Feminist Historical Figures

The feminist movement wouldn’t become what it is if it wasn’t for the brave women who spoke up and carried the torch of the women’s equality movement.

These are women who wrote the history, and they provide clues as to uncovering the history of women’s equality movement.

The Suffragettes

These are the women who carried the weight of the First Wave on their shoulders. They fought the good fight and protested for women’s right to vote in 1920.

The leaders of feminism at that time were brave women such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Stone Blackwell, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Sojourner Truth.

Simone de Beauvoir

A vocal feminist, philosopher, and social scientist, in 1949 de Beauvoir wrote The Second Sex, a revolutionary book that opened the floodgates for modern feminism.

In the cornerstone book, de Beauvoir attacked the patriarchal structure of society that discriminates against women. Needless to say, the book raised controversial topics and caused a storm.

The Vatican banned The Second Sex, and others considered it “pornography.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Roosevelt wrote “My Day,” a newspaper column concerning women’s equality issues. Truly, she was a feminist before feminism became cool. At her time, feminism wasn’t even a word.

She was a member in the Women’s Trade Union League and the International Congress of Working Women, as discussed here.

During her time as the First Lady, she continued to continue to defend women’s equality right. After being the First Lady, she served as first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, being the first US delegate to the United Nations.

Marlene Dietrich

While not a political activist, Marlene Dietrich was a feminist fashion icon in her time.

She was the first and only Hollywood actress to wear men’s clothes such as trousers and suits. That was radical during her time because women were forbidden to wear like men. Even in private.

In 1930’s she was almost arrested for wearing pants. She was famous of saying: “I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.”

Rosie the Riveter

A fictional character but a powerful feminist symbol, who doesn’t love the “We Can Do It!” World War II poster?

Rosie the Riveter symbolizes the women’s strengths and sacrifices during the World War by working in jobs that were traditionally assigned to men.

Other Notable Feminists

Betty Friedan: American author and activist who wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963, the manifesto of the Second Wave.

Gloria Steinem: The “Mother of Feminism.”

Angela Davis: A black feminist. Key figure in the Black Power movement.

Bell Hooks: A prolific feminist writer who declared in her book The Feminist Theory, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.”

Huda Sha’arawi: Huda Sha‘rawi was a pioneering Egyptian feminist leader, nationalist, and founder of the Egyptian Feminist Union.

Women’s Activist Groups Everyone Should Know About

It would be impossible to understand the history of women’s equality movement without a modern context.

Today, many women’s activist groups are busy addressing issues including bigotry, hate, and discrimination against women.

Perhaps, by shedding some light on these organization, the history can be revealed.


UltraViolet is one of the fastest feminist organization dedicated to fighting sexism. Seeking to represent all women in politics, government, media, and even pop culture.

Furthermore, their main goals is to promote reproductive rights, healthcare, economic security, violence, and racial justice. There is a focus on women of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ.

National Organization for Women

Established in 1966, The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the largest women’s right organization in the United States.

Hundreds of thousands its members are feminist grassroots activists, joining hundreds of local chapters all around the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

NOW’s mission is to reinforce feminist ideals, change society, end discrimination, and support the equal rights of women and girls.

American Civil Liberties Union

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) fight in courts to defend the basic human right of both men and women.

It’s an organization that gladly take up the most challenging civil liberties cases.

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood advocates reproductive rights for all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, income level, marital status, age, national origin, and sexual orientation.

A champion of diversity, Planned Parenthood encourages people to adopt the value of reproductive self-determination willingly as means to improve quality of life and build strong family bonds.

In essence, it provides healthcare programs for impoverished families.


RAINN stands for Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. It the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States.

In collaboration with more than 1000 local sexual assault service providers all over the nation, RAINN is operating the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

Furthermore, RAINN runs the DOD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense.

It often carry out programs to stop sexual violence, support victims, and make sure sex predators pay for their crimes. Professionals like life coaches and personal trainers frequently call upon RAINN for on-the-spot advice as well as ongoing support related to proper etiquette when dealing with members of the opposite sex.

Other notable feminist groups include Campaign Zero, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and Women’s Prison Association.

Top 10 Books about the History of the Women’s Movement

Without a doubt, the feminist movement came a long way since its beginning. Many feminist history books chronicled the progress and covered the movement in detail.

So, this is a list of top ten feminist history books (according to Goodreads).

1. A Room of One’s Own. Author: Virginia Woolf.

2. The Riot Grrrl Collection. Author: Lisa Darms.

3. Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution. Author: Sara Marcus.

4. A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique & American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s. Author: Stephanie Coontz.

5. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Author: Mary Wollstonecraft.

6. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl. Author: Carrie Brownstein.

7. The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service. Author: Laura Kaplan.

8. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. Author: Gail Collins.

9. For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts’ Advice to Women. Author: Barbara Ehrenreich

10. The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s’ Movement Changed America. Author: Ruth Rosen.

What Does Feminism Look Like in 2018?

Feminists of today continue to fight for the same issues tackled by their foremothers. They continue to build on the previous work.

Some of the main issues they work on include pay equality, sexism against women (misogyny), and reproductive rights of women.

Furthermore, American feminists work on ending violence against women in the United States and the rest of the world.

Since the First Wave, feminists made a lot of progress. However, they still struggle for acceptance and an honest understanding of what it means to be a “feminist.”

To most people, a feminist is an old relic from a forgotten era, a woman with curly hair, or a woman who hates men for no reason. The wide range of feminist issues didn’t help uncloudy the definition either.

In short, it is becoming more challenging to describe how a feminist would look like.

For now, everyone seems to settle for the dictionary definition, which define feminism as: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”

A Short History of Women’s Rights

The history of feminism stretch all the way back to ancient Greece.

As far as modern history concerned, historians divided the History of the Women’s Equality Movement into three waves.

We’re living in the third wave.

The First Wave (1830’s – early 1900’s)
Women’s Battle for Equal Legal Right Concerning Contract and Property Rights

The pioneer feminist women of the late 19th to early 20th were severely oppressed. They had no rights whatsoever.

The first thing they realized they wanted was the opportunity to participate in politics. They saw the right to vote as the only way to start gaining influence. From there, their political agenda widened to include issues regarding sexual, reproductive and economic affairs.

The movement was born upon the cornerstone ideal that women can play an active role in society, equal to or more than men’s role.

The Second Wave (1960’s – 1980’s)
Feminism Gains Ground

With the devastating aftermath of World War II, the Second Wave of feminism came to fruition. Focusing on issues related to workplace, sexuality, family, and reproductive rights, feminism started to gain more ground.

The United States was rebuilding itself and feminists were fighting on more than one front as well. While they did accomplish many equality goals, they failed to stop the Equal Rights Amendment from passing despite their efforts.

While full of change, the Second Wave is viewed as narrow-minded phase of feminism. Why? It was characterized by violence, old beliefs, and extreme obsession of middle class white women’s issues.

In contrast, many feminist during the Second Wave were initiated through minority rights groups including:

  • The Black Civil Rights Movement.
  • Anti-Vietnam Movement.
  • Chicano Rights Movement.
  • Asian-American Civil Rights Movement.
  • Gay and Lesbian Movement.

And other equality rights movement of the era.

Many women who were members of these movements didn’t earn the respect of their peers. Mainly, their voice weren’t as impactful as to make a significant change.

Thus, they shifted their focus on gender equality issues as they saw it the best way to get heard.

The Third Wave (1990’s – Present)
The “Micro politics” of Gender Equality

In 2018, The Third Wave unlike the First and Second Waves, the female population receive the “feminist” word with more open-mindedness.

Due to the expansion of the feminism family of philosophies, styles, and outlooks:

  • Mainstream feminism.
  • Liberal feminism.
  • Radical feminism.
  • Marxist and Socialist feminism.
  • Islamic feminism.
  • Cultural feminism.
  • Eco-feminism.
  • I-Feminism.