Laura Pollán (1948-2011) was a Cuban political
activist. She was the founder and leader of the dissident group Ladies in
White, a pacifist protest movement that won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of
Thought in 2005.
A literature teacher by profession, she became an activist in
2003, after the arrest of her husband and 74 others in a crackdown on
opposition known as the Black Spring in Cuba. Along with other spouses of
political prisoners, she organised peaceful marches demanding (and sometimes
obtaining) their release.
Thelma Chalifoux (1929-2017) was a Canadian teacher and politician. She
served as a senator for Alberta from 1997, when she became the first Métis
woman on the Canadian Senate.
From a young age, she established a
centre to help women who struggled with alcoholism and abuse, and advocated for
the promotion of Métis culture. She was the first woman to receive the National
Aboriginal Achievement Award in 1994.
Constance Markievicz (1868-1927) was an Irish politician who, in 1918,
became the first woman elected to the Westminster Parliament as a
representative of Dublin, though she did not take her seat.
She was a proponent of Irish
independence and a campaigner for female suffrage. As Minister of Labour in Ireland,
she was the first female minister in Europe and one of the first in the world.
Linda Sánchez (b. 1969) is currently a US representative for California. As the Chair
of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Vice Chair of the House Democratic
Caucus, she is the first woman of colour ever to be in a leadership position in
the US Congress.
studied Law at UCLA and became a Representative in 2003. She also serves on the
Committee on Ethics and the Committee on Ways and Means.
Winnie Byanyima (b. 1959) is an aeronautical engineer and
politician from Uganda. She was the executive director of Oxfam International
from 2013 to 2019.
She graduated from the
University of Manchester with a degree in aeronautical engineering, becoming
the first Ugandan woman to do so. She worked for Ugandan Airlines and later
became a Member of Parliament. In 2006 she became the director of the Gender
Team in the Bureau for Development Policy at the United Nations Development
Lorraine Morton (1918-2018) served as the mayor of Evanston, a
town in Illinois, for sixteen years, from 1993 to 2009. She was the first
African American mayor of the town and drove the efforts to desegregate its
Before starting her
career in politics, she was an educator, and eventually became the principal of
Evanston’s Haven Middle School, a position held for twelve years. Today, the
town’s civic centre bears her name.
The Mirabal sisters (Patria, Minerva, María Teresa
and Dedé) were four sisters from the Dominican Republic, known for their
subversive activities against the regime of dictator Rafael Trujillo. Three of
them were assassinated on 25 November 1960 by forces loyal to the regime.
From a middle-class family of farmers, the sisters started
opposing the dictatorship when they formed the Movement of the Fourteenth of
June and distributed pamphlets talking about Trujillo’s crimes. They were
imprisoned, and later released because of international pressure. Today, the
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is celebrated
on the day of their deaths.
was the second First Lady of the United States during the presidency of her husband,
John Adams. She is considered one of the founders of the country, and her
letters represent a valuable testimony of the American Revolutionary War.
She was active as First Lady and vocal in her
support of women’s rights, as well as her abolitionist views. The 1200 letters
she exchanged with John Adams are seen by historians as a ‘treasure trove’ for
that period in American history.
Rice (b. 1964) was
the US National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2017. She also served as the
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during the Clinton
at Stanford and Oxford, and later served as the United States Ambassador to the
United Nations, the first African American woman to hold this position.
was an Australian senator and women’s rights activist. She was elected as
senator in 1981, representing the Australian Labour Party, and was active for
twelve years, particularly in women’s issues.
She was a
qualified nurse who also held a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Western
Australia. She served as the president of the International Alliance of Women
for three terms.