An important part of International Women’s Day is acknowledging the achievements and progress of monumental women around the world thus far. This month, we celebrate eleven of these women as “she”-roes, inspired by our ambassador Alison Pill.
We’re grateful for Alison’s continuing commitment to using her platform to raise awareness about women survivors of war. After recently catching up with Alison, we learned a little more about her own personal shero, English novelist George Eliot, and her quote Alison lives by: “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”
With this essential question in mind, the sheroes we celebrate answer this call to action enthusiastically. Keep reading to learn a little more about each of these figures and what they’ve accomplished for womankind:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Celebrating her twenty- seventh year on the bench in 2020, Ginsburg is a tireless champion for voting rights, workers’ rights, and reproductive rights on the United States Supreme Court, especially when most of her fellow justices are in opposition. Establishing herself as a capable student, professor, and attorney in the gender-bipolar world of the 1950s and 60s was no easy feat; her success demonstrates her intelligence, determination, and grit in an environment of opposition.
“[W]hen I’m sometimes asked, ‘when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that."
Pop star and classically trained flutist Lizzo has risen in the past year as an international idol of self-love and body confidence. Harnessing pro-feminism vibes in her lyrics, Lizzo challenges others to view her the way she wants to be viewed, not according to societal stereotypes.
“Woke up feelin’ like I just might run for president. Even if there ain’t no precedent, switchin’ up the messaging. I’m about to add a little estrogen” (from her “Like a Girl” track)
Standing at only 4 feet, 8 inches, Simone Biles makes her presence known on the balancing beam as America’s most awarded Olympian gymnast. Simone challenges notions that women’s gymnastics ignores athletic power for grace, blazing the path for talented female athletes who are otherwise seen as only women, not athletes.
“I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.”
Laverne Cox is most recognized for her major role on the Netflix original “Orange is the New Black,” but off the small screen, Laverne is a fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Laverne has been recognized numerous times for both her acting talent and her activism, as she is the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in any acting category, and is a recipient of the Claire Skiffington Vanguard Award from Transgender Law Center.
“I just have to be myself. I'm not perfect and I'm going to make mistakes.”
As a young girl, Malala Yousufzai was fortunate enough to attend school, and advocated for other young girls to be able to do the same, a rare privilege in her Pakistani village. Her support for the education of women led her to be targeted and shot by extremists in her neighborhood. After making a miraculous recovery, Malala has become a voice for those who cannot speak after creating the Malala Fund to support education for girls worldwide, and addressing the United Nations Assembly in 2013.
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
Tennis all-star Serena Williams currently holds the most Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles combined among active players. Throughout her momentous career, Serena has been outspoken about the unfair prejudice she faces on the court due to her gender, including scrutiny of her athletic fashion choices. Since the birth of her daughter in 2017, has been open about her struggles with postpartum depression, and urges other mothers who are suffering to do the same.
“The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you’re very courageous: be strong, be extremely kind, and above all be humble.”
Actress, talk show host, and CEO Oprah Winfrey has been an outspoken leader of female empowerment, racial equity, and philanthropy for decades. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, a school designed to educate and develop the leadership skills of young women in South Africa, was founded in 2007 by Oprah and is lauded for its impressive success in providing leadership opportunities for academically-gifted girls. For her talent and charitable involvement, Winfrey has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, as well as an honorary doctorate degree from Harvard University.
Favorite Quote: “It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you. Always.”
Yara first rose to fame after starring in the hit ABC sitcom “black-ish,” but has already established herself as a prominent and fearless leader at the age of 20. After being lovingly nicknamed “Generation Z’s Poster Child,” Shahidi co-founded the Eighteen X 18 campaign to mobilize young voters, all while starring in the main role in the Freeform spinoff series “grown-ish” and attending Harvard University.
"I know, ultimately, I want to help affect change; otherwise, I would look at myself in the mirror every day and think, 'What in the world am I doing with my life?' "
Amal Clooney is a notorious fighter for international law and human rights in the courtroom, and has been commissioned by the United Nations and UNICEF several times to investigate possible large-scale violations that warrant global attention. Along with her husband George, Amal also created the Clooney Foundation for Justice, which advocates for equality justice in law and education systems.
“As women, we may not be a minority, but there is a bond that we all share. It is not a bond of geography. Or religion. Or culture. It is a bond of shared experience - experiences that only women go through and struggles that only women face.”
While actress Lupita first became a household name after her Oscar win in 2014 for her role in “12 Years a Slave,” she has long been a voice for feminism of all kinds; as a teenager, she protested her high school’s policy that forbade female students from wearing makeup. Since then, Lupita has added an impressive number of awards and initiatives to her resume, and now works with nonprofits to support pregnant women and children in conflict-torn nations, as well as being a fierce advocate for the #TimesUp movement.
“No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”
In 2017, Katrín was selected to serve as Prime Minister of Iceland, becoming only the second woman to do so in the country’s history. Since accepting the role, Katrín has accelerated her nation to advance further in the areas of pacifism, environmentalism, and gender equality, leading the rest of the world by example.