“I’d rather read about 10 badass women of color who were better activists and suffragettes,” you said, fuming in your pajamas.
Ask and you shall receive.
1. Cecilia Fire Thunder
Besides becoming a licensed nurse, opening two clinics in California (one in Compton, another in San Diego), Cecilia became the first female tribe leader of the Oglala Sioux. She even tried to get Planned Parenthood on the tribe land, and when that didn’t work, wanted to open an independent clinic so that Native American women on the land could get access to abortion. The members of her tribe impeached her, but hey, it gives her time to be coordinator of the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains and teach Lakota at the Ogala Lakota College.
2. Ida B. Wells
Everyone was talking about how women couldn’t vote, so in addition to that, Ida chose another topic for people to sit down and pay some attention to: lynching, and how black women couldn’t vote. This shook up the usual dialogue ’round the country. She also created a space for black women to talk about how messed up all this injustice was, called the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, so they could come together in their badassery.
3. Fusae Ichikawa
What do you do when there’s no female suffrage in your country? Simple: you become president of the first organization dedicated to improve female status in Japan, then you start up the Women’s Suffrage League of Japan because you’re that fed up with the lack of ability to vote, and then you get elected multiple times to serve on the Japanese Diet. Casual.
4. Sojourner Truth
“Ain’t I a woman?” Hell yeah you are, Sojourner! You were able to rescue yourself, your daughter, and your son from slavery. You spoke everywhere: abolition conferences, women’s rights conferences, and even grew the Union army by signing up black men—and when someone dared to call you a man, you flashed him.
5. Asra Nomani
I wish I had a resume like yours, Queen — Washington Post, Salon, Time, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. But let’s talk about what you talk about: women’s rights in the Islamic community. Specifically, how Muslim women should be able to choose their partners. When her mosque exiled her, she organized the first Muslim prayer in New York—I’m not done yet—led by a woman.
6. Eva Perón
You know your baddassery is off the charts when there’s a musical written about you. Eva Perón began a foundation in her own name dedicated to help the poor. It did everything from build orphanages and hospitals to handing out scholarships for children. And there’s no party like a feminist party either: Eva started the Female Peronist Party, which ushered women into Argentina’s political sphere.
7. Doria Shafik
Besides having the best eyebrows in the entire world, Doria marched with the Bint Al-Nil Union and the Egyptian Feminist Union into Egyptian parliament for female equality. Then she took it to a new level: a hunger strike, which eventually led to Egyptian women getting the right to vote.
8. Michelle Bachelet
Who can become the Chilean president twice, Health Minister, Defense Minister, and the first executive director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women? Your answer is Michelle Bachelet. Her first presidency focused on helping all women, and was even inclusive of an indigenous tribe in Chile: the Mapuche.
9. Park Yeon-mi
She’s walked across the Gobi desert, spoken at a Summit in Dublin, and published a book at 21 years old — which is more than I’ve ever done. Yeon-mi has raised awareness about the North Korean regime and human trafficking. When she’s not speaking up for the unheard human voices, she teaches herself English with YouTube and a Friends DVD set. Again, I’m unaccomplished for my age.
10. Sufia Kamal
She’s beauty and she’s grace, she got all up in your face with the rights of Bangladeshi women. Mahila Parishad, the biggest female organization in Bangladesh, was her pride and joy for many years. She sat on that throne and many others, including the Indian Women Federation, the Bangla Academy Award for Literature, and learning seven languages.