When the 20th century began, the situation of women was not as it was at the end of it. Neither was awareness of the importance of equality. If we have advanced so much, it has been due to the work, without rest and without pause, of hundreds of thousands of women who, all over the world, who embraced the feminist cause and decided to fight for our rights, which we enjoy today. Here are some of their stories.
1. Clara Zetkin (Germany)
Politician, activist, strongly believed in a universal movement for women's rights. Zetkin was the one who pointed out the need to have an international day in which to claim the role of women in society. Thanks to her, we celebrate March 8 as Working Women's Day around the world, which was recognized by the United Nations in 1975.
2. Virginia Woolf (UK)
During her life she defied norms and with her work she was a precursor of modern feminism. She pointed out the importance for women of having a 'room of their own', which she referred to in her book of the same name, to create and develop as a person. In addition, she wrote about the need for women's economic independence and was one of the first people to talk about gender as a fluid concept. If you haven't read any of hers, run to 'A Room of One's Own' – one of Maeve's favorite books in 'Sex Education', 'Orlando' or 'Mrs. Dalloway'. They are all exceptional.
3. Clara Campoamor (Spain)
In addition to being a lawyer, politician and activist, she is perhaps the most recognized Spanish feminist in history because she became the voice of all in her defense in Congress of the right to women's suffrage . Campoamor convinced and, in 1931, universal suffrage was approved in Spain. It was not her only feminist struggle, she also achieved equality for boys and girls born out of wedlock, divorce and compulsory primary education for girls.
4. Simone de Beauvoir (France)
Considered one of the founders of modern feminism, the great French writer and philosopher published "The Second Sex" in 1949, one of the essential works of the movement, where she analyzes the situation of women, the misogyny of society and the patriarchal system. One of his mythical phrases is: 'You are not born a woman: you become one'.
5. Betty Friedan (USA)
In the series 'Mrs. HBO's America' – if you haven't seen it, you're already late – Friedan shows up in his legendary sulky mood. But this writer and activist for women's rights was much more. Her work 'The mystique of femininity' focused on the submission of middle-class women and how the lack of individual freedom affected them and led them to depression or alcoholism. Published in 1963, in the midst of the golden age of idealized housewives, the book was a success. Three years later, she founded the National Organization for Women (NOW), an organization of feminist groups that today continues to work for women's rights in health, employment, education, etc.
6. Nawal El Saadawi (Egypt)
Doctor, writer and psychiatrist, she published more than 50 books on the problems of women in the world. A great feminist warrior who spoke about taboo subjects such as female genital mutilation -which she herself suffered at the age of 6-, or religion as tools of oppression of women. She was imprisoned in 1981 for criticizing her country's regime, but turned her stay in prison into an opportunity to write her memoirs on toilet paper rolls. In 2020, 'Time' magazine named her one of the 100 most influential women of the year. "Feminism is freeing the mind from the patriarchal system, religion and capitalism, which are the main threats to women", is one of her most famous quotes.
7. Gloria Steinem (USA)
Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities, Gloria Steinem, journalist and creator of 'Ms', one of the first feminist magazines, has been campaigning for women's rights all her life. A great communicator, she is an emblematic feminist who has never tired of reminding herself that feminism is a universal movement to "make life fairer for women around the world." But, as she always remembers, women do not aspire to eat a piece of the cake, but to make a new one, equally.You can see her in action in 'The Glorias', a film by Julie Taymor based on her biography, or in 'Mrs America', the HBO series.
8. Angela Davis (USA)
A feminist, LGTBI and anti-racist philosopher and activist, Davis is an icon of all movements for equality. Ahead of her time and critical of what she calls 'white feminism', she is one of the movement's great theorists of intersectionality, since she believes that gender equality cannot be conceptualized "without bringing racial equality to the fore." and economic”. She has also pointed out that binarism "prevents us from understanding the fluidity and multiplicity of gender consciousness and expression." His life is like a movie and he was even included in the list of the 10 most wanted people by the FBI.
9. Marcela Lagarde (Mexico)
Professor of Anthropology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, she is one of the great theoreticians of the feminist movement, with books such as Los captiverios de las mujeres (Siglo XXI Editores) and her accurate analyzes of the gender violence, the myths of romantic love or the care economy. In addition, Lagarde used the term femicide to describe the situation of women in Ciudad Juárez and managed to create a Special Commission to investigate these murders. He also directed an investigation on Feminicidal Violence in Mexico, which concluded that the problem is extensive throughout the country. The academic, in addition, was the one who brought the term sorority, accepted in 2018 by the RAE, to the Spanish language as "an complicit way of acting between women", which translates into a 'sororo feminism'. If you have seen posters like 'if they touch one, they touch us all' in the 8M demonstrations, they come from his vision of the movement. Currently, Lagarde is part of the UN Women's International Civil Society Advisory Group and is part of the Editorial Board of 'Hypatia', a collection of the Andalusian Women's Institute.
10. Rita Segato (Argentina)
Argentine writer, anthropologist and activist whose work is fundamental to understanding current feminism. She has given a name, among others, to the concept 'mandate of masculinity' , which refers to the obligation of domination that falls on men and whose main condition is to control women. They, in turn, become victims of the patriarchal system, which prevents them from developing as free and complete people. Therefore, always remember that the enemy of feminism is not men, but patriarchy, which oppresses women, but also themselves.
11. Bell Hooks (USA)
Unique feminist theorist, as is the way she writes her name, always in lowercase to avoid inflaming the ego and forgetting that "the most important thing is what I say in my books , not who I am." Featured for analyzing systems of domination and oppression of race, social class and gender, proposes an inclusive feminism, also for men, whom she usually addresses in her works.A perfect example of her vision of the world is her book 'El feminismo It's for everyone', or the most recent ones published in Spain: "Teaching to transgress" (Capitán Swing) or "Todo sobre el amor" (Paidós). With all of them, you will learn a lot and feel freer.
12. Vandana Shiva (India)
Doctor of Physics, Indian philosopher, writer and activist who is also one of the great theoreticians of ecofeminism, which links the subordination of women and the destructive exploitation of nature. Known for creating the Chipko movement – made up of women who hugged trees to prevent them from being felled – and the Navdanya farm, an example of biodiversity in which they offer community seed banks, but also for their defense of Indian farmers and their fight against the agri-food industry. Shiva has been awarded, among many other awards, with the Right Livelyhood Award, known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. If you haven't heard her speak, do an internet search, it's a fascinating show to listen to and it will teach you how to be more sustainable.
13. Rebecca Solnit (USA)
Writer who coined the concept 'mansplaining', which referred to that masculine tendency and which she popularized in her book "Men explain things to me". Thousands of women around the world understood what Solnit meant because it happened to all of them. She has just published "The mother of all questions" in Spanish, where she reflects on issues that we should reflect on from a feminist perspective.
14. Tarana Burke (USA)
Founder of the #MeToo movement, activist and director of the organization Girls for Gender Equity, she has managed to change the perspective in which relationships between the sexes are seen, by showing that the majority of women have been victims of some type of sexual violence and putting herself in the table the need to talk about consent. Although there have been some reluctant detractors to the change, after the public confessions of so many women in the world, it became an unstoppable wave. Something similar happened in Spanish-speaking countries, promoted by the journalist and writer Cristina Fallarás (Zaragoza, 1968): almost three million women mobilized to denounce sexual assaults with the hashtag #Cuéntalo.
15.Roxane Gay (USA)
When he published the collection of essays "Bad Feminist" (Capitán Swing), in which, among many other things, he discovered that he liked rap –despite knowing how sexist his lyrics were–, reading fashion magazines or the color pink , Gay gave a voice to many women around the world who felt like her. With a sense of humor, not without reflection, the author concluded that the feminist movement, sometimes sacralized, is as imperfect as the women who form it and it is not bad that it is. Don't miss his TEDx talk, you'll laugh and be moved by his analysis.
16. Katrin Jakobsdottir (Iceland)
The Icelandic Prime Minister has become an ecofeminist reference beyond her country. With a degree in Icelandic Literature, she already had experience as Minister of Education when she won the general election. His conciliatory spirit, but very clear about equality and ecology, fascinated the electorate. After an impeccable management of the pandemic, it continues to maintain its support and works to achieve a four-day working day without salary reduction –already in evidence–, for a carbon-free economy by the year 2040 and for equality. Although Iceland is considered the country with the greatest gender equality in the world, she recalls that they have a salary gap, there is a lack of women in decision-making positions, there is sexist violence and fifteen women leaders would have to govern in a row so that there would be real equality in the position they hold. she occupies That said, clear as water.
17. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)
With her book 'We should all be feminists' or the later 'Dear Ijeawele. How to educate in feminism', popularized feminist claims . One of the skills of this Nigerian writer and activist is managing to communicate in an inclusive way, with a sense of humor but also, sometimes harshly, basic concepts about equality or anti-racism.
18. Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand)
The youngest female head of government in New Zealand's history is also the most popular and has become an example of the good that feminism does when applied to politics. In the last elections it swept, surely due to a great management of the pandemic, but also because the New Zealand prime minister governs for the people with policies such as fighting menstrual poverty It affects one in twelve students in the country. Convinced feminist and millennial leader, she knows that equality brings benefits to the entire population. If you want to hallucinate with her, do not miss the inspiring book "Jacinta Ardern. A new model of leadership" , by Madeleine Chapman.
19. Emma Watson (France)
The young British actress has become one of the leaders of current feminism in the world. Largely for her collaboration as a UN Goodwill Ambassador in the fight for equality through the #HeForShe movement. The feminist and inclusive speech she gave at the UN headquarters is unforgettable and her influence is so great that even the admired Malala Yousafzai has recognized that she became a feminist because of Emma Watson.
20. Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan)
Sadly, Malala became famous around the world when, in 2012, she was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls' schooling on her blog. It survived and has since become an icon of equality in the world and the right to education. At the age of 16 she published her autobiography, I am Malala', at 17 she received the Nobel Peace Prize and at 19 she was appointed UN messenger. Today, an Oxford graduate in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, she collaborates with the United Nations as a Messenger of Peace and transmits a clear message: that all boys and girls in the world should be educated in equality.
What was your favorite? Tell us in the comments!