Pola Uddin (b.
1959) is a life peer in the House of Lords, part of the British Parliament. She
is the first Muslim and second Asian woman to sit in the UK Parliament.
Born in Pakistan, she moved to the UK when
she was 13, and later became a Community worker with the YMCA and the manager
of the Tower Hamlets Women’s Health Project. She was invited to the House of
Lords in 1998, and has since built a reputation of standing up for human
rights, particularly women’s rights. In 1999 she created the first centre for
the education and training of Asian women in London.
Virginia Whitehill (1928-2018) was an activist for reproductive rights for women. She
is best known for her work to secure the right to abortion for American women.
She founded the Dallas Committee to Study Abortion
in 1969, in her hometown in Texas, and was the state coordinator of Texas Citizens
for Abortion Education. She helped found numerous organisations such as Dallas
Women’s Foundation, Women’s Issues Network or the Women’s Equality Action
League, as well as a refuge for women escaping domestic violence.
Marianne Williamson (b. 1952) is the founder of Project Angel Food, a programme serving
food to home-bound people who suffer from AIDS or other serious illnesses. She
also co-founded Peace Alliance, an organization which supports peace-building
She began her activism in the 1980s by
founding support centres for people with AIDS in New York and Los Angeles. Project
Angel Food was started in 1989, and served more than 11 million meals so far.
She is currently running as a Democratic presidential candidate for 2020.
Viola Desmond (1914-1965) was a civil rights activist in Canada. She helped give
rise to the civil rights movement in her country by challenging racial
segregation, refusing to give up her seat in a whites-only area of a cinema in
New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.
She was a beautician who opened her own
salon and training school, specifically for black women who were being denied
entry to whites-only beauty schools. Her defying gesture happened in 1964, and
she was forced to spend a night in jail and pay a $20 fine. She was granted a
posthumous pardon in 2010 (the first ever in Canada), and was the first black
Canadian women to be featured on a banknote.
Wright de Kleinhans (1846-1896)
was an early Mexican feminist. Through her magazines, Violetas de Anahuac and
Mujeres de Anahuac, she promoted female education and the idea that men
and women were intellectually equal.
She was a journalist and a member of numerous
literary societies around Mexico, always advancing ideas of gender equality and
the possibility of distancing oneself from the feminine ideal of marriage and
motherhood. One of her greatest achievements is the book Mujeres notables mexicanas
(1910), which contains 116 biographies of important Mexican women, of which
29 were indigenous – an important recognition at the time.
Hannah Crocker (1752-1829) was one of the first women’s rights advocates in the
United States. Her 1818 book, Observations on the Real Rights of Women,
was the first book on this topic written by an American.
She was educated at home, in a variety of
subjects, which was uncommon for women at the time. She founded organisations
such as St Anne’s Lodge and the School of Industry, both aiming to provide
education and vocational skills to women.
Begum Sufia Kamal (1911-1999) was a poet and political activist from Bangladesh. She
was a civil society leader in her country and part of the Bengali nationalist
Her literary career started in 1937 and
offered her national visibility. She promoted peace between Hindus and Muslims
in Bangladesh, and later focused on women’s rights, founding the Women’s Struggle
Group in 1969. She received numerous international awards for her activism,
and was the first woman to have a state funeral in Bangladesh.
Eleanor Holmes Norton (b. 1937) is a lawyer and politician. She is a non-voting Delegate
to the US House of Representatives, as well as a devoted civil rights activist.
She studied law at Yale, and later worked
as the assistant legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1977
she became the first female Chair of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
and in 1990 she co-founded the African-American Women for Reproductive Freedom
Judith Wright (1915-2000) was a poet and environmentalist
from Australia. She was also a campaigner for Aboriginal land rights.
Her poetry deals
significantly with environmental topics, as well as the relationship between
man and the environment. She campaigned for the conservation of the Great
Barrier Reef and Fraser Island, and served as the President for the Wildlife
Preservation Society of Queensland. In 1994, she won the Human Rights and Equal
Opportunity Commission Poetry Award.
Masika Katsuva (1966-2016) was an activist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
After suffering numerous sexual assaults, from her husband as well as from soldiers
and members of the militia, she started acting to help countless rape victims.
She founded a help centre in her country in 1999, providing shelter and
medical help for rape victims. The centre is still active and has helped over
16000 women to date. She had also personally adopted 18 children born to sexual