Aasta Hansteen (1824-1908) was a
writer, painter and feminist from Norway. She was famous for her work even
during her lifetime, and at one point was the only portrait artist in Oslo.
In addition to painting, she wrote for newspapers
and contributed to the women’s rights movement in her country, as an active
member of the Norwegian Association for Women’s Rights.
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.
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.
Hedvig Nordenflycht (1718-1763)
was an early Swedish feminist. She was the host of a literary salon in
Stockholm and supported women’s writing in her country.
Her literary debut took place in 1742 with the
poem The Lament of the Swedish Woman.
In 1753 she became the only female member of the literary academy Tankebyggarorden, created with the
purpose of reforming Swedish literature.
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.
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.
Léa Roback (1903-2000) was a Canadian feminist and social activist, a pioneer
in her province of Quebec. Her activism focused on combatting racism and
injustice, as well as giving Canadian women the vote.
She helped establish the International Ladies’
Garment Worker’s Union in Montreal and led a strike of 5 thousand women in
1937. She fought for access to education and decent housing in Canada, as well
as for the reproductive rights of women, such as the legality of abortion and
contraception. A foundation was created in her name in 1993, providing
scholarships to socially-committed women.
Nellie McClung (1873-1951)
was a political activist and suffragist from Canada. She was part of “The
Famous Five”, the group of women who led the effort to recognize women as
persons in their country.
She began campaigning for women’s suffrage in
the 1910s, and helped organise the Women’s Political Equality League. Other
causes that she championed were property rights for married women, factory
safety reforms and medical care for school children. She was the founder of the
Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada – the largest adult education movement
in the country.
Patricia Ireland (b.
1945) was the president of the National Organization for Women for a decade,
1991-2001. She is also an attorney and an administrator.
During her time working as a flight attendant
for Pan Am, she noticed the discrepancies in the treatment of men and women
regarding insurance coverage, and brought a formal complaint. The US Department
of Labor ruled in her favour, marking an important victory for equal rights.
She is a strong advocate for the rights of women, African-Americans and the