Dorothy Height was an educator and social activist in civil rights and women’s rights, focusing on the issues of African-American women, including illiteracy, voter awareness, and unemployment. Her activism career began in high school where she participated in anti-lynching campaigns. She received her bachelor degree master’s degree in educational psychology from New York University and pursued postgraduate work at Columbia University. During the Depression Era, Height worked as caseworker for New York City Welfare Department and soon began her civil rights career, joining the National Council of Negro Women, fighting for equal rights of both African-Americans and women. In 1957, she was appointed the president of the National Council of Negro Women, holding the position for 40 years. During the Civil Rights Movement, Height created “Wednesdays in Mississippi,” which brought black and white women from the North and South together to share a dialogue of understanding. Additionally, she was a founding member of the Council for the United Civil Rights Leadership. Height severed as council for many American leaders, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who she encouraged to desegregate schools, and too encouraged President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint African-American women in positions in government. For her long commitment to civil rights and the rights of women, Dorothy Height was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004. Her funeral service at Washington National Cemetery was attend by President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as by many other leaders, dignitaries and nobility.
Lillian D. Wald March 10, 1867 – September 1, 1940
Lillian Wald was an American nurse, humanitarian, and author, who worked to ensure that women, children, immigrants, the poor, and all people of different ethnicities and religions would be able to live the American promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” She grew up in Ohio and New York, where she became a nurse. Wald hoped that as a nurse she would be able to provide decent heath care to those outside the hospital and in poor and middle-class communities, such as those who lived in the Lower East Side tenements, where she served as a “public health nurse.” In 1895, she founded the Henry Street Settlement House after witnessing firsthand the poor healthcare conditions women and children were living in. Henry Street continues today as a non-profit agency providing social services, arts programs and health care services to New Yorkers of all ages in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, New York. Wald advocated for nurses in public schools, for the rights of women and minorities. She campaigned for suffrage and was supported racial integration. At Henry Street she employed not only women, but all men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. She made sure that Henry Street was racially integrated, as well as created Stillman House, which served the African-American community. Wald’s most notable work for civil rights was her institutional involvement with the National Negro Conference at Henry Street, which became the founding meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Berta Cáceres March 4, 1971 – March 3, 2016
,Berta Cáceres was a Honduran/Lenca environmental activist and indigenous leader who co-founded the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Indígenas Populares – COPINH (Civic Council of Popular Indigenous Organisations), which led fierce campaigns against megaprojects in 1993. Growing up in the 1970s during a time of civil unrest and violence in Central America, Cáceres’ mother Austra Bertha Flores Lopez served as her role model. She was a midwife and social activist who took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, as well as elected as the mayor of their hometown La Esperanza, as congresswoman, and the governor of the Department of Intibucá. Throughout her activism Cáceres faced and often won against illegal logger, plantation owners, multinational corporatio19ns, and dam projects that would cut off food and water supplies to indigenous communities. Her biggest win was against Agua Zarca Dam, a joint project of Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA) and Chinese state-owned Sinohydro, the world’s largest dam developer. Her fight for the environment and for the rights of her Lenca people and all indigenous people of Honduras brought threats of violence against her life. These threats continued until her death when she was killed by unknown assailants in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras on March 3, 2016. Her death was followed by the killing of her two of her colleagues. In 2012, Cáceres was awarded the Shalom Award by the Society for Justice and Peace at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, she was nominated as a finalist for the 2014 Front Line Defenders Prize (2014), and in 2015, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize.
The Pulitzer Prize winning author behind the world renowned book The Color Purple (1982) that told the story of an African American woman dealing with the issues of both racism and patriarchal culture within African American communities. She started her career as an activist at Spelman College where she met her mentor Howard Zinn who is best known for his activism during the Civil Rights movement. Through her capacity as an author she became a leader in the Black Arts movement. Walker has dedicate her life to boast social justice and activism through both her writings and time.
Molly Burke February 8, 1994 - Present
A social media activist for people with disabilities, Bruke is best known for her motivational speeches that she has held in collaboration with Malala Yousafzai, Demi Lovato, and Martin Luther King III to name a few. Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at the age of four, life became difficult for her and with time her vision began to fade to almost nothing. Through her trials she became a motivational speaker for people with disabilities. In 2009, she was the torch bearer for the Winter Paralympic Games. Currently, Burke is focused on posting YouTube videos on dealing with her condition in her day to day life and of course motivational work. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwf9TcLyS5KDoLRLjke41Hg
Frederick Douglass February 1, 1818 - February 20, 1895
Douglass is a historical figure that is often explored in history classes in grade school and onward for his autobiography on his own life from slavery to freedom. It is an important firsthand account of slavery during the waning years of slavery in America. He pushed himself to learn to read and once he had safely escaped his bondage in 1830 (after several attempts) he became an activist for abolition and for both black and women's rights to vote. However, he did argue that black Americans should be granted the vote before women, since slavery was the key issue during his time. In this capacity, Douglass lived his life to aid in the end of oppression of black Americans and to end other oppressions.
Gauri Lankesh was a political activist and journalist in India who led the fight to end old and outdated cultural norms within her country, which ultimately led to her death by an opposition group in front of her home in 2017. In her articles she criticized Hinduism, India’s main religion for its lack of inclusivity and sought for a resolution. Additionally, Lankesh condemned the orthodox demand that women be subservient to men, with Indian society going as far as to still treat women as second-class. Lastly, she spoke out against the caste system, which although illegal still witnessed the discrimination of lower castes. Lankesh’s work continues on in her students who she inspired at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Fred T. Korematsu January 30, 1919 - March 30, 2005
Fred T. Korematsu was a political and social activist who spoke out against the internment of Japanese citizen during the Second World War. Korematsu is one of the least known activist within the country, why this is can be anyone’s guess, but he was a cause of a lot of headaches within the judicial system. His resistance to Order 9066 included plastic surgery and a complete overhaul of his name, changing it to Clyde Sarah professing to be of Spanish and Hawaiian heritage. While he was eventually captured and tired for resisting the order, he continued to argue for his rights that had been stolen from him by his government. While he was not a lawyer Korematsu often stood out in the courts system with the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) in the hopes of returning the rights to the many Japanese Americans who had them taken from them with the start of the Second World War. While the war ended and Japanese American were able to return to some form of normality, Korematsu still fought for the United States to recognize that it had committed a wrong. It was not until 1988 when President Reagan proclaimed that Order 9066 and the resulting treatment of Japanese Americans was unconstitutional and recompensed all Japanese Americans who had endured internment during the war. Korematsu was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton in 1998. After his death in 2005, Korematsu’s birthday was declared as a day of remembrance for his actions.
Heather Mills January 12, 1968-Present
Heather Mills is best known for her marriage to Paul McCartney of Beatles fame. However, what is less known is her philanthropic endeavors to provide the means to remove landmines form war-torn countries, and for providing prosthetic limbs to those who cannot afford them. The loss of her own leg from a collision with a police motorcycle being a heavy influence on her charitable work. The majority of her funding comes from her own income as a model and of course from donations from others. The money granted to her from her accident being used to startup her charity known as the “Heather Mills Health Trust.”