was a poet and political activist. Her poetry often dealt with themes of
feminism, social justice and Judaism.
She was active in politics from a young age,
and was working for the International Labor Defense at 21. She also served as
president of the American centre of PEN International. Her work was rewarded
with a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Yale Younger Poets Award, among others.
Begum Rokeya (1880-1932) was an
author and social activist in British India, today Bangladesh. She is
considered a pioneer of women’s rights and female education on the Indian subcontinent.
She has written extensively, both fiction and
nonfiction, advocating for equal treatment of the genders and better
educational opportunities for women. In 1909 she founded the first school for
Bengali Muslim girls in Kolkata, and in 1916, the Muslim Women’s Association,
an organisation which fought for equal education and employment rights.
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.
Musimbi Kanyoro (b. 1953)
is a human rights advocate from Kenya. She is the President and CEO of the
Global Fund for Women, positions she has held since 2011.
She studied in
her native Kenya and in the United States. In 1998 she became the first woman
to serve as World Secretary General for the YWCA, an organisation which seeks
to empower women and girls worldwide. She is involved in many other human
rights organisations, such as the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice
and the World Health Organization.
Barbara Pierce Bush (b. 1981, pictured above with sister
Jenna) is the daughter of former president George W. Bush. She is an advocate
for different causes such as health issues and LGBT rights.
Unlike her immediate family, she does not align
herself with the Republican Party. She is the president and co-founder of
Global Health Corps, a nonprofit organization working for global health equity.
She also campaigned for same-sex marriage before it was legalized in the United
Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912) was a writer and
anarchist activist. She was an early promoter of feminism and expressed
controversial views for her time regarding religion, marriage and female
sexuality, among others.
She became involved in the freethought movement
and worked for the newspaper The
Progressive Age. Her reputation as a passionate and compelling speaker grew
thanks to her speeches and essays on direct action, sexual freedom or gender
Helene Stöcker (1869-1943) was an early feminist
activist in her native Germany. She was also involved in pacifist and anti-war
She was one of the first German women to receive a doctorate. In 1909 she
founded the League for the Protection of Mothers, and later became an activist
for sexual freedom, legalisation of abortion and equality of illegitimate children.
Her organisation sponsored sexual health clinics where young women could obtain
contraception and advice.
Ruby Hurley (1909-1980)
was an important figure of the Civil Rights Movement in the US. She is known as
“the queen of civil rights”.
She worked as an
administrator for the NAACP in Washington, D.C., but travelled across the
country to organise more local chapters. She made considerable efforts to
promote racial integration in the South and investigated crimes against African
Diana E. H. Russell (b. 1938)
is a feminist activist whose research focuses on issues of sexual violence
against women. She has published a number of books dealing with the subject,
and was responsible for redefining the term ‘femicide’.
In 1976, she
organised the first International Tribunal on Crimes against Women in Brussels,
Belgium – Simone de Beauvoir gave the introductory speech. Russell is also an
associate of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press.