8 Feminist Icons

Happy Women's History Month! What better way to start this month off than to talk about my 8 favorite feminist icons. 

This month I encourage you to celebrate women of the past, women of the present and the women of the future. We all can make a difference in this world with a little bit of hard work and bravery. These 8 women have done just that. 

1.) Gloria Steinem

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What? You thought I wasn't going to start this list off with the one and only Gloria Steinem? There is so much to say about this beyond genius woman, so I'll keep it brief. Steinem is a political activist, journalist, writer and feminist. She went undercover as a Playboy bunny and published her expose in 1963. Steinem helped form the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971, in 1972 she cofounded Ms. Magazine and helped found the Women's Action Alliance. She also co-founded Choice USA and co-produced and narrated the HBO documentary "Multiple Personalities: The Search for Deadly Memories." At 83 she is still fighting for equality in our society and she is not slowing down. 

2.) Maya Angelou

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Where do I even begin. Maya Angelou was a talented poet, screenwriter and political activist. She worked for Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and was a professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. In 2000 Angelou received the National Medal of Arts award and in 2010 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom award. Some of Angelou's famous works include I know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water and Still I Rise. 

Excerpt from Still I Rise:

"You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise."

3.) Angela Davis

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Let's take a moment of silence and gratitude for this woman. Angela Davis is an activist and writer who is still fighting for equality. One of the things she is famous for is the Soledad Brothers case. Three inmates in the Soledad Prison were accused of killing a prison guard. During George Lester Jackson's trial (he was one of the three Soledad Brothers), he tried to escape and many people including Davis were accused of murder. She spent about 18 months in jail and was released in 1972. Davis has taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz and in 2017 she spoke at the Women's March on Washington. She also co-founded the Critical Resistance organization and has written 10 books. 

4.) Margaret Sanger

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Let's give Margaret Sanger a round of applause because without her we wouldn't have birth control! After moving to Greenwich Village Sanger started her own organization to try and educate women about sex and worked as a nurse on the Lower East Side. Sanger was able to help many women who had failed back-alley abortions. In 1914 she created The Woman Rebel which protested for the rights of women to have access to birth control. Sanger eventually got caught for creating the publication and fled to England. In 1915 Sanger came back to the United States and began promoting her birth control(a term she coined). In 1921 she established the American Birth Control League and in 1952 she founded the International Planned Parenthood Federation. In 1960 the first form of oral birth control was approved by the FDA and in 1965 the Supreme Court made birth control legal. Sanger died in 1966, but she was able to see her hard work and dedication pay off. Margaret Sanger made huge advancements in the women's rights field. 

5.) Hillary Clinton

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Oh if it isn't the pant suit queen herself. When Hillary Clinton comes to mind, I think of her bravery, her strength and her beautiful hair. Clinton attended Yale Law School and was one of 27 women in her graduating class. Clinton worked for the Child Defense Fund straight out of law school. After Bill Clinton became president she helped create the Children's Health Insurance Program. Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000 and entered the presidential election in 2008. Though she didn't win, she did join Barack Obama's team and served as secretary of state. As many of you know she ran for president again in 2016 and unfortunately lost to... I don't even want to say his name. Clinton also founded Onward Together in 2017. Hillary Clinton continues to be an inspiration to myself and many others. All I can say is you're doing great sweetie!

6.) Shirley Chisholm

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Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman in Congress and the first African American woman to run for president. In 1951 she received her master's degree in early childhood education from Columbia University. In 1964 Chisholm became the second African American woman in the New York State Legislature and in 1968 she won a seat in Congress. She co-founded the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971 and became the first black woman to serve on the House Rules Committee in 1977. When Chisholm tried to run for president under the Democratic Party in 1972 America showed its true discriminatory and racist colors. She was banned from participating in televised debates. Women and students still followed the "Chisholm Trail" and she entered 12 primaries and received 10% of the total delegate votes. Chisholm also founded the National Political Congress of Black Women. Shirley Chisholm was not just an activist, she was a visionary. She didn't let anything hold her back and fought her way to make a difference in society. Chisholm paved the way for future generations to come.

7.) Bell Hooks

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Bell Hooks, also known as Gloria Jean Watkins, is a feminist, activist and writer. Hooks received her B.A. from Stanford University, her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin and her Ph.D. from University of California, Santa Cruz. She taught classes at the University of California, Yale University, Oberlin College, the City College of New York and at Berea College. Hooks has written over three dozen books, one her most famous being Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, which was published in 1983

8.) Betty Friedan

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Last but not least, we have Betty Friedan. In 1963 Friedan's famous book The Feminine Mystique was published. Her book created a second wave feminist revolution. The myth that women had to be happy Suzy Homemakers for the rest of their lives was debunked. Friedan co-founded the National Organization for Women in 1966, created the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws in 1969 and help establish the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971. In 1982 Friedan published her third book, The Second Stage. This book was supposed to help women who were juggling both work and home life. Betty Friedan had a strong opinion about women's rights and she encouraged so many others to use their voice in society. 

 

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Taylor Weiss