Modern-day, intersectional feminism has come a long way and achieved so many amazing things. However, this has only been possible because of the inspiring work done by many women before us. Here are 10 incredible feminists you need to know.
Angela Davis has served as a revolutionary voice for Black women. Davis was crucial in the success of the Civil Rights movement. She has always been on the right side of history, as she has advocated for women’s rights for over 60 years. Despite Davis having been labeled controversial by some, she has been a key leader in the Black Power movement. She has worked as a professor and an activist but is best known for her books like Women, Race & Class. Gender equity, prison reform, and alliances across color lines are some of the most important issues she has fought for. Davis still continues to work as a political activist as recently as 2017, when she co-chaired the Women’s March on Washington.
Gloria Jean Watkins aka bell hooks
The activist known under the pen-name of ‘bell hooks,’ her social activism came to life through writing. Hooks primarily discussed oppression, women’s rights, and race. Many have said that she paved the way for intersectional feminism. Hooks firmly believed that Black women and their stories were pushed to the side, especially during the first few waves of feminism. Because of this, Hooks researched how Black women have been affected by sexism and racism and what that means for Black womanhood and “all-encompassing equality.”
Her most notable books are Ain’t I A Woman? Black Women and Feminism and The Feminist Theory. Within the latter, Hooks stated that “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.”
Maya Angelou was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. Throughout her life, she inspired women and African Americans to overcome gender and race discrimination. Angelou was also a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement and has won an array of awards for her achievements. Angelou has been recognized by many universities globally for her literature.
“I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side”Maya Angelou
Audre Lorde was an American writer, feminist, and civil rights activist. She described herself as a “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” Lorde spent her life addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Lorde did this through her powerful writing and poetry. Lorde’s work was based on what she called her “theory of difference”, or better known in contemporary times as “intersectionality”.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter in 1970, which became the first law journal in the U.S. to focus primarily on women’s rights. In the American Civil Liberties Union, she gave a voice for more women in the law industry by founding the Women’s Rights Project. Not only that, but she also became the second-ever female Supreme Court justice, and, at the time of writing, she still holds this role.
Bader Ginsburg has used her influence to fight for women’s rights at every corner and has been a beacon of female representation in a largely male-dominated Supreme Court. Further, her presence in the Supreme Court has inspired millions of women in the U.S. and globally to pursue a career in Law.
Gloria Steinem was a pivotal leader in the second wave of feminism. Steinem founded one of the first feminist magazines, knowns as Ms. Her literature was pivotal in the second wave of feminism and inspired many women and girls around the world to fight for equality. Steinem exposed the dangerously toxic ‘Playboy’ industry throughout her time as a journalist and has also been a prominent feminist speaker.
“Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.”Gloria Steinem
Kathleen Neal Cleaver
Kathleen Neal Cleaver was a prominent member of the Black Panther Party throughout the Civil Rights movement. Cleaver created the position of communications secretary and helped pave the way for more women to establish leading roles within the movement. Cleaver is now a professor of law after she achieved her Juris Doctor degree from Yale in the late 1990s.
“I think it is important to place the women who fought oppression as Black Panthers within the longer tradition of freedom fighters like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida Wells-Barnett, who took on an entirely oppressive world and insisted that their race, their gender, and their humanity be respected all at the same time. Not singled out, each one separate, but all at the same time. You cannot segregate out one aspect of our reality and expect to get a clear picture of what this struggle is about.”Kathleen Neal Cleaver
Betty Friedan is the activist best known for sparking the second wave feminist movement. Her book, The Feminine Mystique, illuminated the plight of American women during the mid-nineteenth century. Friedan argued that women were socially pressured into becoming homemakers by the idealized image of domestic femininity that was prevalent in the 1950s. She spent her life working to establish women’s equality. Some of her most prominent includes the founding of the National Women’s Political Caucus and the organization of the Women’s Strike For Equality in 1970. These events helped make feminism more mainstream in the U.S. and brought much needed attention to the feminist cause.
As a young, female journalist, Walters often faced sexism for “asking the tough questions.” Walters overcame this by becoming the first female co-host of a news show for NBC. Later, she became the first female co-anchor of an evening news broadcast for ABC News. Her work as one of the first female journalists paved the way for more women in journalism as an industry. Additionally, Walters paved the way for more women to start careers of their own, outside of journalism.
Kate Millett was a second-wave feminist best-known for her book ‘Sexual Politics,’ widely viewed to be the feminist movement’s manifesto.
Within ‘Sexual Politics,’ Millett included an analysis of patriarchal power. She developed the notion that men have institutionalized power over women, and that this power is socially constructed, not innate. Millett’s theory became the foundation of radical feminism. This work articulated the patriarchal power theory to the wider world, thereby launching radical feminism as a relevant and more acceptable new political theory.