6 historical female activists to celebrate this Women's History Month

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, the legacies of past and present trailblazers, activists and overall badass warriors will continue to live on.

Here are a few women who left their mark on American politics, society and culture, exemplifying what it means to be a strong female role model.

Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)

Marsha P. Johnson was a transgender activist, drag queen and performer.

In New York’s Greenwich Village, Johnson turned to prostitution to survive and found a like-minded community in the village’s nightlife. She became infamous for her unique costume creations as a self-made drag queen.

She was known as “Black Marsha” before settling on the name Marsha P. Johnson — the “P” standing for “Pay It No Mind.” She became a well-known figure in the LGBTQ+ community as a “drag mother,” where she helped homeless and struggling LGBTQ+ youth.

She toured the world as a drag queen, spoke out against injustices and co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR, with her friend Sylvia Rivera.

Johnson is most famously known as the instigator of the Stonewall Inn riot of 1969, and is recognized as an icon to the LGBTQ+ liberation movement.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931)

Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a prominent journalist, activist and researcher in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She faced sexism, racism and violence to shed light on the conditions of African Americans in the South.

Wells-Barnett was a school teacher in Tennessee, but her career ended when she wrote a series of articles denouncing the education provided to Black children.

When a friend was lynched on false charges, Wells-Barnett wrote a scathing attack against the practice as well as other articles that challenged violence against Black people.

Her most notable accomplishment was co-founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or the NAACP. She also marched in suffrage parades and worked to block the segregation of schools in Chicago.

Dolores Huerta (1930-present)

Dolores Huerta is a Mexican-American civil rights activist, feminist and political organizer who spent her career fighting for farmworkers and women’s liberation.

Huerta co-founded the Stockton branch of the Community Service Organization, or the CSO, and founded the Agricultural Workers Association. She set up voter registration drives and pressed local governments for improvement of barrios, or Spanish-speaking neighborhoods.

After meeting CSO Executive Director César E. Chávez, the two left the organization and formed the National Farm Workers Association in 1962.

She was instrumental in the enactment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, which was the first law of its kind in the United States. It gave farm workers in California the right to organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions.

While in New York, Huerta came into contact with the growing feminist movement and began to consciously challenge gender discrimination in the farm workers’ movement.

Evelyn Yoshimura (1948- present)

Evelyn Yoshimura is an Asian American activist whose family was relocated to a Japanese internment camp during WWII.

Yoshimura grew up in a predominately Black community during the civil rights era of the 1960s. After graduating from high school she attended California State University, Long Beach, where she helped develop its Asian American Studies program.

Yoshimura was one of the founders of Amerasia Bookstore, a cultural institution in Little Tokyo. She was also a staff member of Gidra, the innovative Asian American publication that featured a provocative mix of journalism, graphic art and social, cultural and political commentary.

Digital copies of Gidra can be viewed here.

Deb Haaland (1960-present)

Deb Haaland was the first Native American to serve as cabinet secretary. She is a member of the Laguna Pueblo Indians Tribe and a 35th generation New Mexican.

Haaland served as a tribal administrator at San Felipe Pueblo and became the first woman elected to the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors.

She also successfully advocated for the Laguna Development Corporation to create policies and commit to environmentally friendly business practices.

Haaland also served in Congress, where she focused on environmental justice, climate change, missing and murdered indigenous women, and family-friendly policies.

Gloria Steinem (1934-present)

Gloria Steinem is a writer, political activist and feminist organizer who founded Ms. magazine. Her books include The Truth Will Set you Free, but First it Will Piss you Off!: Thoughts on Life, Love and Rebellion and My Life on the Road.

Steinem also co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus, The Ms. Foundation for Women and the Women’s Media Center.



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