American historian Laurel Ulrich once said, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” In celebration of Women’s History Month, here are a few of the millions of brave women that have broken all conventional rules to make a difference in the world.
Susan B. Anthony
Born on February 15, 1820, to a Quaker family, Susan B. Anthony was a central figure in the women’s suffrage movement in the US. The activist, who co-founded the American Equal Rights Association in 1866, spent many years traveling and campaigning for women’s right to vote and own property. She was instrumental in Wyoming’s decision to become the first US territory to allow women to vote in 1869. The busy suffragette was also a vocal opponent of slavery, organizing a Women’s National Loyal League to help support the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Collectively known as the Civil War Amendments, they were designed to ensure equality for the recently emancipated slaves. Anthony also lent her voice to the battle for equal pay and educational opportunities for all, regardless of gender or race. Though she died in 1906 before women were granted the right to vote nationwide, the 19th Amendment, passed in 1920, is often referred to as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.
Anne Frank’s poignant account of Jewish families hiding to escape the tyrannies of German dictator, Adolf Hitler, has touched millions of people around the world. One of two girls, Anne grew up in a prosperous, happy family. However, things changed drastically when Hitler came to power. Though anti-Semitism, or hostility toward Jewish residents, had always existed in Germany, Hitler escalated it to new level, by attempting to decimate the entire race.
To protect the family, Anne's father, Otto Frank, moved them first to Switzerland, and, then in 1934, to Amsterdam. However, in 1940, Hitler invaded and conquered Amsterdam and began sending Jewish families to Nazi concentration camps in Germany. By 1942, Anne and her family were forced to hide inside what she called a “Secret Annex” — a small, two-story attic located inside an office building. Among Anne’s meager possessions was a plaid-covered diary she had received on her 13th birthday. This is where the young girl recorded her frustrations, aspirations, and, the family’s, day-to-day fears and struggles in the tiny house, which they shared with other Jewish refugees for almost two years.
On August 4th, 1944, just as the war was drawing to an end, they were discovered by Nazi soldiers. Anne and her sister were separated from their parents and shipped off to a camp in Berlin, Germany where they died in March 1945 from a deadly disease called typhus. Had they survived one more month, British soldiers would have rescued them, and Anne would have seen her childhood dream of becoming a successful author come true. That’s because even after all these years, her journal, released as a book entitled, Anne Frank: Diary of a young girl, continues to be popular with people across all ages and cultures.
Aung San Suu Kyi
Myanmar (formerly Burma) civil rights leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is an international symbol of peaceful resistance. Born in Yangon (formerly Rangoon), Myanmar, in 1945 to the country’s independence hero General Aung San, Suu Kyi spent the formative years of her life living abroad. When she returned to Yangon in 1988 to look after her sick mother, she found a country desperately trying to gain freedom from the brutal rule of dictator U Ne Win. Determined to bring democracy and restore human rights to her birth nation, in 1988, Suu Kyi established the National League for Democracy (NLD).
Though the NLD won the general elections in 1990, the country’s military regime did not allow them to take control. Suu Kyi’s open displeasure with the oppressive government resulted in her spending much of the time between 1989 and 2010 in prison or under house arrest. In 1991, the political activist was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her ongoing efforts to bring democracy to her country. In 2015, five years after she had been freed from house arrest, Suu Kyi’s NLD Party won a landslide victory in the general elections and was finally able to select the country’s new president. The 70-year-old is currently Myanmar's State Counsellor, a position that ranks above the presidency and allows her to have a say in the country’s affairs.
Born to a Pakistani educator and poet in Mingora, Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, the world’s youngest Nobel laureate (2014 Peace Prize), had an ordinary existence for the first ten years of her life. However, that changed in 2008 when the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group that had taken over the area, declared that girls should not be educated. The enraged eleven-year-old Malala decided to take a stance against these unfair policies. In September 2008, she went to the city of Peshawar and gave a speech entitled, “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?”, in which she openly challenged their decision.
Not surprisingly, the young girl's bravery attracted worldwide attention. In early 2009, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) asked Malala to blog about life and education under the new regime. The young girl, who wrote under the pen name Gul Makai, gave the world a rare glimpse into the Taliban regime. Even after her real identity was leaked in December 2009, Malala continued to fight for women’s right to education. This open defiance did not go down well with the fundamentalists. On October 9, 2012, she and two friends were shot by a member of the Taliban as they were returning home from school. Though her friends escaped with relatively minor wounds, the bullet hit Malala's neck, leaving her in critical condition. Malala was flown to Birmingham, England, where she underwent several surgeries.
The close brush with death only strengthened the young girl's resolve. Since recovering, she has not only continued her fight for girls' education but also, written an autobiography entitled: I am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. Her bravery is inspiring young men and women, all over the world, to stand up for what they believe is right.
Resources: Time.com, alicepaul.com,susanbanthony.org, wikipedia.org,mwhp.org