Qiu Jin (1875-1907) is considered a national
heroine in China, seen as a martyr of feminism and republicanism.
She was a
dedicated proponent of women’s rights, speaking out for their freedom to marry
who they wanted or to pursue education. Her manifesto, “A Respectful
Proclamation to China’s 200 Million Women Comrades”, condemned oppressive practices
such as foot binding and received overwhelming popular support. She was captured
and beheaded for her anti-government activities, at the age of only 31.
was an author, actress, and lesbian rights activist from London. She worked throughout
her life for better representation and extended rights for homosexual women.
She was not
aware of her own sexual identity for a long time, but eventually came out
publicly in 1969, joining the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. She was one of
the founders of Sappho in 1972, one of the longest-running lesbian publications
in the UK.
was a pro-independence campaigner in India. She was also a devoted social and
women’s rights activist.
campaigning for Indian independence at only fourteen, and was arrested several
times by the British for her activism. She also opened a school for the
children of the tribal population in her area, and was active in Bhoodan
Movement, which aimed to persuade wealthy landowners to give some of their land
to the less fortunate.
Muriel Duckworth (1908-2009) was a pacifist and feminist activist from Canada. She was the founder of the Nova Scotia Voice of Women for Peace, and was the first woman in Halifax to run for a seat in the Nova Scotia legislature.
She was a founding member of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, and served as its president for two years. Her efforts were rewarded with the Pearson Medal of Peace and the Order of Canada, among others.
Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) was a singer known as ‘The Queen of Gospel’, being one
of the most influential artists in the genre. She was also active in the civil
rights movement in the United States.
Her career spanned more than four decades,
during which time she recorded around 30 albums, 12 of which were certified
gold. She often sang before Martin Luther King’s speeches and helped raise
funds for the movement. In 1972 she received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) was the
First Lady of the United States for 12 years, the longest-serving and one of
the most celebrated First Ladies. She was particularly known for her human
rights activism and involvement in politics and social causes.
Before she became First Lady, she was active in the Women’s Trade Union
League, campaigning for the abolition of child labour and the introduction of a
minimum wage. She was an outspoken supporter of the civil rights movement, and
only wanted female reporters at her press conferences in order to support their
continued employment. Her last public position was as chair of the Presidential
Commission on the Status of Women during the Kennedy administration.
was a women’s rights activist from Australia. She was the founder of the Women’s
Political Education League in the country.
She was active
in society in Sydney, founding the Women’s Literary Society in 1889, which
turned into the Womanhood Suffrage League two years later. Her activism led to
the age of consent being raised to sixteen, improved conditions for female
prisoners, and the appointment of female inspectors in shops and factories.
Annie Besant (1847-1933) was a British writer, activist and philanthropist. She
was the founder of Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India.
She was a champion of women’s rights, worker’s
rights, secularism and freedom of thought. She was especially active in India,
campaigning for self-rule and its independence from the UK. In 1917, she was
elected as the president of the Indian National Congress.
Flora Brovina (b. 1949) is a poet and women’s rights activist from Kosovo. She
also studied medicine and worked as a paediatrician in the Pristina General Hospital.
Before the Kosovo War, she ran a health
clinic which also served as a shelter for orphaned children. She was abducted
and imprisoned during the war, only released as a result of international
pressure. Among the prizes she has received are the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith
Freedom to Write Award and the Human Rights Award of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.