Born to parents who were bonded slaves, Harriet Tubman life was a difficult one from the very beginning. Yet with her remarkable courage and determination, she not only escaped slavery herself, but also led other enslaved people to freedom. The prominent political activist and abolitionist was also the first woman to lead an armed expedition during the American Civil War.
Susan B. Anthony's vital role in the women's suffrage movement changed the course of history. She led one of the two national suffrage organizations, which later became the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Susan as its leading force. She also played an instrumental role in publishing The Revolution, a women's rights newspaper.
Sojourner Truth was an American women's rights activist and abolitionist. Born into slavery, Truth escaped to freedom in 1826. She then approached the court to recover her son, subsequently becoming the first black woman to emerge successful against a white man in such a case. In 2014, she was named in Smithsonian's 100 Most Significant Americans of All Time list.
A prolific author, having written 12 published books and several articles, Helen Keller was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her autobiography, The Story of My Life, made Keller famous and was adapted for film and stage. She was also an activist and campaigned for women's suffrage, labour rights, socialism and other such causes.
American women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton first came to know about laws that discriminated against women while studying law books in the office of her father, who was a prominent judge. She later became the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association and co-wrote books such as The Woman's Bible.
Dorothy Day was an American social activist, journalist, and anarchist. She is best remembered for co-founding the Catholic Worker Movement along with French activist Peter Maurin. She also co-founded a newspaper called Catholic Worker and served as its editor between 1933 and 1980. In 2001, Dorothy Day was made an inductee of the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Alice Paul was an American Quaker, feminist, suffragist, and women's rights activist. She is best remembered for strategizing events like the Silent Sentinels and the Woman Suffrage Procession, which resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920. Alice Paul often displayed courage while confronting police brutality for her activism.
W. E. B. Du Bois was an American civil rights activist, sociologist, and Pan-Africanist. Du Bois played an instrumental role in fighting for full civil rights for people of color around the world. A co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Du Bois also played an important role as the leader of the Niagara Movement.
Sarojini Naidu was an Indian poet and political activist. An important figure in the Indian Independence Movement, she was a proponent of anti-imperialistic ideas, women's rights, and civil rights. Her illustrious career as a poet earned her the nickname Nightingale of India. After India became independent, she became the first woman to hold the office of Governor in the Dominion of India.
Mary McLeod Bethune was an American civil rights activist, educator, womanist, humanitarian, and philanthropist. She is credited with founding the National Council of Negro Women. Bethune also played a key role in the creation of the Black Cabinet while serving as an adviser to Franklin Roosevelt. In 1973, Bethune was made an indutee of the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Jack London was an American novelist, social activist, and journalist. A pioneer of American magazines and commercial fiction, London was one of the first authors from the US to become an international celebrity. His life and work inspired several films, such as the 1943 movie Jack London and 1980 film Klondike Fever. He was also portrayed in several TV series.
Jeannette Rankin scripted history as the first female member of the US Congress. A feminist, she was also associated with the women’s suffrage movement. Earlier, the Republican worked as a dressmaker, a furniture designer, and a teacher. She was the only legislator to vote against war after the Pearl Harbor incident.
Margaret Sanger was an American writer and sex educator. She is credited with popularizing the term birth control. A birth control activist, Sanger established the first birth control clinic in America. She also set up organizations that later became the well-known non-profit organization Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She also played a key role in legalizing contraception in the US.
Annie Besant was a British theosophist, socialist, writer, orator, educationist, women's rights activist, and philanthropist. Despite being British, Besant supported India's freedom movement and even joined the Indian National Congress. She is also credited with co-founding Banaras Hindu University. Besant also helped launch the Indian Home Rule movement to campaign for democracy in the country.
Emma Goldman was a writer and anarchist political activist. She played an important role in popularizing the anarchist political philosophy in Europe and North America in the early and mid-20th century. Her lectures and writing spanned a wide variety of subjects, such as atheism, militarism, freedom of speech, homosexuality, capitalism, and free love.
Margaret Fuller was an American journalist, critic, editor, women's rights advocate, and translator. She is best remembered for her association with the transcendentalism movement. Her 1843 book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is widely regarded as the first major feminist book in the USA. An advocate of women's rights, Margaret Fuller was the first female war correspondent in the USA.
Activist Emily Davison is remembered for her relentless fight for women’s suffrage. As part of her protest, at the 1913 Epsom Derby, she went in front of King George V’s horse, to attach suffragette flags to it, and was tragically trampled to death. Some regard her as a martyr for women’s causes.
Victoria Woodhull was an American politician, suffragist, and writer who played an important role in the women's suffrage movement. She is credited with founding Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, America's first newspaper to be founded by a woman. Her life and career inspired the Broadway musical Onward Victoria. In 2001, she was posthumously inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Jane Addams was an American social worker, reformer, settlement activist, public administrator, sociologist, and author. Addams was a prominent leader in the history of women's suffrage and social work in the USA. She is credited with co-founding one of America's most popular settlement houses, the Hull House in Chicago. Addams is also credited with co-founding the American Civil Liberties Union.
Russian philosopher Peter Kropotkin was a passionate advocate of anarcho-communism. He was also an activist, revolutionary, economist, and sociologist. He was arrested and imprisoned for his activism in 1874. However, he managed to escape and lived in exile for over 40 years in different countries across Europe. He returned to Russia after the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Maxim Gorky was a writer and political activist. He is best remembered for founding the socialist realism literary method. Gorky, who was nominated for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature on five occasions, published several novels that were later adapted into plays, films, and operas. In 1938, Valery Zhelobinsky adapted Gorky's novel Mother into an opera.
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was an Indian politician and independence activist. He formulated the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva and was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was known for his strong oratory skills and was an eloquent writer. He was initially charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was later acquitted.
Nobel Prize- and Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Pearl Buck was raised in China by her missionary parents. She grew up to teach English literature in Chinese universities and later penned books such as East Wind, West Wind and The Good Earth, which were based on her experiences in China.
William Lloyd Garrison was an American journalist, abolitionist, social reformer, and suffragist. He is best remembered for founding The Liberator, an anti-slavery newspaper, which was published from 1831 to 1865. He also co-founded the American Anti-Slavery Society which helped fight slavery in the United States. In the 1870s, William Lloyd Garrison was an important figure in the women's suffrage movement.
Giuseppe Mazzini was an Italian journalist, politician, and activist. He played a major role in the Italian revolutionary movement and in the unification of Italy. His efforts gave rise to an independent and unified Italy, which replaced many separate states that were dominated by foreign powers. Mazzini is widely regarded as the most influential European revolutionary.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was an Indian independence activist, Islamic theologian, and scholar. He played a key role in the Indian independence movement, serving as a senior leader of the Congress. His contribution to the Indian education system is recognized across India by celebrating his birthday as National Education Day.
Patrick Pearse was an Irish teacher, barrister, poet, writer, and revolutionary. He was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916. Opinionated with radical views, he decided as a boy that he would dedicate his life to Irish freedom. A relentless idealist, he was executed after the Easter Rising and was immortalized as a symbol of the rebellion.
Indian-born British author Anna Leonowens is best remembered for her memoir The English Governess at the Siamese Court, which related her experience as a governess of the children of King Mongkut of Siam. The musical The King and I and the novel Anna and the King of Siam were inspired by her life.
The first North American Black woman to publish a newspaper, USA-born Mary Ann Shadd was the founder of the Canadian newspaper, The Provincial Freeman. Concurrently serving as its anonymous editor and contributor, she also became one of the first women to pursue journalism in Canada. She was also one of the first Black women to earn a degree in law.
Roger Casement was an Irish nationalist and diplomat. Also a well-known humanitarian activist, Casement is remembered for the Casement Report, a 1904 document in which he wrote about the abuses in the Congo Free State. His investigations of human rights abuses earned him a knighthood in 1911. However, Casement was stripped of his knighthood after being charged with high treason.
Mary Edwards Walker, or Dr. Mary Walker, was the only female surgeon who served injured soldiers during the American Civil War. A dress reform supporter, she believed women should value comfort more than tradition when it came to clothes. She was also the first and only Medal of Honor winner.
Henry Dunant was a Swiss businessman, social activist, and humanitarian. He is credited with co-founding and promoting the Red Cross. In 1901, he became the first Swiss Nobel laureate when he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. Dunant is also credited with founding the Swiss branch of YMCA. His life inspired the 1948 historical drama film, Man to Men.
Lala Lajpat Rai was an Indian politician who played a major role in the Indian Independence movement. He is credited with inspiring many young men, including Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad, to join the freedom struggle through journalistic writings and activism. He was popularly known as Punjab Kesari.
Kasturba Gandhi was an Indian freedom fighter and political activist. Best remembered as the wife of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Kasturba took part in Indian independence movements along with her husband. Her life and career inspired a play titled Kasturba which was written by Narayan Desai and directed by Aditi Desai. The play was staged several times in India.
Born in Ireland, schoolteacher Margaret Elizabeth Noble met Indian spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda in London and, inspired by his ideals, went to Calcutta, where she was renamed Sister Nivedita and began following Brahmacharya. She not only founded a girls’ school in Kolkata but also worked for social upliftment of Indians.
A pioneering leader of the women’s suffrage movement in Britain, Millicent Fawcett also co-established the Newnham College, Cambridge, which was one of the first English women’s universities. She also served as the president of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies and investigated British concentration camps during the South African War.
Apart from being a successful botanist, Marie Stopes was also a popular activist, known for her contribution to the feminist cause. A leading supporter of birth control, she established the UK’s first clinic for family planning. She was also known for her books Married Love and Wise Parenthood.
Zahra Khanom Tadj es-Saltaneh was a princess, women's rights activist, feminist, and memoirist. A multi-talented personality, Taj al-Saltaneh acquired the status of a legendary figure among women while she was still active. The first woman to take off the hijab in court, Zahra organized underground women's rights meetings and led a women's rights march against the monarchy under her father.