pieces of music, doing algebra, and even laid the foundation for what we now know as artificial intelligence.
Amelia Earhart was an American aviator who spearheaded the advancement of women in aviation. She set many aviation records and was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Her love of flight came while serving as a Red Cross nurse’s aid in World War I as she watched pilots train. Earhart was known for promoting safety in air travel for women, lobbying in Congress, lecturing across the country on aviation and women’s issues, and writing for several magazines including Cosmopolitan. She was the first woman vice president of the National Aeronautical Association. She also had her own line of “functional” women’s clothing and luggage.
Sadly Amelia Earhart is probably most well known for her failed attempt to circumvent the world on an airplane. Already famous, her disappearance captured the imagination of the world and catapulted her status as a cult icon. There have been many theories and high-tech searches for her plane, but none have been successful. Earhart has since become the subject of several books and movies.
Jane GoodallEmbed from Getty Images
Jane Goodall spent over 50 years of her life in the jungle observing and documenting chimpanzees with exceptional detail, revolutionizing our understanding of their behavior. She was the first human to observe chimpanzees not only use, but create tools to achieve specific tasks. This is considered one of the most important scientific observations in modern times. She later observed them show emotion such as hugging and kissing each other. Her discoveries challenged what was known to be uniquely human and helped prove the theory of evolution.
Beyond her direct research contributions to science, Jane Goodall also founded the Jane Goodall Institute promoting the understanding and protection of great apes and their habitat.
Susan B Anthony
Susan B. Anthony was a legendary civil rights leader and pioneer of the woman’s suffrage movement. She was voted and was subsequently arrested because it was illegal for a woman to do so. More than 50 years later and after her death the 19th Amendment passed, known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, stating “the right to vote shall not be denied on account of sex” and became law in 1920.
In addition to being a champion of women’s rights, Susan B. Anthony was a leader in education reform, an abolitionist, and a labor activist. She raised $50,000 to ensure the admittance of women into the University of Rochester, hosted meetings arranged by Fredrick Douglas in her home, served as an American Anti-Slavery Society agent, and advocated for an 8-hour workday and equal pay for women.
Indira GandhiEmbed from Getty Images
Indira Gandhi was an Indian politician who served as the first and only female prime minister of India from 1966 to 1977 and again from 1980 until she was assassinated in 1984. She was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India.
Her leadership led to a resounding victory over Pakistan and the establishment of Bangladesh. She also propelled India to a regional power status by modernizing the country’s agriculture backbone to the point where India became self sufficient.