Emmeline Pankhurst, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Five More Feminists Who Changed the World for the Better
You want to change the world but sometimes it seems like an uphill battle. Before you lose heart, get inspired by these women who came before you.
Who’s the champion of feminism for you?
Some may see the word “feminism” as a dirty word. But that’s usually because those people fear the type of change that truly empowered women can bring into the world.
If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed in life, it’s the appearance of obstacles.
Often, these obstacles test your will and strength in the face of them. And your ability to grow despite them.
But if you don’t trust yourself and rise to the occasion, you’ll never know what you can achieve.
Imagine what would’ve happened if Eleanor Roosevelt or Sojourner Truth gave up when they saw adversity. Women wouldn’t be where they are today. And the world would be a much poorer place for it.
Find strength in the women who came before you. Discover five women who faced their challenges and changed the world.
You owe it to yourself to empower the next generation of women. Learn about these feminist icons who changed the world and empowered women for future generations.
#1 – Emmeline Pankhurst
Emmeline Pankhurst grew up during a time where the expectations for women were simple. They were to get married and practice obedience to the men in their lives.
Most of all, they had to remain silent.
But that was an idea with which she didn’t agree.
It’s no small wonder that her beliefs were different than other women at the time. Both of her parents followed a tradition of radical beliefs.
And even when Pankhurst did marry, she chose a man who believed in women’s social and political emancipation.
It was her husband, Richard Pankhurst, that bolstered her own belief and her desire to fight for it.
Nowadays, the history books call Emmeline the leader of the British Women’s Suffragette Movement. But she started out relatively small.
Emmeline founded the Women’s Franchise League based on the ideal that the right to vote in local elections extends to married women, too.
She also helped form the Women’s Social and Political Union or WSPU. These like-minded women were militant in comparison to her first group.
The WSPU gained notoriety with their activities. They engaged in window smashing and arson as well as demonstrations and hunger strikes. Emmeline Pankhurst led the charge for voting equality. And her group members became the first to get dubbed as “suffragettes” for the movement.
#2 – Eleanor Roosevelt
In the past, the role of the First Lady of the White House was merely ceremonial. Wives of sitting presidents hosted and entertained guests and nothing more.
They were figureheads.
But that all changed when Eleanor Roosevelt became First Lady.
Before becoming First Lady, Roosevelt was already a women’s rights advocate. She even wrote a newspaper column between 1935 and 1962 that addressed issues related to women’s work, rights, and equality.
And that was before the word “feminism” came into the vernacular.
She was often regarded as outspoken and to be talking about social issues deemed controversial at the time, but that didn’t stop her.
Roosevelt put her influence as First Lady to work in becoming the first US delegate to the United Nations. She also served as the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights.
Even after her time in the White House, she continued her work as a chair for JFK’s President Commission on the Status of Women. It was there that she served as an advisor on women’s issues and promoted equality.
#3 – Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth had a hard start to life.
She was born into slavery to James and Elizabeth Baumfree, just one of 10 or 12 siblings. In her lifetime, her ownership changed hands many times. And her owners were often cruel. The then-Isabella Baumfree was forcibly married to another slave and bore five children. She could only save two of those children from slavery but not the others.
After escaping her slavery, she had a spiritual revelation about the purpose of her life. She knew she had to travel and preach about the abolition of slavery. So, she adopted the name Sojourner Truth and said good-bye to the name she was born with.
As she travelled, she became a highly respected speaker in anti-slavery issues and women’s rights.
Her speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” put her in the forefront of the women’s movement when she delivered it at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention.
Eventually, she joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry. And it was there that she met notable abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass.
When the group disbanded, she joined another abolitionist, George Benson on the convention circuit. Her speeches included controversial subjects of the time. But that didn’t stop her from fulfilling her life’s purpose.
#4 – Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai started life with hope. Her father ran the girls’ school in their village and was a teacher there. And it was there that she grew to love school.
But that all changed in 2008 when the Taliban took control of their town. Not only did they ban things like playing music and owning a television, but they also banned school for girls.
That didn’t stop this Pakistani schoolgirl from writing for the BBC about the Taliban presence in her town. And it also made her a target.
In 2012, a gunman boarded her school bus with one objective. Malala had been too vocal about her desire for girls’ education. He shot her in the head, and when she woke up, it was in a hospital in England 10 days later.
Despite the assassination attempt, she recovered and continued her quest for girls’ right to education. In 2014, she became one of the youngest winners of a shared Nobel Peace Prize.
As Malala says:
“I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls.”
#5 – Germaine Greer
The women’s movement of the Sixties and Seventies is still alive and well in Germaine Greer. This vocal author was one of the leaders of the women’s movement decades ago, and she maintains that it’s still not enough.
Greer is most famous for her 1970 book called The Female Eunuch.
In it, she makes a case that sexual liberation is women’s liberation. She says that women have repressed and alienated their own sexuality and bodies and that sexual liberation is the key to freedom.
Greer is still a prolific writer despite the opposition and controversy it provokes. Her writings continue to make an impact on both men and women to the present day.
Become a Champion
All of these women had the courage and determination to fight through their obstacles, even when they may have wanted to run away.
It wasn’t because they didn’t experience fear or doubt. They probably felt all of these things from time to time.
But they knew what they were doing was the right thing to do, despite the pain.
Growth always happens outside of your comfort zone.
So, they pushed through their fight or flight response and decided to stand for what they believed in.
So, the next time you begin to doubt yourself, remember these champions of feminism.
You can have the courage of a young girl fighting for girls’ education rights in a war-torn country. Or the fortitude of an ex-slave to speak out against those who’ve oppressed you your entire life.
And you can use your influence to leave the world a better place.
Are you ready for more inspiration? Contact Sarifa Younes today.
Find out more about her empowering speaking services here.