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.