Countless people have championed feminism and women’s rights and continue to advocate for these important causes today. They deserve our admiration and serve as an important example in the fight for equality. Here are just 25 of the many feminist icons across history and the world.
25 Feminist Icons
1. Abigail Adams
Adams is best known for writing “remember the ladies” to her husband, John Adams, while he was in Philadelphia in discussions about establishing a new country. She was also a strong proponent of women’s rights and advocated for public schooling for girls.
Nigerian writer Adichie is the author of several novels and short story collections. Her 2012 TEDx talk “We Should All Be Feminists” prompted an important dialogue about the topic around the world and was published in book form in 2014.
3. Susan B. Anthony
An instrumental figure in the women’s suffrage movement, Anthony was a co-founder of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. She was arrested for and convicted of voting and refused to pay the fine. She remained active in the cause until her death in 1906, prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment.
This French existentialist made waves with her 1949 book, The Second Sex. In it, she argued that women are considered the “Other” in society and defined in relation to men, opining that women should not be subordinates.
5. Tarana Burke
Activist Burke gained recognition as the founder of the #MeToo movement when news about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse and assault allegations came to light. She began using the phrase in 2006 to spread awareness about sexual assault, and the campaign went viral in 2017. The senior director at Girls for Gender Equality was named one of Time magazine’s people of the year in 2017.
6. Hillary Clinton
Clinton has a lot of firsts under her belt: the first female senator from New York, the first first lady to run for political office, and the first female presidential candidate from a major party. Her prominence extends to the women’s rights sphere; she has often made gender a focal point of her work and speeches, such as her insistence that “women’s rights are human’s rights” in 1995.
7. Laverne Cox
Cox is the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy in acting for her work on Orange Is the New Black and the first openly transgender woman to win a Daytime Emmy for Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word. She is an advocate for human rights and LGBT rights.
The author of The Feminine Mystique, Friedan is created with kicking off the second wave of feminism with her work that contradicted the accepted idea that women were content staying in the domestic sphere. She dedicated much of her life to fighting for equality for women through efforts like the National Women’s Political Caucus, the National Organization of Women (NOW), and the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL).
9. Roxane Gay
A professor, Roxanne deals with issues such as race, gender, identity, sexuality, and others in her writing. She is best known for her essay collection Bad Feminist, in which she examines feminism through popular culture, current events, and other lenses.
A longtime gender and women’s rights activist in her legal career, Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993 as the second woman ever to sit on the bench. After transferring from Harvard Law School, she graduated first in her class at Columbia Law School. She spent her career teaching civil procedure, working for the American Civil Liberties Union, and serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit before her appointment.
11. bell hooks
Born Gloria Jean Watkins, bell hooks is the author of many works that grapple with race, gender, intersectionality, class, and other themes. She is best known for the landmark book, Ain’t I a Women?, which is an important text looking at black womanhood.
12. Billie Jean King
Formerly the World number one ranked tennis player, King is well known for defeating Bobby Riggs in the tennis match dubbed “Battle of the Sexes” at the age of 29. She is also a longtime activist for gender equality and the founder of the Women’s Tennis Association and Women’s Sports Foundation.
13. Coretta Scott King
King was instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement as well as the Women’s Movement, particularly after her husband’s assassination. She is known as the “First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement,” although she should be noted for her own work advocating for these causes as well. She was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame and is the first African American to be interred in the Georgia State Capitol.
14. Audre Lorde
A poet, Lorde’s work dealt with feminism, lesbianism, civil rights and other themes. After First Cities, her first volume of poetry, was published in 1968, Lorde left her job as a librarian and went on to teach poetry. In her own work, she also examined her personal identity and the political landscape.
15. Lucretia Mott
An organizer of the Seneca Falls Convention, Mott was a Quaker and abolitionist, as well as a women’s rights activist. As an articulate speaker and writer, she played an instrumental role in first-wave feminism and the women’s suffrage movement.
16. Alice Paul
A key figure in the fight for women’s suffrage, Paul was instrumental in gaining women the right to vote. She served as the leader of the National Woman’s Party for many years, spearheading the movement for an Equal Rights Amendment.
Roosevelt was a different kind of first lady, championing causes such as civil rights and human rights while her husband was in office. She was an active participant in the White House and the Democratic party, a major influence in the United States joining the United Nations, the first U.S. delegate to the U.N., and the chair of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women during John F. Kennedy’s presidency.
18. Margaret Sanger
Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the United States and was an advocate for birth control and sex education. She founded organizations that would eventually become Planned Parenthood.
19. Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Stanton was the author of the Declaration of Sentiments, which she presented at the Seneca Falls Convention. She was an important leader in the women’s suffrage movement for many years.
20. Gloria Steinem
A leader of the feminist movement in the 1960s and 1970s (second-wave feminism), Steinem co-founded the magazine Ms. with Dorothy Pitman Hughes. She rose to prominence as a journalist through stints such as working as a Playboy bunny and revealing the treatment of women in the Playboy club, as well covering topics including contraception and abortion. Today, she continues to speak and write about feminism and social politics.
21. Sojourner Truth
Born into slavery at the end of the 18th century, Truth escaped with her daughter in 1826 and became the first black woman to win a custody case against a white man when she gained custody of her son in 1828. She became a fervent abolitionist and women’s rights advocate, delivering speeches on the importance of equality.
22. Ida B. Wells
Wells was an investigative journalist who was a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She was an early advocate in the Civil Rights Movement, focusing particularly on the equality of women of color.
23. Mary Wollstonecraft
Considered a founding feminist philosopher, Wollstonecraft is the author of numerous works. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, she wrote that women were not inferior to men but only seemed so because of their lack of education and argued that women and men should be treated equally.
24. Virginia Woolf
Woolf was an author whose works included the essay A Room of One’s Own. Her work contains feminist themes and she is considered an inspirational figure in the feminist movement.
25. Malala Yousafzai
The youngest Nobel Laureate, winning the Prize at age 17, Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for her activism in favor of gender equality in education. Today, she continues to fight for female education through efforts such as the Malala Fund, which supports education for women and girls worldwide. She is also the author of the memoir I Am Malala.