And now, here are just 6 incredible female revolutionaries to inspire you today
We’re calling it: January 21, 2017 is one for the history books. By now, you’ve probably seen the photos of the crowd sizes at the Women’s Marches. And although we spotted a lot of entertaining signs from the international marches, it seems like most of them made the same basic point: We’re not going to take the infringement of our rights and freedoms lying down. This is not the end. We’re probably going to have to keep fighting to be heard – and we will. So in case you need some inspiration, here are six incredible female revolutionaries from throughout history. Now let’s get back out there and change the world.
Aung San Suu Kyi
In 1988, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi led a revolt against dictator General Ne Win. Her goal? To create a democratic government, and to recover her country from the poverty and corruption of the general’s regime. Suu Kyi spent 10 years under house arrest, and won a Nobel Peace Prize during that time. Now her party is in power, and although she can’t hold the office of president (as the parent of foreign children, she’s precluded from the role), she’s still a key political player.
Olympe de Gouges
In 1791, Olympe de Gouges wrote the Declaration on the Rights of Woman. It was still early days for the French Revolution, and de Gouges believed that women could achieve a lot more. In a postscript addressed to the women of France, she wrote: “Having become free, [man] has become unjust toward his companion. Oh women! Women, when will you cease to be blind? What advantages have you gathered in the Revolution?” Clearly, de Gouges was ahead of her time. If only she had more female revolutionaries by her side to put her words into action. The author was executed in 1793 for “tyranny.”
If Vladimir Lenin was the father of the Russian Revolution, Nadezhda Krupskaya was the mother. That’s not only because she was married to the Bolshevik leader, although it sort of fits. Krupskaya also fought for education all her life. She taught basic literacy and numeracy classes to Russian factory workers illegally, in secret night school classes. Later, she openly opposed (and worked against) Stalin, who in turn barred her name from mentioned in the media.
Rani Velu Nachiyar
In 1780, Rani Velu Nachiyar became the first Tamil queen to fight against the British in India – and she won. The queen had a mind for military strategy, and as a result, she pioneered some terrifying tactics. She also created an all-female regiment, called Udaiyaar (after her adoptive daughter). Although there’s not much written about her, she was commemorated in 2008 on an Indian postage stamp.
One of the most celebrated female revolutionaries of the twentieth century, Emmeline Pankhurst was a leader of the British suffragette movement. (You might also remember Meryl Streep’s portrayal of her in the 2015 film Suffragette.) Pankhurst founded both the Women’s Franchise League and the Women’s Social and Political Union. She served multiple prison terms as a result of her involvement in violent, “militant” demonstrations. She died just 18 days before equal franchise passed in 1928.
Sophie Scholl was a member of the White Rose, an anti-Nazi resistance group that distributed political literature. In one of their leaflets, the White Rose cautioned, “Every word that comes from Hitler’s mouth is a lie.” Scholl’s gender was her secret weapon, since the SS was less likely to stop a girl. Scholl was arrested for treason and subsequently sentenced to death. But even at her trial, she gave a voice to the resistance: “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare to express themselves as we did.”