RUTH BADER GINSBURG (1933-2020)
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week, and the tributes that followed, left us in awe of her fight, integrity and purpose.
She was just the second woman to serve on the US Supreme Court and a legal pioneer for gender equality throughout her life and distinguished 27-year tenure on the bench.
So to pay tribute to her and other women fighting for justice, past and present, here are 10 more female warriors and their words of wisdom.
These women have all trail-blazed their own path, smashed glass ceilings, created their own destiny and refused to succumb to the status quo. And their courage, intelligence, character and tenacity is an inspiration to us all.
ROSA PARKS (1913-2005)
“The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
In a moment that many credit with launching the American civil rights movement, the 42-year-old seamstress refused to give up her seat on a segregated Alabama bus on December 1, 1955. She was arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation. She appealed the sentence and sparked a sustained community response, including a 381-day boycott of public busses by black men and women, that ultimately led to the US Supreme Court outlawing racial segregation on public buses in Alabama.
BOZOMA ST JOHN (BORN 1977)
“There’s nothing more badass than being who you are… I am a force of nature in fierce stilettos.”
The Netflix Chief Marketing Officer, a trail-blazing executive who has led branding strategy for Apple, Uber and now the streaming giant, is a self-proclaimed “badass.” She is an inspiration to all pioneers on how to be our most authentic self in the workplace.
KATHARINE GRAHAM (1917-2001)
“To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?”
Under her leadership as publisher, the Washington Post became renowned for its fearless investigative reporting, including uncovering the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. In 1998, she received the Pulitzer Prize for her autobiography, ‘Personal History’.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI (BORN 1997)
“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”
Malala defied the Taliban in Pakistan to fight for girls’ rights to receive an education, and survived being shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in an assassination attempt on her way home from school in 2012. In 2014, aged 17, she became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
MAYA ANGELOU (1928-2014)
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived. But if faced with courage need not be lived again.”
Despite stopping talking after she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend aged seven, she lived an extraordinary life that included spells as a dancer, waitress, prostitute and San Francisco’s first female cable car conductor. But later her powerful words as a poet and author would inspire millions, and be read at the inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993.
GRETA THUNBERG (BORN 2003)
“I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.”
The 17-year-old environmental activist, who suffers from autism and is less than 5ft tall, is in the frontline of a new generation of campaigners, gaining plenty of attention — and 10.6 million Instagram followers — with her calls for climate action.
HARRIET TUBMAN (C.1822-1913)
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer.”
Escaped the slavery she was born into to become a leading abolitionist, leading more than 300 enslaved people to freedom using a network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. In 2016, the US Treasury Department announced that Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the center of a new $20 bill.
SAROJINI NAIDU (1879-1949)
“We want deeper sincerity of motive, a greater courage in speech and earnestness in action.”
The political activist whose work as a poet earned her the title ‘The Nightingale of India’. She was a leading figure in India’s fight for independence from colonial rule and the first Indian woman to be president of the Indian National Congress and to be appointed an Indian state governor.
WANGARI MAATHAI (1940-2011)
“Human rights are not things that are put on the table for people to enjoy. These are things you fight for and then you protect.”
The Kenyan politician and environmental activist became the first black African woman to win a Nobel Prize in 2004. The Green Belt Movement she founded in 1977 has planted more than 30 million trees and also fought for democracy and constitutional reform in her homeland. She was also an advocate for human rights, AIDS prevention, and women’s issues.
JANE FONDA (BORN 1937)
“To be a revolutionary you have to be a human being. You have to care about people who have no power.”
The actress and model has been on the frontline of political activism since the 1960s. Among the issues she has campaigned for include supporting the civil rights movement, fighting for feminist causes and the rights of Native Americans. Her infamous picture with Vietnamese soldiers on an anti-aircraft gun in 1972 was ill-judged, but she insists she regrets the incident and has paid a “heavy price.” She has increasingly turned her attention to environmentalism and in 2019 she was arrested — not for the first time — for partaking in climate change demonstrations in Washington DC.