10 women who challenged the status quo
Quizlet is proud to partner with real students and recent graduates to showcase authentic voices on our blog. This guest post is by Sophia Padua, who interned at Quizlet and is currently a student at the University of Oregon.
March is Women’s History Month, and here at Quizlet, we’re looking to honor the past, present and future female pioneers who work to better the world.
Every year since 1995, the president has issued annual proclamations that designate the month of March as Women’s History Month. The National Women’s History Alliance selects and publishes a yearly theme to celebrate women’s achievements. The theme this year is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced.”
Today, we’re discussing 10 inspirational women who have challenged the status quo and refused to be silenced. We hope they inspire you to do good and keep learning, just as they’ve inspired us to.
Margaret Bancroft (1854-1912)
Photo Credit: New Jersey Women’s History
In 1883, school teacher Margaret Bancroft founded the Haddonfield Training School in response to the lack of support for students with special needs. Bancroft recognized that when children with special needs were given individual attention, patience and care, they were able to significantly improve their quality of life.
Bancroft advocated that “special children need special schools, with well-trained teachers who use materials adapted to those children’s capabilities.”
The Haddonfield Training School was one of the first of its kind, and Bancroft is widely considered the pioneer of special education. Bancroft was also one of the founders of the Woman’s Club at the Haddon Fortnightly. The club encouraged women to take interest in educational and literary topics.
Today, the Bancroft Organization lives on as a non-profit organization that provides programs and services for individuals with autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Patsy Takemoto Mink (1927-2002)
Photo Credit: Time Magazine
Patsy Takemoto Mink was a legislator who served as a member of Hawaii’s territorial House of Representatives, and later its territorial Senate. She went on to represent the state in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 terms.
After facing gender and racial discrimination during her time as a practicing lawyer, Mink dedicated her life’s work to fight for the rights of minorities, women, immigrants, children and the environment.
The The National Women’s Hall of Fame remembers Mink as a woman who checked off many “firsts.” She was the first woman of Japanese-American descent to practice law in Hawaii, the first woman of color elected to the national legislature, and the first Asian-American congresswoman.
Mary Allen Wilkes (1937-)
Photo Credit: The New York Times
Mary Allen Wilkes began her professional career as a computer programmer in the 1960s. Wilkes is most known for her work on the LINC computer, the world’s first personal computer, and was one of the first people in the entire world to have a personal computer at home.
Wilke’s programming looked a bit different compared to what computer programmers do now. With no keyboards or screens, Wilkes had to write out each program onto a piece of paper. Then she passed it to a typist who would translate the commands to holes on a punch card, which could then be fed to a reader that translated these commands over to a computer. From there, the computer could follow the commands and produce results on a printer.
Wilkes’s attention to detail and dedication to her childhood dream of becoming a lawyer prompted her to apply and get into Harvard Law School in 1972. She spent the next four decades as a lawyer and is an inspiration to computer programmers and intellectuals alike.
Audre Lorde (1934-1992)
Photo Credit: Robert Alexander
A daughter of immigrants, Audre Lorde described herself as: “black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet, warrior.”
Lorde’s works are notable in race studies, feminist theory and queer theory. Lorde’s inspiration was to write for people facing intersectional oppression—those who did not have a voice to speak up on their own. Lorde’s works include:
- A Burst Of Light
- The Black Unicorn
- Between Ourselves
You can find more of Lorde’s work here.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1911-1956)
Photo Credit: Olympic.org
Voted the greatest female athlete of the first half of the 20th century by the Associated Press, Babe Didrikson Zaharias was a jack of all trades.
Even as a teenager, she stated that her life goal was to be the “greatest athlete who ever lived.”
Though Zaharias initially faced discrimination due to her sex, she shrugged off the negative treatment and instead went on to win two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Summer Olympics. Hungry for more, she transitioned to professional golf, where she won ten LPGA major championships, and 82 tournaments total throughout her career.
Malala Yousafzai (1997-)
Photo Credit: David Pilling for the Financial Times
In 2008, when Malala Yousafzai was just 11 years old, the Taliban took control of her town in Swat Valley, Pakistan, and banned girls from going to school.
In 2012, Yousafzai spoke out publicly on behalf of women and their right to learn. As a result, a masked gunman tracked her down, boarded her school bus and shot her in the side of the head.
While some might back down after a situation like that, Yousafzai was unwavering in her fight to advocate for girls to attend school. With the help of her father, she established the Malala Fund, which helps give girls opportunities to pursue their dreams in education.
Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work. She is the youngest person ever to receive such an award.
Yousafzai continues to advocate for young women in education, and recently graduated from Oxford University with concentrations in philosophy, physics and economics. She plans to continue to champion women’s rights to education until every girl receives free, safe and quality education. Read more about the Malala Fund here.
Salsabila Khairunnisa (2003-)
Photo credit: BBC
Salsabila Khairunnisa is a student and an Indonesian environmental activist. Khairunnisa co-founded the Jaga Rimba Youth Movement to fight for forest preservation in Indonesia when she was 15 years old.
She continues to fight for forest preservation and harmful exploitation in Indonesian forests by leading school strikes outside of the office of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry every Friday. She was nominated as one of BBC’s Women of 2020.
Jennifer Doudna (1964-)
Photo credit: Thierry Bouet
2020 was a groundbreaking year for STEM pioneer Jennifer Doudna. She won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry alongside Emmanuelle Charpentier for their findings and advances in genome editing, and led COVID-19 related research on the University of California-Berkeley campus at the start of the pandemic.
Using a family of DNA sequences called CRISPR, the two were able to detect targets like DNA from viruses that cause cancer and RNA from cancer cells. CRISPR can be used for many purposes, including eliminating diseases in human genes, wiping out pathogens, and improving plant crops.
During the early stages of the pandemic, Doudna transformed her Berkeley laboratory into a COVID-19 diagnostics facility. Her team now uses CRISPR proteins to detect amounts of the COVID-19 genome and is running up to 1000 tests per day. Doudna’s goal is to use CRISPR as a way to develop rapid and inexpensive COVID-19 tests.
Evelina Cabrera (1986-)
Photo Credit: Girlfriend of Evelina Cabrera
Evelina Cabrera began her career in soccer at the age of 21 with Club Atlético Platense in Argentina. A health problem forced her to stop playing, but she did not want her career in sports to be over. Cabrera soon began training as a soccer coach, which allowed her to stay close to the sport.
One of the first female soccer managers in Argentina, Cabrera has coached many teams that have opened up the sport’s accessibility, such as the Argentinian team in the Homeless World Cup and a team for blind women.
She went on to found the Argentinian Women’s Football Association and recently published an autobiography that highlights the work that she does for equality. You can read more about her initiatives here.
Shani Dhanda (1988-)
Photo Credit: ShaniDhanda.com
When Shani Dhanda was two years old, she was diagnosed with brittle bone disease. As a teenager, she faced discrimination when applying to jobs due to her disability.
People asked her why she didn’t just stay home and collect benefits, but Shani had more in mind for her life.
After earning a degree in events management, she opened up her own freelance events company, where she organized events for British boxers and other notable people.
Shani now works as the disability program manager for Virgin Media and has been recognized as one of the UK’s most influential disabled people according to the Shaw Trust Power 100. She also founded and leads Diversability, Asian Woman Festival and Asian Disability Network.
These are just 10 of the incredible and inspiring women shaking things up in the world. Take the time this Women’s History Month to honor the women who have worked and are working to shape the world into a better place. To read more about women making things happen, check out BBC’s Most Inspiring Women of 2020 list.
Sophia Padua was Quizlet’s Summer Communications Intern in 2020. She is currently pursuing a public relations degree from the University of Oregon.