By Mary Scharffenberger and Anna Lemberger
March is Women’s History Month! Throughout history, women activists have been a source of inspiration and have made it possible for others to succeed in the work they do. We’ve collected together 14 quotes from pioneering women. May their words resonate through time and continue to inspire.
1. Kishida Toshiko
Kishida Toshiko was a writer, activist, and one of the first women in Japan to speak publicly about women’s rights. She began lecturing when she was just 20 years old! She was well known for her speech “Daughters Confined in Boxes” that criticised a family system that confined women at home.
2. Carrie Chapman Catt
United States, 1859-1947
As president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Carrie Chapman Catt helped revitalise the suffrage movement and ratify the 19th Amendment in 1919, which guarantees all women the right to vote. Not really that long ago, ladies!
3. Mother Teresa
Republic of Macedonia, 1910-1997
Maybe one of the most famous women on this list, Mother Teresa established the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation, in 1950. These sisters ran hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis at a time when such people were treated as outcasts by most of society.
4. Rosa Parks
United States, 1913-2005
5. Eunice Shriver
United States, 1921-2009
6. Arundhati Roy
India, 1930 –
7. Shami Chakrabarti
United Kingdom, 1969 –
As Director of Liberty, a UK advocacy group which campaigns to protect civil liberties and promote human rights, Chakrabarti is recognised as a tireless defender of freedom and equality. Liberty create change by challenging inequities through the courts, helping to set a legal precedent. On 27 July 2012, she was one of eight Olympic Flag carriers at the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, and is frequently cited as one of the most influential women in Britain.
8. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Known as Africa’s “Iron Lady”, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the first female head of state on the continent of Africa. She has been working tirelessly ever since to strengthen the institutions of national security and good governance in her home country of Liberia.
9. Juliana Rotich
Juliana Rotich is a technology entrepreneur and the co-founder of Ushahidi. Ushahidi was originally designed as a crowdsourced map to track violence after the troubled Kenyan elections in 2007-8. It was later made available as open-source software, and is now used to help distribute aid following natural disasters, among other things. This thought leader has been a champion for spreading internet connectivity in the developing world.
10. Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi began speaking out in favour of the protests and rallies against the dictator U Ne Win and his policies, focusing her speeches on democracy and human rights. In retaliation U Ne Win’s military junta put Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest with no communication with the outside world for almost 15 years. That certainly didn’t silence her.
11. Leymah Gbowee
12. Rebecca Lolosoli
13. Chrissie Wellington
United Kingdom, 1977-
14. Malala Yousafzai
You don’t have to be a president or cultural icon for your voice to matter. If you’re based in the US, join the ONE Girls and Women movement and help make the world a better place for girls and women everywhere.