The society, yesterday and today, are mostly patriarchal, I do not know about tomorrow though. In it men have their say in every little thing and they are believed to be the decision makers. For a woman to establish her identity in such a society takes a great deal of courage. However, while in this social setting many prefer to submit to the authority which men exercise, there are others who defy the norms and build a name for themselves by being instrumental in many impactful changes in the world. These are people who break from the bondages attached to the sect called women and prove that it is not a male-driven society. It depends entirely on the individual, what he or she wants to do to better the world they live in. If these women had been within the threshold of what females are assigned with, then the world would not have been the same.
1. “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” – Anne Frank (1929-1945)
The ‘Holocaust’ during which the Nazi regime put to rest about six million Jewish people was best described in the words of Anne Frank constituting the book ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, she spent most of her life in Netherlands. During WWII, she along with her family had to hide from the Nazis and they chose the building where her father worked which had some concealed room behind a bookcase. At that time, Anne’s father gifted her with a diary where she wrote an account of life they were subjected to. This first-hand account was first posthumously published in 1947 in Dutch. The English translation to it was published in 1952 as ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ and this has since then been translated into several languages and also adapted in numerous plays and films.
2. “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa (1910-1997)
The founder of the ‘Missionaries of Charity’ had only one mission — to serve the needy. Her adherence to the goal of helping the poor and the sick was recognized and earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. All her life she dedicated herself to this work which is still carried on by other religious sisters. By 2012, her charitable foundation had more than 4500 sisters engaged in the service of the needy. Recently, it was made known that the mother will be named a saint. A saint indeed she was!
3. “In societies where men are truly confident of their own worth, women are not merely tolerated but valued.” – Aung San Suu Kyi (1945)
Daughter of great independence figure of Myanmar, General Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi has similar sentiments for her motherland, and wanted democracy. After the assassination of her father and the following independence of the country, she moved to India with her mother Daw Khin Kyi, who was made the ambassador of Myanmar. Then she settled in the UK but in 1988, Suu Kyi revisited her nation after a long time and found it in a state of political unrest. Kyi voiced her opinion against dictatorial rule of General Ne Win, and led a revolt adopting a non-violent approach. In 1990, the national elections were conducted by the military government in which Aung San Suu Kyi marked a tremendous victory, but was denied any power by the junta. Subsequently she was put into house arrest for around 15 years until her release in 2010. ‘The Lady’ as she is popularly known, has been bestowed with numerous awards including the Nobel Peace Prize.
4. “I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn’t win that match. It would ruin the women’s tour and affect all women’s self esteem.” – Billie Jean King (1943)
With 39 Grand Slam titles to her credit, Billie Jean King is undoubtedly one of the best tennis players the world has witnessed. However, what marks her different from the rest is the win she registered in the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ match against Bobby Riggs. She is a supporter of gender equality and her win nullified Riggs chauvinistic views.
5. “Everyone needs to be valued. Everyone has the potential to give something back.” – Diana (1961-1997), Princess of Wales
The Princess of Wales had a heart of gold and apart from the other charitable works she did, she also went to visit patients suffering from terminal illness. Not only humans but the princess also advocated rights of the animals. Even though she did not live long, her good deeds will continue to remind us of her.
6. “Democracy is the best revenge.” – Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007)
She broke the shackles and became the first woman to lead an Islamic state. Having been elected the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan, she tried her best to provide the best environment for her people by removing dictatorial rule from her country and advocating the rights of women. She continued the great work until her assassination in 2007.
7. “There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.” – Michelle Obama (1964)
Michelle Obama, the better half of the 44th President of the United States, but this is not where her introduction ends. She has achieved success and established herself as a lawyer, author, social activist and visionary. From her father she learnt to be dutiful and her mother taught her many lessons of life. She is engaged in much progressive work like spreading the importance of higher education, trying to improve the condition of the needy and organizing health awareness programs. Today she has become an inspiration for every woman around the world.
8. “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey (1954)
Brought up by a teenage mother single-handedly, Oprah did not have an easy childhood, where she had to deal with extreme poverty. However, with her will-power and self-confidence she soared high in her chosen career and today Oprah Winfrey has not only turned into a billionaire, but also has many awards and prestigious titles to her credit.
9. “I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results.” – Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
‘International Nurse Day’ is celebrated every year on her birthday; this is the impact she had on the profession. In spite of being born into a rich family, she took up nursing as a career and during the Crimean War, along with the nurses she had trained, took care of the wounded soldiers. She was often seen carrying a lamp while visiting patients at night, hence the name ‘The lady with the lamp’.
10. “I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.” – Madonna (1958)
This multi-talented personality has cemented her name in the music industry. Apart from singing she has dabbled in song-writing, acting, dancing, business and many more. She dared to face criticism and crossed the line of conventionality. Today she is known for her uniqueness which has helped grow into a millionaire.
11. “Each coming together of man and wife, even if they have been mated for many years, should be a fresh adventure; each winning should necessitate a fresh wooing.” – Marie Stopes (1880-1958)
When talking about sex publicly is still considered embarrassing and obscene, this lady brought forward this topic in the 20th century and was instrumental in the throwing light to the significance of birth control. She did not advocate abortion and believed that birth control measures are enough to avoid unwanted pregnancy.
12. “Fashion is not frivolous. It is a part of being alive today.” – Mary Quant (1934)
This fashion designer put together her creativity and redefined fashion in the 60s. Quant is often regarded as the one who brought in the trend of miniskirts and hot pants.
13. “If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.” – Kathryn Bigelow (1951)
We agree with her when she said she can neither change her gender nor can she stop making films, and we say she should not because she is good at what she does. The Oscar she won as a director for the movie ‘The Hurt Locker’ proved that she is exceptionally talented. With this she became the first woman to be receiving the Academy Award for direction.
14. “Please know that I am aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others.” – Amelia Earhart (1897-1937)
The first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Earhart, did not want anything to stop her from achieving her goals just because she was a woman. She had the courage to take up challenges and emerged a winner. When she was about to take a solo trip around the globe, her flight went missing. However, we believe that she did not have any regrets.
15. “Fashion fades, only style remains the same.” – Coco Chanel (1883-1971)
Coco Chanel revamped the concept of fragrance with her signature scent Chanel No. 5. She was also a fashion designer who changed the fashion sense of women during the post-World War I era.
16. “Nobody in Europe will be abandoned. Nobody in Europe will be excluded. Europe only succeeds if we work together.” – Angela Merkel (1954)
A research scientist and German politician, Angela Merkel definitely is a symbol of gender equality. She is the first female Chancellor of the most powerful country of Europe and is also the first lady to lead the ‘Christian Democratic Union’.
17. “You gotta have style. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it you’re nobody. And I’m not talking about a lot of clothes.” – Diana Vreeland (1903-1989)
Former editor-in-chief of the renowned fashion magazine ‘Vogue’, Diana Vreeland was also a columnist and with her writing she influenced the industry to a great extent. In 1964, her name was inducted into the ‘International Best Dressed List’ Hall of Fame.
18. “Hard work keeps the wrinkles out of the mind and spirit.” – Helena Rubinstein (1870-1965)
Helena Rubinstein’s journey from Poland to Australia proved to be the most significant journey of her life. When she arrived at Australia, she was penniless but was carrying some cream with herself. When she realized that there were business prospects in cosmetics, she began to produce her own range with the help of grease obtained from sheep wool and other sweet smelling components such as lavender and water lilies. Her cosmetic product worked wonders and she became one of the richest women of her times.
19. “You can bind my body, tie my hands, govern my actions: you are the strongest, and society adds to your power; but with my will, sir, you can do nothing.” – George Sand (1804-1876)
French literary figure and memoirist Amantine Lucile Dupin was best known by her pseudonym George Sand. Other than using a male name, she also wore attire made for the masculine section, implying gender equality. During the ‘French Revolution of 1848’ she even began publishing her own newspaper.
20. “If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.” – Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)
Margaret Thatcher was the first and only female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, as well as the longest-serving in the position. During her long-running political career, Thatcher implemented various policies and they together came to be known as ‘Thatcherism’. Before embarking into politics, she was a research chemist and then became a barrister. Taking a chronological view of her career, we can say that a certain Soviet journalist rightly nicknamed her the ‘Iron Lady’.
21. “We are here not because we are law-breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law-makers.” – Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928)
Today women have equal voting rights as men but decades ago this was not the case. Emmeline Pankhurst led the ‘Suffragette’ movement in which several women participated, thus getting the right to vote (women’s suffrage).
22. “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” – J.K Rowling (1965)
A book and a few years is what it took novelist J.K. Rowling to reach the pinnacle of success and progress from an underprivileged state to that of a millionaire. She has been regarded as one of the best-selling authors of all times and it was only her conviction that kept her going even when it seemed impossible to get two square meals a day. She was once quoted saying about her financial state, “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless”.
23. “If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.” – Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003)
This yesteryear’s actress reigned over the Hollywood film industry for more than 60 years and was well-known for her unconventional roles. Katharine Hepburn has 4 Academy Awards for Best Actress to her credit and this is the highest number of the honors any actress has earned till date. The ‘American Film Institute’ named her the ‘greatest female star of Classic Hollywood Cinema’.
24. “A large part of the present anxiety to improve the education of girls and women is also due to the conviction that the political disabilities of women will not be maintained.” – Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929)
Millicent Fawcett was a feminist and one of the most prominent figures of the ‘Suffrage movement’ but unlike the other suffragettes, her mode of fight for the rights of women was not vehement. She laid much importance to higher education of women and was a co-founder of the ‘Newnham College’, Cambridge. She also presided over the ‘National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).
25. “I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else – I can give my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.” – Queen Elizabeth II (1926)
Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne in 1952 and since then she has been the Queen of the United Kingdom. During the past 60 years, the UK has seen numerous ups and downs and the queen always stood by her subjects. During her reign 12 countries gained independence and she is the queen to all these nations too.