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.

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