Mary Edwards Walker November 26, 1832 to February 21, 1919
The first woman in the history of the United States to receive the Medal of Honor, Mary Edwards Walker was a feminist, abolitionist, aspiring spy, prisoner of war, and a surgeon in a time when the woman’s place was seen in the private sphere of the home. Despite the notions and philosophies of her time Walker was able to become a physician earning her degree from Syracuse Medical College in 1855, For a time she would have a joint medical practice with her husband Albert Miller in Rome, New York. This would ultimately be unsuccessful due to the already mentioned prejudice the nation had against women. At the start of the American Civil War Walker volunteered for the Union Army, despite the Union Army Examining Board declaring women surgeons as incompetent. During her service she would be degraded to that of nurse, however she would find herself in a front-line hospital at the battles of Fredericksburg Chattanooga as an unpaid surgeon. In 1863 she would be registered as the surgeon for the 52nd Ohio Infantry. During her time as a surgeon, she would serve the needs for both military personnel and civilians alike going across the lines to render service, one such venture seeing her captured by the Confederates on April 10, 1864 being exchanged for a confederate surgeon on August 12th. She was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson for her service in 1865.
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel November 26, 1931 to Present
The recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 Adolfo Pérez Esquivel is a sculptor, architect, and painter by trade. His focus in life has been to promote human rights in Latin American and seeking change through nonviolent means. He was given a bad hand at a young age losing his mother at the age of three and living in poverty. However, he was a resilient person who did everything he could to achieve high marks in school. This allowed him to attend the Manuel Belgrano School of Fine Arts and the National University of La Plata where he would be trained as a sculpture and painter. He would become an educator for all levels of education from primary to university. All the while he would be focused on bettering the conditions of the poorer working with Christian based Pacifist groups in the 1960’s when human rights in Latin America were in jeopardy. His work and dedication would lead him to be nominated and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, true to his nature he would donate the money that came with it to charity.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali November 13, 1968 to Present
A women’s rights activist, Ayaan Ali is well known for speaking up for Islamic women. She was born and raised in Somalia and raised to adhere to the Islamic religion. Through this she was exposed to the worse treatment a woman could have faced in her situation. She is unique because she is one of the first women to speak out against Islam, even though she was born into the religion in an Islamic nation no less. She continues to speak out currently and writes opinion pieces on the abuses that women in overzealous counties can face. The foundation named after her still aids countless women in Islamic nations escape the abuses that they could face.
Mary Williams has had an interesting life, being the child of a prominent member of the Black Panther party and the unofficially adopted child of Jane Fonda who helped her flourish to be a prominent social activist. Williams also started up The Lost Boys Foundation to aid refugees. Williams has written two books, one on her experience working to better the lives of Sudanese refugees and the second on her own life experiences. Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan (2005) and The Lost Daughter: A Memoir (2013). Williams is an anti-war activist and was a supporter of President Obama during the 2012 election.
Joshua Wong October 13, 1996 to Present
A social activist from Hong Kong, Joshua Wong has been politically minded since 2014 and active in Hong Kong’s political movements since. He is well known for his work toward gaining a more democratic political system for his home of Hong Kong. Through his religious beliefs he learned how to organize and gain the skills needed to be a great orator. Ever since his 2014 global debut he has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize (2018), listed in Time magazine’s most influential teens and nominated for 2014’s Person of the Year. In 2015, he was called one of the “world’s greatest leaders” by Fortune magazine. The current political turmoil in Hong Kong has been shaped and affected by students like Wong who among others should stay in the public view.
Martin Luther King III October 23, 1957 to Present
The living legacy of MLK, Martin Luther King III has followed in his father’s footsteps in being a social and political activist to end racism in the United States. His political and social activism journey began in 1967 the year of his father’s assassination at the age of ten. As it had affected the nation in a major way, King was deeply affected by his father’s murder. In 2006, he served as president of the King Center and continues to be a source of political activism as his father was.
While not the chosen symbol for the Civil Rights movement when it came to the issue of segregation on public transportation, Colvin was the very first Black American to refuse to give up her bus seat as was law in Alabama at the age of fifteen. Social factors at the time was the reason why the NAACP decided to go with the latter incident of Rosa Parks. However, Colvin even at her young age was politically minded and did what she could to support the movement that she saw as a social changing factor that would better her life and the lives of millions of others. In her professional life she was a nurse assistant for 35 years retiring in 2004. While she did not receive the recognition that Rosa Parks would receive in terms of being the first to refuse an unjust law, Colvin deserves the recognition she did not receive in 1955.
Kerry Kennedy September 8, 1959 to Present
The daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy has spent her life fighting for the rights of humans, traveling to several nations in order to conduct her work. She has championed the rights for children, women, and immigrants. She is the president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center of Human Rights a foundation that was named after her father. Her most recent work was on the “Farmers Workers Bill” that passed in 2019. She is a major proponent of many social issues within the United States including BLM.
Shaun King September 17, 1979 to Present
Shaun King is a social activist writer who had started the politically minded site The North Star in honor of Frederick Douglass. With this and other social media sites King brings the actions of social activists and organizations to the forefront of the media age. Writing compelling articles on how and why the social issues of the day are of great importance. King is also the co-founder of Real Justice PAC and has focused on publishing on current issues that include violence against Black Americans.