Sofia Rosa Bianchi

Today, feminism is a trending topic in the media.  It seems that every millenial girl wants to wear her pink hat and profess her womanhood to all of humanity.  But, perhaps you’d be surprised to learn that years ago, most girls would hesitate to stand beside social pioneers such as Wilhelmina Drucker, Susan B. Anthony, and Gloria Steinem and say, "#MeToo."  The following women paved the road to the new frontier of feminism.  Let's take a moment to tip our pink hats to them.  Here's my list of top 10 female role models who called themselves feminists before it was cool.

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Mary Wollstonecraft  (1759-1797)

English writer and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft is commonly referred to as ‘the mother of classical liberal feminism.’  In other words, Wollstonecraft was a feminist before feminism was even a thing. Wollstonecraft was one of the first of her time to suggest that women were capable of achieving the same kind of personal success in their lifetimes as men through proper education.  In A Vindication of the Rights of Women, (1792) Wollstonecraft encouraged women to combat their emotions in order to prove that emotional irrationality is merely a symptom of a lack of education.  Wollstonecraft argued that educating women would allow all females to perform in accordance with intelligence and reason, as well as realize their fullest potential as human beings.

bSmart words: “I do not wish for women to have power over men, but over themselves.”

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)

This feisty French feminist exploited her genius through novels, autobiographies, and essays.  Simone de Beauvoir was a 20th century author, social theorist, political activist, and existentialist philosopher who dedicated her life to articulating her social theories.  The Second Sex (highly reccommend!) is perhaps her best known publication, where she challenges the social and professional expectations which society places on women.

bSmart words: “A woman is not born a woman, rather she becomes one.”

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)

Rosalind Franklin was an English chemist and x-ray crystallographer whose contributions were instrumental in the discovery of the double helix structure, as well as the molecular structures of coal, viruses, and graphite.  Franklin was a trailblazer for women in science. Her contributions to the discovery of the double helix went unacknowledged when in 1962, colleagues James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.  After finishing work with DNA, Franklin lead a study on viruses where team member Aaron Kluck continued Franklin’s research, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1982.  Franklin died at the age of 37 from ovarian cancer, and was only ever acknowledged for her groundbreaking contributions to biochemical research after her death. In her lifetime, Rosalind Franklin would never see the influence that she would have on the women-in-science community, yet her humble discoveries have lead a lasting legacy which continues to reign today.

bSmart words: “Well, anyhow, how do you know He isn’t She?”

Lucy Stone (1818-1893)

‘Morning Star’ Lucy Stone was a vocalist, suffragist, abolitionist, and advocate for women’s rights in the 19th century.  In 1947, Stone became the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree. At a time when women were discouraged from public speaking, Lucy Stone became the founder of the long-running Women’s Journal. In Women’s Journal, Stone aired her feminist views on a weekly basis, and had earned herself the nickname the ‘heart and soul’ of the Women’s Rights Movement.  Stone helped to form the American Woman's Suffrage Association which achieved tremendous gains in woman suffrage at the state and local levels.

bSmart words: “I believe that the influence of woman will save the country before any other power.”

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

Where would our country stand today, if it weren’t for Susan B. Anthony?  Susan B. Anthony was a social reformer who moved mountains for the women’s suffrage movement.  After having been prevented from speaking at a temperance conference, Anthony, alongside close friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founded the New York Women’s State Temperance Society in 1852.  Alongside Cady-Stanton, Anthony co-founded the Women's Loyal National League (1863), The American Equal Rights Association (1866), and The National Woman’s Suffrage Association (1869). Anthony is also largely responsible for the ratification of The 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

bSmart words: “I declare to you that woman must not depend on the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)

The determined Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a leading lady of the early women’s rights and women’s suffrage movements.  As president of the National Woman Suffrage Association from 1892-1900, Stanton organized events and made speeches expressing her views.  Stanton was also the first of the early women’s rights movement to extend her concerns beyond suffrage, but to parental and custody rights, property rights, divorce, birth control, and employment and income rights.  Many believe that Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, is what first initiated the first women’s rights and women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

bSmart words: “Self development is a higher duty than self sacrifice.”

 

The influence of woman will save the country before any other power. - Lucy Stone


Alice Walker (1944-Present Day)

Alice Walker is an American novelist, poet, short-story writer, and activist.  Her beloved novel The Color Purple captured the hearts of audiences nationwide, earning her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1982.  Other works include Meridian (1976), The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970), and The Temple of My Familiar (1989).  Walker is an avowed feminist, and is also responsible for coining the term ‘womanist’, an inclusive term, made to integrate black women into the feminist label.

bSmart words: “No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”

Wilhelmina Drucker (1847-1925)

Wilhelmina Drucker was a woman ahead of her time.  As the first Dutch feminist, she made a large impact throughout Europe through her political appearances and her writing.  Drucker addressed representatives from Germany, Austria, and Italy at the International Socialist Labor Congress of 1891 to call for full political and legal equality of men and women. This policy was then adopted by the Labor Congress.  This helped for feminism to begin to integrate itself throughout Europe at a time when feminism was still in its infancy.

bSmart words: “Where the men fight, the woman wins.”

Gloria Steinem (1934-Present Day)

...And last but not least, Gloria Steinem.  Gloria Steinem might have been the woman who made feminism cool.  (Correction: It was always cool--but for a dark time nobody knew.)  In 1963, Steinem went undercover as a Playboy ‘Bunny’ to write ‘A Bunny’s Tail’, making her a household name.  Then, just at the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement, Steinem published an article in 1969 for her column in New York Magazine called ‘After Black Power, Women’s Liberation.’  The article exploded in the media, making Steinem famous overnight as a national feminist leader. Steinem has a number of published works, including Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983), Marilyn: Norma Jean (1986) and Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (1992).  She is also the founder of Ms. Magazine which launched in December of 1971. Gloria Steinem has appeared internationally as a spokeswoman for feminism and equality.  Ms. Steinem is also a breast cancer survivor of over thirty years. Steinem’s contributions to American Feminism have earned her the nickname: ‘The Mother of American Feminism.’

bSmart words: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”

 

Sofia Bianchi is currently a student Fordham University and a fresh alum of the School of American Ballet, the premiere training grounds for young dancers in America. She is the creative coordinator of the ballet curriculum at the Middletown Arts Center in Middletown New Jersey, where she teaches ballet to young students. Sofia is currently exploring different facets of her creativity and hopes to become successful as a publisher, editor, or novelist.

 

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