In honor of our incredible athletes competing at the Olympics, I’d like to extend our sincerest congratulations to all. But American women are dominating in swimming, gymnastics, and shooting, just to name a few sports. Which left me thinking about strong women in history who helped get us where we are today–figures who made a difference in the world.
We all grew up hearing things like “he hits like a girl” or “he runs like a girl” or “he swings like a girl” or “he cries like a girl”…
What does that mean exactly? I’ll leave the interpretation to individual readers to make, but I’m damn sure it means something entirely different today after watching our female athletes preform like the warriors they truly are.
There’s so many historical figures from across the globe who helped pave the way for us (too many to share here). But I’d like to spotlight several women I love.
In 1878, Susan B. Anthony wrote the Susan B. Anthony amendment, which on August 18, 1920, after her death, turned into the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.
“Women must not depend upon the protection of a man, but must be taught to protect herself.”
-Susan B. Anthony
On November 17, 1558, “Good Queen Bess” (Elizabeth) took the throne after Mary died. Queen Elizabeth had many suitors, but she married none of them. In 1559, she passed the Act of Supremacy that declared her as the head of the church, settling the religious question between the Catholics and the Protestants. She also began to portray herself as the “Virgin Queen.” Elizabeth did many wonderful things for England during her rule. She extended England overseas with John Cabot, William Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake, reduced her council’s size, removed the debased currency in the monetary system, passed a law that all able-bodied men should work the land, and created treaties with Scotland and France in order to end hostilities.
“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too.”
-Queen Elizabeth I
Pocahontas was born in Gloucester County, Virginia, in March 1595. Her real Native American name, given by her father, Chief Powhatan, was Matoaka. Her pet name was Pocahontas, meaning “my favorite daughter” and “frolicsome.” In 1607, settlers came to the Chesapeake Bay area and a man named John Smith, the military leader of Jamestown, was taken prisoner by her people some years later. Pocahontas was the one who saved John Smith’s life, possibly having flung herself over him as he was about to be clubbed to death, but this has not been proven true. After saving him, she urged her Native American people that he be returned to Jamestown and her father, Chief Powhatan, honored her request.
Harriet Tubman was born a slave in Pucktown, Maryland, one of eleven children. Starting at the age of five, Harriet was beaten repeatedly in order to break her strong spirit, and when she was thirteen, she received a fractured skull when trying to defend a slave from his/her cruel master. So, when Harriet was in her teens, she tried to escape the horrors of slavery with her brothers. However, their mission to escape was foiled and they were returned to their masters.
During the summer of 1849, Harriet traded her prize quilt for Underground Railroad information and soon after, she escaped. She had no plan or destination, but she did know to follow the North Star called the “Drinking Gourd” because of a directional Underground Railroad song. Finally, she arrived in Philadelphia, but she soon found that her freedom alone was not enough.
“You’ll be free or die!”
-Harriet Tubman’s motto when a runaway had second thoughts about escaping a life of slavery (Harriet would point a gun at the questioning runaway while saying this to prove her point)
In 1975, Margaret Thatcher won the leadership of the Conservative party and in 1979, the Conservative party became the leading party. Also that year, she became the first female prime minister and held the position from 1979 to 1990. She was also the first person to win the election for three consecutive terms. She decreased the role of the government in the economy of England and privatized housing, education, and health care.
“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”
Agnes took her vows to become a nun in 1937, the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and service to the poor. She also decided that her name would be Theresa after the patron saint of foreign missionaries, Saint Teresa of Lisieux.
Mother Teresa worked as a principal at a high school in Kolkota, but the sight of the sick and dying in the streets made her change her mind of what to do. In 1948, she was allowed to leave her office to help the sick. In 1950, she and her helpers formed the Missionaries of Charity and Mother Teresa was the leader.
In 1952, Mother Teresa established in Kolkota the Pure Heart (Nirmal Hriday) Home for Dying Desititutes and in 1979, she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her accomplishments.
There are no great things, only small things with great love. Happy are those.
Share your favorite historical figure…