10 Inspiring Women for the 33rd Annual Women’s History Month

An article by and for young women in our community!

Brianna Ifland, Wyllow Larsen, and Others

Throughout this March, thousands of people have observed national Women’s History Month by educating themselves and others about the often overlooked feats made by women throughout history.

To get a closer look at the impact these women have had on our youth, we’ve surveyed 10 female students about their favorite historical woman figure and what this month truly means to them.

#1- Patsy Mink (Patsy Matsu Takemoto Mink)

Image source: http://static1.squarespace.com/

December 6, 1927- September 28, 2002

“Patsy Mink was an American attorney, the first woman of color elected to the House of Representatives. She experienced racism while in college, and strived to get rid of segregation policies! She actually met her husband at the University of Chicago Law School. I think she’s inspiring simply because, she fought for the rights of immigrants, women, minorities, and children. She fought to get rid of the discrimination she faced in her own life.

She consistently reminds me to treat everyone with kindness and to never give up. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to face racism. I like researching past members in the House of Representatives, and I came across her and managed to look into what she did in her time.

In all honesty, [Women’s History Month] a wonder[ful] learning opportunity for people who may not know about the women that have impacted history. And I love to see it, mainly because I see so much discrimination against women, minorities, everyone, on the internet. It’s disheartening to see, and I love learning about the women who strive for the absolute best. They inspire me to move forward, and women’s history month is very helpful when it comes to inspiration.”

For more on her life/work:

National Women’s Hall of Fame

National Women’s History Museum (MWHM)

– Julianna Pickers, 13

#2- Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana (2020)

December 13, 1989- Present

“Taylor Allison Swift. Taylor is most known for her music. Some fun facts about her are: her lucky number is 13, she used to live on a Christmas tree farm, her first song was called ‘Lucky You’, she has won 10 Grammys and is up for 6 in 2021, she has sold around 40 million albums worldwide, and she recently got her masters back which means she can re-record her old albums.

Taylor using her platform to speak about issues has inspired me to post informative things on my socials even if I don’t have a big following. When I was in preschool/day-care the teachers would always play music before naptime and I only remember listening to Taylor.

Source: Gold Derby

The media portrays Taylor as the kind of woman that dates a new man all the time but that’s far from it. In her 11 year career, she has only dated 10 men, and she has dated her current boyfriend Joe Alwyn for about 4 years.

Woman’s history in my eyes is celebrating all women: mothers, sisters, aunts grandmothers, etc. It is also a month to celebrate all the women before us that fought for us to be where we are now and to celebrate woman today that fight for gender equality for their children.”

– Emily Van, 15

#3- Marsha P. Johnson

August 24, 1945- July 6, 1992

“Marsha is best known for her activism in LGBTQ+ rights, and she was one of the leading figures in the Stonewall Riots of 1969. She also worked with ACT UP to draw attention to the AIDS crisis. In addition to fighting for the civil rights of so many, Marsha had a welcoming presence to all until her mysterious death. She’s a role model to me because she fought for what was right even at the expense of herself.

The ‘P.’ in her name stands for the response she would give when people asked about her gender: ‘Pay it no mind.’

Marsha was never afraid to show the world her true self even when the world wasn’t ready to accept her. She inspires me to be honest with myself and answer to no one other than those important to me. Her activism taught me to be more selfless.

The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)

I learned about her through an interest in history and social media posts about donations to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.

Women’s history month is the celebration of how far women have come, and I think it’s important to teach these achievements. It celebrates all women no matter the hardships they face: Women of Color, Black Women, Disabled Women, Trans Women, Queer Women, Poor Women, Fat Women, Muslim Women, Indigenous Women, and Undocumented Women.”

– Callie Parker, 17

#4- Harriet Martineau

Harriet Martineau. by Richard Evans, 1834

June 12, 1802- June 27, 1876

“Harriet Martineau was one of the very first female sociologists. She recognized a relationship between slavery and the oppression of women and dedicated her time to writing about it. She once said, ‘You better live your best and act your best and think your best today, for today is the sure preparation for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that follow.’

I believe she is an inspiring and important historical figure because she was a great feminist and pointed out the patriarchy to its fullest. Harriet was the mother of sociology and deserves to be known.

I try and think like Harriet Martineau throughout my own fight against the patriarchy. Her independent and standing strong view against oppression is what I strive to maintain in my own character. I believe like her that no one should be oppressed. No one is worth more than anyone else for a person is still a person. The legacy against slavery, oppression, and prejudice is what I hope to keep strong throughout my life.

Image source: Amazon

I [came across Martineau] in my very own high school Sociology class had to complete a fill-in-the-blank worksheet from the sociology textbook. I noticed in the textbook myself the lack of female representation.

Harriet Martineau was the only woman mentioned throughout the two long chapters and even had a significantly shorter section dedicated to her compared to the men in the chapter. I thought this was absurd because through my research she had done far more than was mentioned in the section. So I have been researching her work since then.

Harriet wrote only one book but wrote many, many essays on sociology, religious, domestic, and sexual themes in support of the feminist perspective. As an independent woman, she never married and was ill most of her life. Her writing alone made her enough money to support herself and quoted she wished to buy her own plot of land. Harriet’s parents were utilitarian which greatly inspired her view and, in turn, led her to become an atheist. Lastly, Queen Victoria greatly enjoyed Harriet Martineau’s writing and even invited her to her Coronation when she was just a princess.

Women’s history month means representation and power towards the women throughout history. I believe women’s history month and the fellow minority representative months are extremely important. Everyone should equally be represented and appreciated. Women’s history month makes me feel powerful as a woman and proud of my stand in the world.”

-Gracie Blossom, 17

#5- Sophie Germain

Image source: PBS

April 1, 1776- June 31, 1831

“Sophie Germain was a brilliant mathematician from Paris in 1776. She pretended she was a man and wrote Gauss, another famous mathematician at the time, explaining her mathematical proofs under the name of ‘Antoine-August Le Blanc’. She is credited with the creation of Germain Primes.

‘Double a prime number and add one, and you get another prime. Like two. Two is prime, doubled plus one is five: also prime.’ The biggest one known is 92,305 times 2^16998 plus one.

Math has been stated time and time again that it’s a “man’s” world. The fact that she had to hide her gender just to become one of the most famous mathematicians in the world. I say that pushing past preconceived notions made by people in the past is how I apply her legacy to my life.

[I came across Germain in] a play by the name of ‘Proof.’

Women’s history month to me means women, not just from birth, have the power and strength to be themselves and live with empowerment and strength.”

– Daisy Woodbury, 18

#6- Alice Guy-Blaché

Source: Women Film Pioineers Project

July 1, 1873- March 24, 1968

“She was the first woman to direct and produce a film. This film was produced in 1896, and from then until 1906, she was presumably the only woman filmmaker in the world. Over her career, she produced/helped produce almost 600 silent films and 150 synchronized sound films. In 1910, she started a production studio, called Solax. They produced about 6 known movies. She was also one of the first directors to employ a multi-racial cast, which is a huge deal considering the time period.

Alice Blache did something that wasn’t thought possible at the time, and she paved the way for aspiring women directors or women hoping to get into the cinematography business. Throughout her films, she portrayed multiple [female] heroes, dabbled in the cliche of cross-dressing, and brought to light the importance of working together in a relationship. When I first found an interest in film, I read about her and was instantly inspired.

I noticed that not a lot of directors are women, and I was wondering who was the first woman to direct a movie was, so I did some googling and found out it was her.”

– Wyllow Larsen, 15

#7- Edith Bolling Wilson

October 15, 1872- December 28, 1961

Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Foundation & Museum on Youtube

“[Edith Bolling Wilson] was First Lady of the United States from 1915 to 1921. When the president fell ill, she stepped in as president and ran the country in his place. She did this till the end of the president’s term. I think she is inspiring because she took on the highest leadership role when people thought women couldn’t possibly do anything close to that. An interesting fact about her is that she was a direct descendant of Pocahontas. She was also related to Thomas Jefferson and Martha Washington

I’ve only just heard of her. But I am really inspired by her action to take charge and be a leader. [I heard of her] in history class!

To me, [Women’s History Month is] a celebration for all of the women in the world. For all of the things we went through and are still going through. It celebrates the strength of women, both mentally and physically.”

– Trevi Sheaner, 16

#8- Urduja

Approx. 1350 C.E.- 1400 C.E.

Source: Pedrito Reyes, 1965

“Urduja was a warrior and princess in South East Asian history (scholars have been debating as to whether or not she is a real princess of simply folklore) from what is now Pangasinan– at the time, it was the Kingdom of Tawalisi.

Her story was documented by Ibn Battuta, a medieval Muslim traveler. She led either a co-ed or a strictly female army– the details are muddy– and was quoted saying she would ‘marry no one but him who fights and defeats her in a duel’ (source: enacademic).

Oftentimes, when you look at world leaders throughout history, you study men: Alexander the Great, Herod, Attila the Hun. However, precolonial Philippines operated as an almost-matriarchy (traces of such systems were eliminated post-Spanish influence). France Villarta defines the traditionally feminine role of ‘babaylan,’ which is an equivalent of a shaman.

‘They were the community healers,’ Villarta says, ‘specialists in herbal and divine lore. They delivered babies and communicated with the spirit world. They performed exorcisms and occasionally, and in defense of their community, they kicked some [expletive].’

Princess Urduja wasn’t a babaylan; she focused more on the military aspect and international relations of her land, but she was said by Battuta to harness amazing soft power and diplomacy as well.

Urduja by Fernando Amorsolo,1952

To me, women’s history month means looking at the role women– all women– have played throughout history, and analyzing it from an intersectional angle; with that being said, I do believe we should apply that lens and perspective to our education all twelve months of the year.

I’ve heard of Susan B. Anthony, I’ve heard of Amelia Earhart, but how many women are the faces behind the world around us that we haven’t even heard of?

Although I am not a fan of war, I find myself taking on many leadership positions. I find myself being scared that I’m ‘too bossy,’ or that I’m not nice enough.

I’ve been looked in the eyes and told that women could never lead a country. But here Urduja is– as are countless female world leaders in the present date. Oh, but women are too emotional. To that, I say: doesn’t a proper leader need a proper heart, to better take their people into consideration?

So many of their names have been lost across the years, never made it into the history books, and so many more were never able to achieve what they could have because of the systems or cultures they were born into. For me, I look at Urduja and know that this is what a woman is capable of. This is what she is without a chain of misogyny holding her by the neck.”

-Brianna Ifland, 16

#9- Serena Williams

September 26, 1981- Present

Source: Tennis World USA

“Serena is known for having the most grand slams in the open era (23). I love how strong Serena is and how she perseveres through obstacles. She grew up with a goal and didn’t let anyone stand in the way of her, despite not having a wealthy childhood.

She’s the youngest of five daughters and began playing tennis with her family at only three years old. She made it into the Olympics and managed to win four gold medals during her time there. As well as being a women’s and children’s activist, she donates 10% of her earnings to her charity Priyanka Chopra Foundation for Health and Education. The foundation helps chronically ill kids and their families all around the globe.

Australian Open TV

I remember when I was younger and saw her competing in the Olympics. I love the way that she continues to push through obstacles in her life with gratitude and positivity. She takes every bump in the road as a lesson learned and I think that’s something we all need to do.

Women’s History Month means appreciation. It means taking the time to look back on all of the people who’ve brought us to where we are today. Appreciating our mothers and grandmothers for raising us to commit and never allow ourselves to be pushed around.”

– Makayla Kellem, 16

#10- Sylvia Earle

August 30, 1935- Present

“Sylvia Earle is one of the most renowned female marine biologists; she has done extensive research with National Geographic and has written multiple books [on] marine biology. I think the neatest thing about her is that she was working with a field of men but that never stopped her from doing what she loved. She is also called “Her Deepness” by New Yorker and New York Times.

Source: Mujeres Bacanas

I find marine biology very interesting and I love learning about it, and she is such a fun spirit to watch. She definitely inspired me to dive deeper [into] my studies and I want to learn more about her. I was actually watching a documentary and she came across to speak; from there, I started looking her up and watching stuff she was in.

I think women’s history month is a good way to look back and appreciate the underdogs of our past; however, I also believe that appreciating people should be an everyday occurrence and not just 30 days, y’know?”

– Joia Traver, 17

For more on Earle’s work:

Books: The world is blue, Sea Change

Media: She is chairman and president of Mission blue