By Beth Clark • March 02, 2019
The Women's History Month theme this year is "Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence" but March celebrates all women, including the 8 below who are champions of peace, persistence, and empowerment. (And nonviolent unless you count J.K. Rowling's stinging Twitter clapbacks, but we're not).
As the second female justice appointed to the US Supreme Court (Sandra Day O'Connor was the first), the Notorious RBG is quietly outspoken, intelligent, classy, funny, witty, inspirational, and genuine. So impressive is the badassery of our modern heroine that there's even a Ruth Bader Ginsburg action figure. And it definitely took action—and hard work—to get where she is now from where she began, which was having to justify (pun intended) "taking a man's spot" during dinner with the dean of Harvard Law in 1956. Even if she hadn't graduated first in her class at Columbia (she did), she's earned it all…and taking it in stride. Not surprisingly, RBG is also a big reader, with authors Amanda Cross and Dorothy L. Sayers among her picks. (FYI, the young readers' edition of Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is perfect for the 8-12ish crowd.)
The recently former First Lady and bestselling author of Becoming, a book that half the world, (including Oprah) read in one sitting, is also a Princeton and Harvard-educated lawyer, mother, and advocate for women's empowerment. Before Michelle Obama became the most stylish First Lady since Jackie Kennedy, spearheaded a campaign to fight childhood obesity, and gracefully endured constantly being in the unforgiving media spotlight, she was young woman raised in a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago who believed in possibilities. Oh, and on top of being smart, funny, warm, and classy, she has some sweeeet dance moves.
"I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or administer justice, but I can do something else – I can give my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations." Queen Elizabeth II may have been born royal, and she's certainly never had to contend with the challenges of life as a commoner, but she's presided enduringly over some turbulent times, so don't let the fancy hats fool you. She's surprisingly down-to-earth, wicked witty, and as a woman in a predominantly man's world, she's fearlessly stood her ground with determined grace many times in the last six decades. On a personal level, she's funny, compassionate, as sharp as ever, and still riding horses at 92, so tiaras and tea service aside, she's got grit. With two royal weddings in 2018 and great-grandbabies afoot at Buckingham Palace, she'll need it.
Oprah Winfrey is one of the most influential women in the world, the first black female billionaire in history, and greatest African American philanthropist in America. She's overcome challenge after challenge and risen to the top as an inspiration, a brand, actress, television host, network owner, producer, magazine publisher, book club, and charity. Some fun Oprah facts:
Ellen DeGeneres is a comedian, animal lover, actress, talk show host, and one of the most successful women in entertainment thanks to her sense of humor and fun personality. She paved the way for other LGBT actors and actresses when both she and her television character at the time came out as lesbians in 1997. She's also a humanitarian who taught the world to "just keep swimming" and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for being one of the kindest and most caring human beings on the planet. She's written four books, has her own lifestyle brand called ED, and she's purchased and renovated nearly a dozen homes over the last twenty-five years, which she described as "an education." Oh, and besides telling jokes about cats to celebrities, she owns a Picasso.
As a BBC blogger and teenage Pakistani human rights advocate for displaced girls, Malala Yousafzai gained attention that initially led to a nomination for the International Children's Peace Price. Then in 2012, she was riding the bus home from school when the Taliban shot her in the head at point blank range to stop her from fighting for girls' rights to education. Just 15 years old, she miraculously survived the assassination attempt. Two years later, still a teenager, she became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history. She's been on TIME's "100 Most Influential People" list three times and was the subject of an award-winning documentary called "He Named Me Malala." After premiering at the Telluride Film Festival, it was broadcast by National Geographic in 45 languages in 171 countries. The film was named Best Documentary by the British Academy, Critics' Choice, Golden Trailer, and Satellite Award, won five Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, and was Oscar shortlisted. Malala's work is ongoing, and she wrote a children's picture book—Malala's Magic Pencil—and a chapter book version titled Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls' Rights for pre-YA kids.
J.K. Rowling stands out for her commitment to charitable causes as much as she does for being queen of the Twitterverse and writing bestsellers like Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts, and Lethal White (as Robert Galbraith). The world's first female billionaire author founded Lumos, an organization dedicated to working toward ending the systematic institutionalization of children and discrimination against children with disabilities worldwide. She donated the funds to start the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic, which is a charitable University of Edinburgh clinical research facility that delivers research and trials for people with neurodegenerative diseases, as well as clinical care to improve the lives of people with degenerative conditions affecting the brain. She's the President of Gingerbread, the leading national charity working to support single parent families in the UK. In addition to campaigning for single moms and dads, the organization provides expert advice and practical support, including a helpline and projects like Sport and You, which helps single parent families participate in sports and leisure activities. AND—as if that wasn't enough—she also founded Volant, a grant-making trust that helps fund charitable causes in Scotland, with an emphasis on alleviating social deprivation by supporting women, children, and young people at risk.
Known as Notorious Victoria in her day, Victoria Woodhull was a fascinating woman who was so far ahead of her time that her life almost reads like fiction. She rarely makes contemporary "most influential women" lists, and many people have never heard of her, but her impact on women's rights was enormous, even heroic. Gloria Steinem called her "the most controversial suffragist of them all" and she definitely was. In 1870, she set up Wall Street's first female-owned brokerage company with her sister Tennessee and made a fortune on the New York Stock Exchange. At the height of the Victorian era, that was scandalous. The sisters also founded one of the first female-owned newspapers. Where Victoria's story gets truly astounding though is that in 1872, she was the first woman to run for President of the United States. Women couldn't even vote at the time…and wouldn't for almost another 50 years. Yet, there was 34-year-old Victoria, boldly fighting for human rights. Oh, and her running mate? Frederick Douglass. They obviously didn't win, but if they had…it's hard to imagine what the world would look like today.
We're celebrating all women, all month, so Follow and Like us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest for more amazing heroines and let us know your favorite! (P.S. Friday March 8th is also International Women's Day <3)