We’re all familiar with certain famous females in history: Marie Curie, Maya Angelou, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks. But there are many lesser-known sheroes who have also brought peace, truth, and justice to the world.
I find inspiration from so many women and what they have done for others generations ago and those of us living today. I hope you are able to feel these women’s strength, their courage, and their determination for a better world as you read about these sheroes!
We all know the story of Paul Revere’s famed midnight ride. But did you know that a 16-year-old Sybil Ludington rode TWICE the distance Revere did to warn of the incoming arrival of British armies? She also saved her father, a colonel during the American Revolution, from capture by lighting candles around their home and instructing her siblings to march in front of windows to give the illusion of troops guarding the home.
Nellie Bly was a late 19th century investigative journalist who famously exposed the inhumane treatment of patients at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Backwells Island. She faked insanity to infiltrate the asylum and survived deplorable treatment. She later published a detailed account of her experiences in a book titled “10 Days In A Madhouse”, which helped bring about asylum reform. Nellie Bly is also famous for setting a record for traveling around the world in 72 days!
Lyda Conley made history as being one of the first Indigenous women to serve as an attorney. Together with her three sisters, she campaigned to preserve the Huron Cemetery in Kansas City, a native burial ground. Ever the warrior for what she believed in, Conley went before the Supreme Court in the first historical case to demand that Native burial grounds be granted federal protections. Nearly 50 years after Conley passed away, the site of her burial in Huron Cemetery was renamed Wyandot National Burial Ground and has been declared a National Historic Landmark.
Sophie Scholl was a 21-year-old German student belonging to a group of young peace activists called The White Rose that opposed the Nazis. Scholl, her brother Hans, and their friend Christoph Probst were arrested for handing out leaflets with anti-Nazi sentiments. All three were convicted of treason and sentenced to death. Her final inspiring words were: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day and I have to go. But what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
Septima Poinsette Clark
The work of Septima Poinsette Clark in guaranteeing voting rights for Black men and women is immeasurable. As an educator in Charleston, she joined forces with the NAACP to petition to allow black men or women to serve in administrative positions in schools. These petitions resulted in the first black principal to ever serve. Teaching literacy was also a cause that Clark felt strongly about. She received recognition for her lifetime of work in 1979 with a Living Legacy Award, awarded by President Jimmy Carter.
Daisy Bates and her husband started their own newspaper, The Arkansas State Press, one of the earliest publications to approach the topic of civil rights years before the movement gained momentum. During Lyndon B. Johnson’s Administration, Daisy Bates served on the Democratic National Committee and worked tirelessly on anti-poverty programs for the betterment of the people.
Dolores Huerta was truly a woman of the people. She directed a national boycott during the Delano Grape Strike, and brought the struggle of American farm laborers to the forefront. As a result of the boycott, the California Grape industry signed a three year agreement with the United Farm Workers in 1970. Throughout her many years of advocacy, she was arrested 22 times for participating in non-violent protests and strikes. Huerta also traveled the country on behalf of the Feminist Majority’s Femizination Of Power: 50/50 by the year 2000. She encourages Latina women interested in politics to pursue their dreams of running for office. Dolores was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
Sridevi shattered the glass ceiling by being the first woman to star in a Bollywood film without a male co-star. She campaigned for more screen time for actresses and equal pay as well. In 2012, Sridevi made a comeback to Bollywood after taking a break for motherhood and starred in the film English Vinglish, in which she played a wife taking a stand against her boorish husband. Ever the advocate for women and their rights, her comeback film was also directed by a woman.
22-year-old Neerja Bhanot was working as a purser on Pam Am Flight 73 when the plane was hijacked by Palestinian militants on the tarmac. Bhanot alerted the crew so some were able to exit the aircraft through an overhead hatch. When the hijackers instructed Bhanot to collect the passports so they could identify (and presumably kill) all Americans onboard, Bhanot and her fellow flight attendants hid the passports of 43 Americans to protect them. After a 17 hour stand-off, the hijackers began to open fire and Bhanot helped passengers escape through an open door. She was fatally shot while shielding a small group of American children from an onslaught of bullets. In addition to preventing the plane from taking off, her bravery saved the lives of many hostages.
Drag king performer Storme DeLarverie has often been overlooked for her contribution to the Stonewall Riot, which created the celebration of LGBT+ Pride. At the time, the mafia owned the Stonewall Inn and denied entry to any member of the LGBT+ community. A lesbian and drag king, Storme DeLarverie was also denied entry. On June 28th 1969, DeLarverie got into an altercation with a police officer when he punched her. She punched back. She was then hit with a billy club and handcuffed. There was a crowd of gay men, lesbian women, drag queens, and drag kings looking on when Storme implored, “Why don’t do you to something?” And so her words launched the famed riot, which yearly Pride Day celebrates.
Women have done unimaginable things, overcome seemingly insurmountable feats, and rewritten the course of history. Every woman is capable of making an impact like these ten sheroes did. Take a chance, and see your dreams turn to reality. And perhaps one day, your story will be told and you will be remembered for your courage, your tenacity, your bravery, your resilience, and your contribution to the good of humankind for millennia to come.
Ashley Hodge is a 20-something writer/musician and women’s rights activist. She is a former beauty/special FX makeup artist who put down the makeup brushes and raised her fist in solidarity to help fight the social injustices against women all over the world. When she’s not crusading for social justice and defeating bigotry in all its forms, she also enjoys feeding her soul with musical theatre, red lipstick and Ghirardelli brownies.