Feminism is always associated with the fight for women’s rights. Although criticized by other sectors for what they stand and fight for, feminists have contributed much to the betterment of women’s lives. This list has selected these famous women, who, with their struggles, have changed how the world sees and regards women.
1. Abigail Adams (1744-1818)
As wife of President John Adams, she became the 6th First Lady of the United States. She pushed for women to be given more of a voice in society and get more representation in the government during her husband’s tenure. She spoke and wrote against the abuses committed against women and warned of the unrest from the women’s sector if their rights were not respected. Abigail’s opinions were often sought by her husband. She was thus called ‘Mrs. President’ by her critics because of the enormous influence she exerted on John Adams.
2. Jane Addams (1860-1935)
She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. As a social reformer, she became the first female president of the National Conference for Social Work in 1910. She later organized the National Federation of Settlements which she headed for more than 20 years. As a pacifist, Jane conducted lectures urging the end of WWI and wrote about achieving peace. Among her works is the book New Ideals of Peace which she wrote in 1907.
3. Concepcion Arenal (1820-1893)
She is known as the founder of the feminist movement in Spain. Her works were considered exceptional in Spain, her country, which had a conventional attitude toward women during her time. Concepcion’s efforts were geared to improving the conditions of the poor. She wrote widely on the conditions of prisons in her country and the role of women in society. She strongly advocated sexual equality. Jane’s principles were based on her firm, Christian faith. Among her important positions was her being a representative to the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919.
4. Margery Corbett Ashby (1882-1981)
Margery encouraged women to broaden their interests and activities outside the corners of their homes through women’s groups that she organized. As secretary and later as president of the International Alliance of Women from 1923-1946, she strove for women to get equal employment opportunities and sufficient representation in government bodies. She conducted talks in many parts of the world which greatly contributed to the promotion of sexual equality.
5. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)
She is recognized for pioneering the movement for Women’s Suffrage in the U.S. Her other concerns included issues on parental and custody rights, property rights, divorce, family finances, and birth control. She approved of interracial marriages which were not generally accepted by U.S. society during her time. In addition to her speaking engagements, Stanton wrote many important books and documents dealing with women’s rights. She collaborated with other authors in writing the History of Woman Suffrage. However, she died 18 years before women were given the right to vote in the U.S.
6. Lois W. Banner (1939- )
Banner is regarded as one of the most popular and intelligent women writers in America today. She also teaches in universities working as a professor in several U.S. schools such as Princeton University and the University of Southern California. Banner’s books deal with women’s history, movements, and biographies. One of her popular books, American Beauty, discusses how physical beauty in women is regarded in U.S. society. She wrote that the full potential of women as individuals is adversely affected by the great deal of importance that society places on physical beauty, an observation which greatly reveals her feminist sentiment.
7. Annie Besant (1847-1933)
She became controversial during her time because of her birth control advocacy which was not accepted by society during her era. She left the Christian religion because of her non-belief in some of its teachings which led to her divorce from her husband who was a pastor. She instead became a believer in Hindu teachings, like its belief in reincarnation and karma. Annie put up her own newspaper called The Link where she published articles concerning marriage issues, women’s rights, and women’s health.
8. Julie Bindel (1962- )
She is a present-day feminist who is famous for her advocacy on lesbian rights. As a freelance journalist, she writes for The Guardian, a British national daily newspaper, and is a co-founder of the feminist organization Justice for Women. This group, which focuses on domestic violence and other abuses committed against women, gives support to women who have fought back or killed abusive husbands or partners. As a journalist, she has discussed other important social issues relating to prostitution, women trafficking, rape, and the protection of children. She has also written articles on vegetarianism.
9. Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689)
Her independent spirit and her ‘masculine’ personality made her both a fascinating and controversial queen to the people of her time and many historians. Sweden, her country, was strictly a Lutheran nation in the 17th century, and it banned its citizens from converting to the Catholic religion during that period. Despite this, Christina was attracted to Catholicism and studied it secretly. To prevent chaos in her country due to her conversion to Catholicism, she abdicated her throne in 1654, transferring her power to her cousin, who became King Charles X Gustavus. She left her huge library and art collection to the Pope after her death. In recognition for her love for the Catholic Church, Christina was buried in the crypt beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, one of only three women accorded with such an honor by the Church.
10. Hillary Clinton (1947 – )
As wife of President Bill Clinton, she became the U.S.’s First Lady from 1993-2001. She was also a U.S. Senator from 2001-2009. As a strong crusader against AIDS, she has announced that the elimination of this disease is reachable within the next four years. She has promoted diplomatic ties with the U.S. and other countries during her extensive travels abroad as U.S. Secretary of State, a position given to her by President Barack Obama. Her important contributions, especially her work on the U.S.’s international role, made Hillary one of the world’s most influential women.
For centuries, various atrocities were committed and are being committed against women. It is for these reasons that the feminist movement was born and thrives to this day. The demand for justice and equality between the sexes is a hot issue, especially in countries where women are regarded as the weaker sex. The goal of the feminist movement is simple: respect for women’s rights. And if this respect is given and coupled with love, even the bitterest feminist becomes the sweetest woman in the world.