An extremist in the true and most positive sense of the word, Emily Davison was a “militant suffragette” who pulled all kinds of stunts to get her message across. This included, but not short of going on hunger strikes with her sisters in arms from approximately 1910-1912. An action that awarded her a Hunger Strike Medal by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Davison came from a middle-class family and this allowed her to gain a form of education that would later lead her to understanding the plight she found herself as a woman in Victoria era Britain. With all that in mind she was able to gain a higher education at the Royal Holloway College and later Oxford University during a time where women were not allowed to hold degrees. After accomplishing this she became a teacher where she was being exposed more and more to suffragette propaganda leading her to leave her job and become a full-time activist. During this time, she was arrested several times for assault and during her hunger strikes force fed dozens of times. A staunch socialist the majority of what she advocated for (on top of women's rights) also focused on the rights of the lower classes. Her extremist actions are argued to have been a response to the violence that many women’s movements would face. However, her unpredictable behavior led to her accidental death at the 1913 Epsom Derby, where she was ridden down by a horse of King George V. It is unclear what she was attempting to do by walking across an active racetrack but agreed upon that it was a political stunt that went horribly awry. Davison has been turned into a legend by Joice Worters’ play Emily that focuses heavily on violence against women suffragists using Davison as an example of active resistance.
Jazz Jennings October 6, 2000 to Present
Jazz Jennings is one of the first publicly documented transgender people and in effect has spent much of her young life leading the fight for the LGBTQ community. She was born male but knew from an early age that she was female. Her life and the struggles for her and her (accepting) family raising a transgender daughter have been well documented by the television network TLC. Jennings worked to use her reality star status to gain more rights and recognition for people in the LGBTQ community. While Jennings is only 19 years of age, she is still doing what she can to spread awareness and it will be interesting to see what she accomplishes in the future.
Carl Von Ossietzky October 3, 1889 to May 4, 1938
Receiver of the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize, Carl Von Ossietzky is best known for his articles exposing Germany’s rapid rise in militarization and nationalistic ideals. He was also one of the few people outwardly critical of Adolf Hitler and his regime during a period of rising support for the Nazis and their political standing. Much of Von Ossietzky’s reasoning comes from his own pacifist beliefs. His journalistic career led him to cover many different topics, but he is most famous for his work exposing the German (illegal) rearmament programs sponsored by the Nazi party. His efforts had landed him in legal issue, but the world at large would appreciate his work enough to grant him such a prestigious award. However, the German government at the time saw it differently, Von Ossietzky found himself arrested and sent to one of the first concentration camps in 1933. He spent the rest of his life in jail under constant surveillance, dying in 1938 due to tuberculosis.
Margaret Sanger September 14, 1879 to September 6, 1966
Autonomy is a right that most in the western world take for granted, however in terms of biological autonomy it is something that the United States tends to be inconsistent about. In parts of the country abortion and contraceptives are either denied or punishable (abortion mostly) to any that seek them. While the former should not be considered as an option for birth control it is still a right that should be granted to those who do not wish to have a child. This is a struggle that dates to the 19th-20th century with ladies like Margaret Sanger who fought hard for the rights of women to be able to control their own bodies in terms of reproduction. In terms of modern history Ms. Sanger should be considered a legend and a reason to continue fighting for the rights of women’s reproductive rights. She was the reason for Sexual Education classes and the proper use of contraceptive and led the fight to end “back ally” abortions (an issue that may be again a reality). It was her work that contraceptives became legal in the United States. Sanger had also done a lot of work for Black Americans, opening the first Clinic in Harlem.
Megan Leslie September 29, 1973 to Present
A former Member of the Canadian Parliament, Megan Leslie has been an active advocate for the issues of the modern day. This includes issues on healthcare, LGBT rights, and environmental concerns. After gaining her law degree she joined the Dalhousie Legal Aid Service where she became a legal advocate for the impoverished members of Halifax. Her political career began when shewas elected to the deputy leadership of New Democratic Party in 2012, where she served till 2015. In this position she worked for both environmental and health improvements. At the end of her political career she continued her advocacy in other countries, this included the LGBT community and gaining them the right to gender reassignment surgery supplemented by the government in Nova Scotia. Leslie continues her advocacy work to this day.
Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat (Marquis de Condorcet) September 17, 1743 to March 28, 1794
A philosopher and mathematician Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat was a respected Frenchman of the enlightened era who spent much of his time preaching for the rights of all people despite race, gender, or social standing. Ideas he may as well have died for since during the period of the French Revolution he was arrested and found dead in his cell under “mysterious circumstances.” To this day the works of de Caritat hold relevance to the current events of our time, much of which includes race relations and the need for the divide between rich and poor to be balanced if not wholly eliminated. History shows that nothing that produces progression is done cleanly. It is a messy process that history shows that those who advocate for it had suffered for it to be a present idea in the modern period. The importance of course being that knowing the history of former activists and philosophers is an important aspect of understanding how to move forward as a species.
The front man for the alternative metal band System of the Down, Serj Tankian is best known for his musical talents in the United States as a singer, songwriter, keyboardist, and guitarist. He is widely acclaimed for his vocal talents and is nationally ranked as one of the few for “having the best voice in metal,” ranked at #26 by Hit Parader out of 100. Tankian, is also well known for his political activism, focusing on the human rights and fighting for the global recognition of the Armenian Genocide that occurred in 1915. This is reflected in his musical career, especially during his tenure with System of the Down; such songs include Prison Song,Holy Mountains, and Empty Walls. Respectively each song highlights either over population of the American Prison system, genocide, and of course the United States’ unpopular “War on Terror.” Serj Tankian has created a nonprofit organization with co-founder Tom Morello known as Axis of Justice that works to bring fans of music and musicians together to challenge issues facing the world today.
Dr. Mary Temple Grandin (Temple Grandin) August 29, 1947-Present
Dr. Grandin is a well-respected and celebrated expert on animals and on developing care and emotional treatment for autistic children. Suffering from this disability herself, she was able with the help of her mother and a few close academic supporters to complete her education and become a world renowned researcher for the better care of animals. However her greatest contribution to humanity was her invention of the “Hug Box,” which has been an essential tool in aiding children with autism. Dr. Grandin has also spent much of her time in aiding parents with autistic children. She has written a number of books on the subject, such titles include, The Autistic Brain and Emergence: Labeled Autistic.
Mary Harris Jones (Mother Jones) August 1, 1837-November 30, 1930
Mary Harris Jones, or Mother Jones as the miners she lead called her, was one of the bravest organizers for the rights of laborers during the first two decades of the 20th century. Her own life being one of hardship and strife, Mrs. Jones migrated to Canada during the Irish Famine with her family. As a young woman she lost both her husband and children to Yellow Fever and suffered the loss of her home during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It was then that she took to marching for better labor conditions, starting with forming a political group against child labor, known as the Children's Crusade. Soon she lead more and more marchers, causing such a havoc in the day to day lives of those in the higher crust that a US District Attorney once called her “the most dangerous woman in America.” Mrs. Jones demonstrated her ability to lead and motivate people.