When I was younger I was fascinated by courageous women. Today I remain deeply amazed and compelled by women who have defied incredible obstacles meant to prohibit their performance due to gender or race, or pose great risk to their life. You have seen, read about, and encountered women like these also; they are all around us. To enumerate them here would necessitate a list much longer than we could possibly click through in one sitting. And why shouldn't it? Women are amazing and deserve to be celebrated everyday. Below is a sampling of seven courageous women from that mega-long list. I hope they inspire you, too!
This young lady has endured more than women twice her age. One day when Malala was on her way home from school, another moment she was shot in the head by men who objected to the education of females and Malala's speaking out about the rights of women. Malala knew the possibilities and resistance she was up against but still continued to stand up for her beliefs. Malala survived the attack and now works towards education for all girls in her country while also serving as a symbol of perseverance and determination for women across the globe, making her one of the most courageous women in the world.
In the 1970s, the American Indian Movement worked hard to organize demonstrations against the treatment of American Indian peoples and to bring broader awareness of the issue to the public. As a young woman, Mary Brave Bird participated in several protests. Mary was heavily pregnant and ultimately gave birth to her first child at one protest: siege at Wounded Knee. Mary went on to become a writer and speaker whose works bring the life of the North Dakota Sioux to a larger reading audience. One book was turned into a movie in 1994: Lakota Woman: Siege At Wounded Knee.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a momentous event in American history. The most well known figure of this movement is Rosa Parks. But even she had a predecessor. Nine months before Ms. Parks, Claudette Colvin (unaffiliated with any organization) was the first woman arrested for resisting bus segregation when she refused to give up her seat. Claudette was fifteen years old at the time she was forcibly removed from the bus and arrested. Her act of defiance earned her scorn from her own community, not notoriety or endearment.
Many people know the name Josephine Baker but not many have heard of Ada "Bricktop" Smith. Born in West Virginia, Bricktop grew up in Chicago where she began performing at a very young age. At sixteen years old, Bricktop began touring with a vaudeville performance group and ended up in New York by the time she was twenty years old. Her talent took her overseas where she continued performing and saving her money as much as possible. With her earnings, Bricktop opened her first nightclub - years before Ms. Baker arrived in France. Bricktop did not stop there ... she opened additional nightclubs in Rome and Mexico! At a time of great racial adversity and prejudices, her talents and ambition took her all over the world, made her successful, and attracted many famous literary and entertainment figures such as John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Cole Porter.
There is a reason why Amelia Earhart appears regularly on lists of great women: let's face it, she was amazing! She was a smart woman who loved adventure and admired successful women. She learned from the examples of other successful women and followed her own ambitions. She worked hard to save enough money to purchase her own airplane. She used that plane to set her first women's record in 1921. She flew continuously and fearlessly until that infamous flight which took her life.
Born a slave on a South Carolina plantation in 1858, Anna Julia Cooper achieved an education not many thought possible at that time. Anna attended a small Episcopalian school where she fought to enroll in the courses reserved for men. Upon graduating, she worked as a teacher for a number of years before returning to graduate school! Julia was an ambitious woman who prized education. She fought hard her entire life for a great education and, as such, did not settle for a teaching certificate. At age 66 Julia transcended her circumstances by enrolling in and earning a PhD from the Sorbonne!
Today we are used to hearing about the political ambitions of women and used to seeing success when it happens. Women are Presidents and Prime Ministers of countries all over. However, back in the nineteenth century people were not used to such ambitions. In 1872 Victoria Woodhull shocked the country as the first female candidate for President of the United States. Throughout her life, Woodhull made waves with her beliefs in free love, women's rights, civil rights, and anti-slavery. She has a marvelous rags to riches story that sees her twice remake her life without the help of a man: first as a healer and secondly as the first woman owner and operator of a brokerage firm on Wall Street!
These seven women are truly phenomenal. They represent a much larger number of courageous women who have made and continue to impact our world. Are you inspired by a courageous woman?
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