March is Women’s History Month, and although it is a national holiday, there are so many women around the world who deserve to be celebrated. In honor of the occasion, I asked students at CHS who they thought was the most influential woman in history. Though there are innumerable influential, admirable women that have shaped the course of history, a few names stood out.
Queen Elizabeth I of England (1532-1603). Dubbed the “Virgin Queen”, Elizabeth, an unexpected heir to the throne, proved to the world that women can be successful without the guidance of a male presence. The Queen refused to marry, ruling without a King for the duration of her reign. Her greatest triumph was the defeat of the Spanish Armada, which to this day is considered one of England’s greatest victories. Her success as a women left the world in awe, and secured a place in leadership for women of the future.
“Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind.”
Margaret Sanger (1879-1966). The birth control advocate revolutionized contraceptives and normalized sex education, improving health and safety for women of generations to come. By promoting the notion that women should have control over their bodies, Sanger became a driving force in the legalization of birth control. In addition, she was a longtime advocate of women’s rights.
“No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether or not she will be a mother.”
Sally Ride (1951-2012). Not only was she a Stanford alum, scientist, and one of NASA’s first six female astronauts, Ride was the first American woman in space. In 1983, Ride boarded the space shuttle Challenger and made history. While on the mission, Ride’s crew became the first to successfully use a robot arm to position and retrieve a satellite. When she retired from NASA, Ride co-founded Sally Ride Science to encourage students to pursue science in their course of study. One giant leap for womankind, I would say.
“The stars don’t look bigger, but they do look brighter.”
Gloria Steinem (1934–). An activist, feminist, and author, Steinem played a major role in the Women’s Rights Movement. By stressing the similarities between men and women and the concept of raising boys and girls the same, Steinem has propelled feminism to new heights. Steinem also works to eliminate child labor, negotiate the death penalty, and end racism. She has published numerous books and documentaries, covering everything from the life of Marilyn Monroe to politics. She also helped to found the Women’s Action Alliance and Ms. Magazine.
“A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”
Michelle Obama (1964–). The beloved first lady left a legacy of leadership and compassion in the White House. An advocate for education, women, African Americans, and families, Obama became a role model for future leaders all around the world. Among her achievements are the Reach Higher Initiative, which promotes higher education; Let Girls Learn, encouraging the importance of education for girls around the world; and Joining Forces, securing the futures of veterans.
“Success isn’t about how much money you make. It is about the difference you make in people’s lives.”
Malala Yousafzai (1997-present). Even as a young girl, Yousafzai has always been a courageous advocate for Pakistani women even amid a dangerous environment. When she was fifteen, Malala was shot in the head on her way home from school in her town of Swat Valley, Pakistan. She made a full recovery, and was not discouraged or frightened by her experience; rather, Yousafzai made it her mission to ensure that every girl could attend school. Her autobiography, I am Malala, and her charity, Malala Fund, have inspired women around the world and helped pave the way for universal female education. In 2014, Malala became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.