I grew up watching strong women like my mother and grandmothers. I watched them act like the world was their own and admired them as they took it. As I grew up, I started to see how difficult being a woman in society truly is. I saw the unrealistic standards, the misogyny, the danger. All of it scared me more than I want to admit but by looking closer, I also noticed something else; I saw the strength and persistence of the women of the world as people tried to limit them. This is the same strength I see in my mother and my best friends. The same bravery that I aspire to have in myself. To honor this strength and some of my heroes, I want to spread awareness about the women who have changed and are still changing the world.
Ida B. Wells:
Ida B. Wells’ story inspires me because she was a journalist and activist during the Civil Rights movement who used writing as her source of speech. Many don’t know the story of this young woman, which gives me another reason to share the impact she had on society. Although Ida was forced to battle sexism and racism throughout her lifetime, she never let adversity stop her from speaking out against lynchings. Ida B. Wells was in charge of starting the anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s. She established a group of women who reported the murders and made the public aware of the crimes occurring in history. Ida advocated for the Black citizens of Memphis to move to the West and urged boycotts of segregated streetcars. I always find so much value in a woman of color fighting for her beliefs and Ida B. Wells’s story is worth sharing.
When I started researching Kalpana Chawla for an English project, she quickly became one of the heroes I look up to. Kalpana is known for being the first Indian-born astronaut to go to space. Kalpana grew up as a poor girl with a dream that seemed ‘unrealistic’ or ‘impossible’ in the minds of many: to everyone but Kalpana herself. Chawla’s father and teachers tried to convince her out of her major, due to the fact that it presented limited opportunities for women. Thankfully, Kalpana didn’t listen. She earned a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and became one of the first women to pass at her college. While fighting the adversity of immigration and gaining citizenship, Kalpana worked hard into a job at NASA and completed her first mission as a specialist and robotic arm operator. She traveled 6.5 million miles in space and orbited the earth 252 times. Tragically, on her second mission, Kalpana was killed in an explosion. Although her life was cut short, Kalpana’s story continues to encourage education for young girls in India and inspires them to consider space-based careers, despite how male-dominated the profession is. Her determination and accomplishment in reaching her dream is something I always keep in the back of my mind.
Growing up, Malala’s life always stood out to me. I connected with hearing a story about a girl who used her voice in a country where women were silenced. My parents and I value my education which makes the cause Malala fought for so important to me. Even at eleven years old, Malala voiced the significance of girls’ education in Pakistan. She started a campaign for girls’ education despite the danger in her country. Malala never stopped speaking out, even after she was shot in the head by Taliban terrorists. At age 17, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Prize winner and spoke out for girls in her country and all over the world. Many funds and projects for girls’ education were created in her name and her movements still impact people today.
Coretta Scott King
Although Martin Luther King Jr.’s impact on society will never be forgotten, it is important to recognize his wife’s hard work and effort in the time of the Civil Rights Movement as well. Coretta Scott King was a strong, powerful activist that spent her whole life fighting for human rights. Around 1930, she became a member of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committees. Coretta constantly preached non-violence and equality throughout her campaigns. Even after the death of her husband, she continued to play a critical role in many of the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s. She performed in freedom concerts with poetry and lectures related to the history of civil rights. In addition, she helped to launch the Poor People’s Campaign and participated in efforts to help families struggling in poverty. She utilized her life to improve the lives of others and played an essential part in ending segregation.
Being half Chinese myself, I greatly admire Patsy Mink’s accomplishment of being the first woman of color and the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress and the U.S. House of Representatives. For over four decades, Mink fought for the rights of immigrants, minorities, women, and children. She was known for her compassion and the way she never gave up on working towards equality. Patsy overcame gender and racial discrimination in order to rightfully gain a place in the government. She valued and was an advocate for gender and racial equality, affordable childcare, and bilingual education. In 1990, she served 6 terms on the House of Representatives and stood by Title IX, a major movement that fought for gender equality. One of her greatest triumphs was the Women’s Educational Equity Act in 1974. This act provided $30 million a year in educational funds for programs to promote gender equity, increase educational and job opportunities for women, and put an end to gender stereotypes from textbooks and school curriculums. I love seeing women of color in positions of power and Patsy deserved every part of her title.
All these women have played significant roles in influencing society and the people around them. As a girl growing up in a complicated generation, their efforts and voices will always be important to me. I want everyone to see the beauty of listening to other people’s stories, taking a lesson from them, and using it to reach their own dreams.