The Game-Changers: Women in History

We celebrated Independence Day this year differently, as did our friends and families around the country. With less fanfare, greater social distancing, and a touch of sadness, we took in the summer festivities with the best of intentions. 2020 is teaching us valuable lessons about our freedoms – the privileges we own and the inequities that need to be changed. Yet, as we gathered together where we could and took time to rest over the long weekend, we found hope, joy, and love rekindled. Our country is home to pioneers and leaders of incredible movements, and some of the greatest changes are taking place within our lifetimes. As women, we’ve fought and stood beside marginalized groups to enact change and bring progress decade after decade. So this week, we’re sharing statements from the game-changers—some of our favorite women leaders, activists, and powerhouses.

“Acceptance is the greatest reward we can give to ourselves. We can’t control our lives but we surely can control our attitude towards life. At the end of the day, it is how we survive our challenges that matters most.” - Dr. Malvika Iyer

Dr. Malvika Iyer survived a bomb blast at age 13 in which both of her hands were amputated and both legs severely damaged. Her astounding optimism and determination to show the world what she is made of led her to inspire millions around the world with her work as a motivational speaker and inclusive fashion model for the differently-abled. She holds the highest civilian honor from the President of India—and a special place on #goals vision board.

“You don’t have to be anything but yourself to be worthy.” - Tarana Burke

Navigating social media is treacherous. But we’d go to battle with Tarana Burke in our corner, that’s for certain. She went “viral” for starting the #MeToo movement, but she’s been passionate about social justice her entire life. Her commitment to helping marginalized groups spans over 25 years and includes her role as the Senior Director of Girl for Gender Equity and her non-profit, Just Be, Inc.

“Living in my body has expanded my empathy for other people and the truths of their bodies. Certainly, it has shown me the importance of inclusivity and acceptance (not merely tolerance) for diverse body types.” - Roxane Gay

Our summer reading list is looking better and better thanks to this author. Roxane Gay is an American writer, professor, and author of Bad Feminist. Her most recent book, Hunger, explores her complicated relationship with food, body image, and sexual assault. Her extensive career covers a broad spectrum of teaching, editing, speaking, academia, and awards.

"If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.” - Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm

This election year, we celebrate Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm who, in 1968, became the first African American woman elected to congress. She was also the first black woman to run for president. She served 7 terms in office and was a notable advocate for women and minorities. 

“Looking back, we were the luckiest people in the world. There was no choice but to be pioneers; no time to be beginners.” - Margaret Hamilton

The person responsible for the inflight software code for the manned Apollo missions was also raising her family and supporting her husband’s career. Margaret Hamilton did most of the “computing” that took place—the complicated math algorithms—that ended up launching both the space program and the software industry. She was 24 years old and shattering a glass ceiling that had yet to be installed. 

“There is hope for humanity, but in order for us to get there, we really have to interrogate not just what it takes to change laws, but what it takes to change culture that supports laws that uplift humanity and also supports laws that serve to denigrate it.” - Alicia Garza

Alicia Garza, and her two co-founders Opal Tometi and Patrisse Khan-Cullors, began the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013. The movement is a rallying cry for all black lives striving for liberation, to counter acts of violence by creating a space for black innovation and imagination. Her hope, and her co-founders’ hopes, are changing our world.

“For both men and women the first step in getting power is to become visible to others, and then to put on an impressive show. . . . As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it.” - RBG

When it comes to breaking the glass ceiling, there’s no one quite like the notorious RBG. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is only the second woman to serve on the US Supreme Court. Her academic prowess set her apart from her peers, but her work for the ACLU caught the attention of President Carter. She was appointed to her post in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. 

“It’s vital that you learn, and we all learn, to be at peace with the discomfort of stepping into the unknown. It’s really okay to not have all the answers. The answers will come—for sure—if you can accept “not knowing“ long enough to get still, and stay still long enough for new thoughts to take root in your more quiet, deeper, truer self. The noise of the world drowns out the sound of you; you have to get still to listen.” - Oprah Winfrey

Graduates of the class of 2020 were treated to an online commencement address by Oprah Winfrey. Oprah, who needs almost no introduction, didn’t rise to the top as an instant, overnight success. Rather, she fought to prove her value and worth in an industry that was inherently unkind to her. She built a media empire where there was no place for her with hard work, empathy, and grit.

“I raise up my voice-not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard...we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” - Malala Yousafzai

A young political activist was shot for attending school—a criminal offense for being a girl. Malala Yousafzai survived, and her story now inspires millions. Her father, who ran a school for girls, became a target when the Taliban took control of their town. Malala’s message is to give everyone access to education.