written by Natalie Pattillo

Junk Drawer

Herstory Book Worthy Heroines

It's Women's Herstory Month, and we want to celebrate the superabundance (yes, that's a word) of powerhouse femmes who've paved the paths for social change. We wanna sing (or more like enthusiastically belt out in tone deaf unison) the praises of the tireless innovators who blazed trails for all of Herstory. It's (always) time to pay homage to these iconic and history book-worthy women who did the damn thing and did it with utmost brilliance and resilience: 

Sojourner Truth

ojSource: Library of Congress 

Sojourner Truth—an African-American abolitionist leader, women's rights activist, and one of our country's first intersectional feminists—was born into slavery, but escaped with her baby daughter to freedom in 1826 (devastatingly, her other children were sold into slavery). She built the framework for the fight for civil rights and believed that all people (not just land-owning white men) should have the right to vote. Her stirring speech "Ain't I a Woman" delivered at a women’s convention in Ohio in 1851 still resonates today. 🙌🏿

Grace Hopper 

Source: United States Navy

Grace Hopper was a computer engineer, scientist, and mathematician who served in the Navy during World War II and invented the first computer software. Because she was a woman, Hopper was barred from advancing in 2 careers and was intentionally left out of newspaper pics documenting achievements in which her work was a vital part (ugh!!!). Thankfully, last year, Hopper and her legacy were posthumously honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama. 🏅👏

Melitta Bentz 

Source: WikiMedia Commons 

As straight up caffeine addicts, we feel extremely obliged to celebrate Melissa Bentz—the genius who created coffee filters (in 1908, she tested the 1st one by using her son's school notebook paper & a perforated brass pot). Thanks to her brilliant invention, we can drink our beloved elixir (aka, drip coffee ☕️) sans bitter coffee grounds and transform ourselves into functional human beings every morning. 

Ellen Ochoa

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ellen Ochoa received her master of science and doctorate degrees (yes, plural) at Stanford University. In 1990, NASA accepted her into their space program. Then after a year of training, Ochoa became the world's first Hispanic female astronaut! She's been on four flights 🚀 and has spent more than 950 hours exploring outer space! Besides being an amazing astronaut, researcher, engineer, and inventor (with 3 patents) Ochoa is also a super talented classical flute player!  

Qiu Jin

Source: Wikimedia Commons

After being forced to wed at 21, Qiu Jin experienced an awakening and left her miserable marriage by selling her jewelry to fund a move to Japan. Jin was an essayist & poet who fought against the corrupt Qin government and fiercely advocated for women's right to education (she resisted foot binding & forced marriages, too). In 1906, she started a feminist mag 📖 with another female poet, Xu Zihua; it published only 2 issues before it was shut down by government authorities. One of her poems started with “Don’t tell me women / are not the stuff of heroes." 🔥  

 Ida B. Wells  

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Today, Ida B. Wells still shines as a beacon ✨ for social justice and investigative journalism. Her parents were both enslaved when she was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on July 16, 1862. Wells doggedly reported lynching and racist murders in the US during the 1890s, and investigated how often violence was used in the South as a way to control or punish Black people who wanted equality. As a tenacious activist and journalist for women's rights and African-American justice, she believed that "the people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press." Amen, sister, amen. ✊🏾🙏🏿


Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Source: The Complete Book of the Olympics (2008 ed.)

After hitting 5 home runs during a childhood baseball game, Mildred Didrikson Zaharias was aptly nicknamed "Babe." She went onto the Olympics in 1932 and won medals in the hurdles, javelin throw and high jump (phew, I'm getting tired just thinking about all that aerobic activity). Then, in the 1940s she was declared as the greatest woman golfer of all time. Waaaaait, and that's not all! In 1950, the Associated Press reported that Babe was the "Woman Athlete of the Half Century." WHAT A LEGENDARY BABE! 🏅🎽

Madam C.J. Walker 

Source: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History: Archives Center.

In 1905, after suffering from a scalp disorder that resulted in her hair loss, Madam C.J. Walker created African-American hair care products. She toured the US and gave demos & lectures to market her beauty line 😍. Her entrepreneurial spirit and natural knack for business led her to be one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. Later on, she spread her wealth 💸 by funding scholarships for women and donating huge amounts of money to NAACP, the Black YMCA, and dozens of other charities. 

Gulabi Gang 

Source: Gulabi Gang official website photo gallery 

Now, we wrap up with our favorite modern-day heroines: The Gulabi Gang. Led by the courageous Sampat Devi Pal, India's Gulabi Gang fights to end child marriages, advocates for education of girls & women, publicly shames rapists, and trains women in self-defense. The revolutionary Gulabi Gang has grown to have over 400,000 members who will confront families that force child marriages onto their daughters. Oh, don't think the gang could be even more badass 😏? Well...these pink sari-wearing vigilantes take it upon themselves (and their sticks) to teach abusive men a lesson or two. 💪🏾

*~What other iconic heroines deserve a little love this month? 🎤 ~*

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