12 Women In History Who Changed Your Life

Honoring some of the badass women who took on civil rights, women's suffrage, racial equality, environmental justice, reproductive rights (and more) and changed your life for the better.

Claim to Fame: First woman appointed to the Supreme Court.

Appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981, O'Connor was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, where she served until her retirement in 2006. She cast the deciding vote in 1992's Planned Parenthood v Casey, where she defended women's right to abortion. 

"The power I exert on the court depends on the power of my arguments, not my gender."


Claim to Fame: Abolitionist 

After escaping slavery, Tubman dedicated her life to helping other escape, too. She was a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad and also served as a Union Spy during the Civil War.

"Slavery is the next thing to hell."


Claim to Fame: First woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo. 

She went on to write best selling books about her flying experiences, was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety Nines, or organization for female pilots, and was also a member of the National Women's Party, an early supporter of women's rights. She attempted to fly around the world in 1937, but her plane disappeared and was never found. 

"Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn't be done"


Claim to Fame: First American woman in space

Sally fought sexism and took a historic flight into space in 1983. At a press conference, reporters asked her if she cried when things went poorly or if space flight would "affect her reproductive organs", to which she replied, "there's no evidence of that".

"Studying whether there's life on Mars or studying how the universe began, there's something magical about pushing back the frontiers of knowledge,"


Claim to Fame: Suffragist and activist

Paul was very involved in the suffragist movement and was the main strategist behind the push for women's right to vote. She was arrested a number of times while fighting for her cause, and went on hunger strikes while she was in prison. Paul helped secure the passing of the 19th amendment to the constitution in 1920, which gave women the right to vote. 

"When you put your hand to the plow, you can't put it down until you get to the end of the row"


Claim to Fame: Feminist Leader and author of The Feminine Mystique

Betty wrote the iconic feminist book, The Feminine Mystique, which addressed, what she called, "the problem with no name"- the depression and discontent of women forced by society to take on the role of a homemaker. She also helped form two of the biggest women's rights organizations- the National Organization for Women and the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (which developed into NARAL Pro Choice America). 

"A girl should not expect special privileges because of her sex, but neither should she adjust to prejudice and discrimination"


Claim to Fame: Activist. Changed the role of the First Lady.

During her tenure as First Lady, she advocated for civil rights, minority rights and advocated for the end to lynching. Once out of office, and after pressuring the U.S to join the United Nation, she served as the first chair of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. She also served as chair of JFK's Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. 

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent"


Claim to Fame: A civil rights hero.

Parks inspired a revolution when she refused to give up her seat to a white passegner on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to which she was arrested. Her courage drew national attention and inspired a boycott of buses that lasted 381 days. The following year, the Supreme Court declared bis segregation unconstitutional. 

"Each person must live their life as a model for others"


Claim to Fame: Pioneer for mental health treatment. Created the first generation of mental asylums. 

While teaching at a women's prison, Dorothea discovered the appalling treatment of the prisoner, particularly those with mental health issues. She began traveling around the state of Massachusetts to other local prisons and poorhouses to investigate the quality of life and living conditions of prisoners and the insane. She took her research and outrage to the state legislature, which eventually led to the creation of the first mental institutions. But her fight didn't stop there. She went on to found or add additions to hospitals in Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Maryland, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina.

“In a world where there is so much to be done. I felt strongly impressed that there must be something for me to do.”


Claim to Fame: Champion of women's sports, Tennis champion with 39 Grand Slam titles. 

King won 6 Wimbledon championships and 4 U.S. Open titles. Beyond that, King is a very outspoken champion in the fight for equality in professional sports. King beat Bobby Riggs, who was 30 years her senior, during a Battle of the Sexes tennis match in 1973, a win for female athletes everywhere. That same year, she famously threatened to boycott the U.S. open unless women were given equal prize money. King also founded the Women's Tennis Association and was Sports Illustrated's first female to be named "Sportsperson Of The Year". 

"Don't let anyone define you. You define yourself"


Claim to Fame: First deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree

Keller didn't let the fact that she was blind and deaf stop her from anything- making her a hero to all people, especially those with disabilities. She dedicated her life to improving the conditions of the blind and deaf around the world, lecturing in more than 25 countries on 5 continents. Keller was a member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World and also campaigned for women's suffrage, labor rights, socialism and antimilitarism. Keller's teacher Anne Sullivan, is no less a hero and is remembered as "the Miracle Worker" for her lifetime dedication, patience and love to Helen. 

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us."


Claim to Fame: Physicist and Nobel Peace Prize winner

Curie was a physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research in radioactivity. She developed the theory of radioactivity, which helped form the basis of much of the science we have today. The importance of her work is reflected in the numerous awards bestowed on her.  She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice and the only person to win twice in multiple sciences. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.

"I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy."

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