Pretty girl. Smart boy. These phrases may just seem like commonplace in small talk. I remember every time my cousin and I would visit a new family friend together, my mother would always receive comments about what a ‘lovely girl’ and ‘pretty young lady’ I was, while my aunt would hear about her ‘smart son’ and ‘intelligent young man.’ To this day, this always intrigues me. My IQ is no lower than my male cousin’s, and there is no way he is any worse looking than me. Then why are the comments I get about my looks, while his are about his intelligence, strength, and bravery. Is that all I am? A pretty face?
This experience is not unique to me. Society has often deemed women as nothing but pretty faces, underestimating our talents and skills. We are pushed aside when we have the capacity to change the world. Times are slowly changing, thanks to the women who have stepped up, refused to move from their seat on the bus, stood up to unequal pay, and promoted opportunities for women. Here is a tribute to ten wonderful women who have paved our way.
Marie Curie- Marie Curie is famous for her research on radioactivity. She was born in Poland and resided in France. She won the Nobel Prize twice, being the only woman to do so in different fields. She is one of the women who paved the way for women because at her time, it was uncommon for women to even have opportunities in science. Curie, however, went to France all by herself, got herself a position in a laboratory, and made her way to the top, independently, becoming the first ever female recipient of the Nobel Prize, and creating revolutionary discoveries in the realms of medicine and science.
Mother Teresa- Mother Teresa made her mark on the world through her humanitarian work for the poor in Bengal, India. Originally a Sister from Macedonia, she went to India in 1928 to teach at a school. She realized how poor the living conditions of the population there were, so she decided to adopt Indian citizenship and dress like the locals, in a Sari. She built a shrine for the terminally ill to recover, and helped the whole population survive through adversity, earning her a Nobel Peace Prize. She was canonized by Pope Francis I in 2016, and is a Saint.
Oprah Winfrey- Oprah Winfrey, known to must as just ‘Oprah,’ is a television personality, noted for her self-titled show and her work in philanthropy. Even though Oprah is one of the most decorated celebrities, she had many terrors in her past. Born into a poor family in rural Mississippi, she was molested by many of her family members from the time she was only nine. After running away at the age of 13 due to years of abuse, she gave birth to a son who died prematurely when she was 14. However, Oprah didn’t let this stop her, and made education her priority, becoming an honors student and attending college. After years of hard work, her television career took off, and her inspiring message to girls spread.
Michelle Obama- Michelle Obama is known for being the first African-American First Lady of the US. Growing up in Chicago, she was a star student, learning the piano, having top grades, and having student council positions. Although she faced gender-discrimination in school, she was able to persist and got admitted into Princeton, and later, Harvard Law. Today, she inspires girls of all races to keep going and never give up. She is also a LGBT rights and health activist.
Malala Yousafzai- Malala Yousafzai is most well known for her activism for female education around the world. At age 15, she survived an assassination due to standing up to the Taliban for prohibiting women’s education in Pakistan. Since then, she has been extremely vocal in female education rights, starting her non-profit, Malala Fund. She is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, has written books, and continues to make an impact on the world.
Lakshmibai- Lakshmibai, also known as Jhansi Ki Rani, was the queen of Jhansi, India. Even though women were thought of as commodities during her time, she trained martial arts, sword fighting, and riding as a girl. She refused to surrender Jhansi to the British, and fought a fierce battle to keep her state. She was dressed as a man to fight the British once again when she was killed in combat. Her strength and power have influenced the women of the world greatly.
Rosa Parks- Rosa Parks, the woman who didn’t give up her seat on the bus, is famous for her civil rights activism. Before fame, she worked as a seamstress and was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Montgomery, Alabama. On December 5, 1955, she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man and was arrested. After inspiring the bus boycott led by the Montgomery Improvement Association and Martin Luther King Jr., Parks became known as the ‘mother of the civil rights movement.’ For this, she received many important awards. Her legacy of empowering people of all races to have equal rights still inspires everyone.
Ada Lovelace- Ada Lovelace is most well known as the first computer programmer. She was the daughter and Lord Byron and Lady Byron, the former a poet. She was educated by many private tutors as she was from a famous family, and early on, showed signs of being a technology and mathematical genius. Lovelace became interested in Charles Babbage’s machines and annotated articles about the Analytical Engine. Her annotations contained instructions on a method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers using the Analytical Engine. Her work gave her the name of the first computer programmer and won her many accolades. She created the pathway to the world we have now.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the US Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district. She is the youngest woman to ever serve in US congress, and is a strong Democrat. Ocasio-Cortez grew up in the Bronx, New York, and is from a Puerto Rican family. From a young age, she has been involved in politics, becoming an intern to US Senator Ted Kennedy in college. Ocasio-Cortez has continued to make an impact on the world, with her social media presence. She advocates for environment protection, immigration issues, healthcare, anti-poverty, education, Puerto Rican affairs, and LGBTQ equality, inspiring people around the world to broaden their view and help the world become a better place.
Patsy Takemoto Mink- Patsy Takemoto Mink is the first Asian-American woman elected to US Congress. After graduating UChicago, she became the first Japanese-American woman to practice law in Hawaii. She was a liberal Democrat and opposed the Vietnam War greatly. She also was a women’s rights activist, and worked to increase funding for women’s academic and athletic programs. Her legacy of encouraging people to work hard and follow their dreams still inspires many today.
As you can see, girls have come a long way. Thanks to these remarkable women and countless others who bravely stepped up to make changes, girls like me have a platform to voice our opinions and make an impact. The future of feminism is certainly bright thanks to the empowering women who paved the way for future feminists!