was a poet, women’s rights activist and theologian from Iran. She was a follower
of the Bábí faith, for which she was detained and executed.
She was literate and well educated, which
was uncommon for a girl in her time. She started preaching a different faith
than the one commonly accepted, and spoke out against polygamy, wearing the
veil, and other restraints put on women, gaining an important female following.
She was killed at the age of only 35, strangled with her own veil, and is
remembered for her famous last words: “You can kill me as soon as you like, but you
cannot stop the emancipation of women.”
Ruth Ellis (1899-2000)
was an important LGBT rights activist in the United States. At the time of her
death at the age of 101, she was the oldest ‘out’ lesbian in the world.
She was born in Illinois, but moved to Detroit,
Michigan later in life, with her partner Ceciline Franklin. Their house became
a safe haven for the African-American LGBT community. Today, a centre that
bears her name is dedicated to helping homeless LGBT youth.
Lyudmila Alexeyeva (1927-2018) was a human rights activist, and one of the last Soviet
dissidents active in Russia.
She was a typist for the underground bulletin
The Chronicle of Current Events, which detailed human rights violation
in Soviet Russia. Eventually, she was forced to flee to the United States,
where she worked for Radio Free Europe and continued to be involved in
dissident activities and publications. She was a founder of the Moscow Helsinki
Group, Russia’s leading human rights organisation.
Ames (1920-2002) was a South African neurologist
and human rights activist. She led the medical ethics enquiry into the death of
Steve Biko, an anti-apartheid activist, an enquiry which showed that he had
been tortured and medically neglected, and led to the prosecution of the
She was the first woman to obtain a medical
degree from the University of Cape Town in 1964. She practiced medicine and
taught at Valkenberg Hospital until six weeks before she died. In 1999, Nelson
Mandela awarded her the Star of South Africa, the country’s highest civilian
Corrie (1979-2003) was an activist and diarist,
part of the pro-Palestinian group International Solidarity Movement. She was
killed in the Gaza Strip, at the age of only 23, while trying to block an
Israeli bulldozer from destroying Palestinian houses.
She became a committed peace activist from
a young age, starting out as a volunteer with the Washington State Conservation
Corps. She acted as a human shield to prevent the Israeli Army from demolishing
houses and was part of the efforts to rebuild the damage. Her death was
extremely controversial, as organizations such as Amnesty International or
Human Rights Watch called for an investigation, but the Israeli government
denied any wrongdoing.
was a journalist and novelist, as well as an activist for women’s rights,
Native American rights, and abolitionism. She fought against white supremacy
and patriarchal society her entire life.
She believed that women’s rights were closely
tied with African American rights, as both groups were oppressed and no real
progress could be achieved unless both issues were dealt with. Her writings in
support of the abolitionist movement included the book An Appeal in the Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans and
the publication National Anti-Slavery
Standard. Her fictional book Hobomok,
which portrayed a relationship between a Native American and a white woman, was
scandalous at the time of its publication.
Karen DeCrow (1937-2014)
was an American attorney and feminist. She was a strong supporter of equal child
custody rights, arguing that men as well as women should be able to care for
their children after divorce.
She was the only
woman in her class at the Syracuse University College of Law, where she earned
her Juris Doctor. She served as the President of the National Organization for
Women for three years, during which time she pressured NASA to recruit female
astronauts and established a taskforce for battered women.
an LGBT rights activist. Although not queer herself, she supported her gay son
in a tumultuous time for the LGBT community, and helped numerous others obtain
acceptance and rights.
She participated in the 1972 Pride March in
New York supporting her son, and the sign she was carrying inspired the
creation of PFLAG – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. She was
posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal for her activism.