Frederick Douglass February 1, 1818 - February 20, 1895
Most famous for his autobiography Douglass has given readers, students, and historians a look at what life as a slave was like during slavery’s end in the United States. His story is one of endurance and to many is seen as an important part of American history with the determination of one man showing that freedom is worth fighting for no matter the opposition. Before gaining his freedom in 1830, Douglass learned how to read from a combination of determination and cunning. However, he did not hoard what he learned, but would often teach others exposing others to possibilities. After gaining his freedom Douglass would spend his life advocating the rights for Black Americans and for women as well.
Alice Walker February 9, 1944 - Present
The Pulitzer Prize winning author behind the world renown book The Color Purple (1982) 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 dedicated her life to boast social justice and activism through both her writings and time.
Leymah Gbowee February 1, 1972 to Present
A peace and women’s rights activist Gbowee is best known for leading the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace that is said to have brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. Gbowee’s focus was to better her nation and for the betterment of women. She has worked alongside Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for this goal. During the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996) she faced the ravages of war at a young age and from this experience she would join UNICEF to become a social worker to aid those with the trauma of war. For her work she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.
One of the youngest environmental activists of the current generations, Ms. Thunberg is well known for calling on and participating in protests that involved students skipping their classes and protesting outside of the parliament of Sweden. Her movement now known as “Fridays of the Future” has become a worldwide movement that had caught the attention of millions around the world leading to Ms. Thunberg to speak at the COP 24 and the World Economic Forum as the best examples. Time Magazine has called her a “next generation leader,” her impact on the discussion of environmental issues around the world leading to change in her own native Sweden and around the world. Make the World Greta Again (2019) is an obvious play against president trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again '' as the two are known to have animosity for one another. This act solidifying Ms. Thunberg’s reputation of being a strong willed individual willing to stand up for what she believes in.
Alice Paul January 11, 1885 to July 9, 1977
One of the leading suffragettes of the 20th century, Alice Paul is best known for her work with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and for founding the National Woman’s Party (NWP) with Lucy Burns. Coming from a family of Quakers Ms. Paul was exposed to the idea that the genders were equal by her family and was encouraged to gain an education. She had earned her degree in biology in 1905 from Swarthmore College. Ms. Paul’s goal throughout life was to bring about change in the United States for women less fortunate than she was in terms of being able to gain the basic rights that most men in the United States at the time had, this including access to education. Her and a group of suffragettes known as the “Silent Sentinels” would begin an eighteen-month picket campaign starting in January 1917 to protest for women’s rights. It was this that would push the police to have them arrested. While in prison Paul would organize a hunger strike that would aid in generating more awareness and sympathy by the public to support women's rights. Ms. Paul’s actions have been directly associated with the passing of the 19th amendment to the Constitution of the United States in 1920.
Kailash Satyarthi January 11, 1954 to present
A leading figure in ending child labor around the world Mr. Satyarthi has founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) meaning Save Childhood Movement in 1980 to find and end child labor while also providing methods to rehabilitate children rescued from such curling conditions. This has been the goal of Mr. Satyarthi for some time, going as far back as his childhood when he noticed that his less fortunate peers were either in bonded labor or forced to work by their parents. He started his organization in the 1980’s and has been able to rescue 80,000 children from bounded labor since. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
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.