Breaking boundaries: Women who fought for our rights

In the wake of a contentious US presidential election, where the rights of women and humans were in question, and on this day where veterans of the United States are celebrated for their heroic efforts, I thought we might take a look at the women throughout history who fought for our freedoms.

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman

Few women in history possessed the courageousness, bravery, and heart that Harriet Tubman exhibited during her lifetime.  Known for being the pioneer of the Underground Railroad and a Union spy during the Civil War, Harriet, or ‘Moses’ as she was called along the railroad, rescued countless people from the atrocities of slavery.  A lesser known fact is that later in life, she also became a key player in the Women’s Suffrage movement.  Working alongside Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman traveled through the northeast capitals delivering speeches and using her triumphs in the Civil War as examples of women’s equality.

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B Anthony

As the co-founder of The Revolution, a women’s civil rights’ journal, and a tireless campaigner for women’s equality, Susan B. Anthony is viewed as the foremost figure in the 19th century women’s suffrage movement and a leader in the African American suffrage movement.  Arrested and fined for ‘illegally’ voting in the 1872 presidential election, she swore to never pay the government one dollar of their ‘unjust penalty’.  And she stayed true to her word, petitioning the government to remove the fine years later.  A true rebel!  Although she did not reap the reward of political equality during her lifetime, the nineteenth amendment granted women the right to vote only fourteen years after her death; a direct result of her and other suffragists’ efforts.

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks Mugshot

Few images of the American Civil Rights Movement are as iconic as Rosa Parks’ arrest for civil disobedience upon refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus.  Although not the first to take part in the bus segregation boycott, Parks became a symbol in the Civil Rights Movement, joining the NAACP and standing strongly alongside of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   Her most moving statement: “When that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.”  Rosa and her quiet resilience will always be my favorite human rights leader.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt Young

Born only a few blocks from where I’m living now, Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the most iconic first ladies in history, paving the way for modern first ladies and women’s rights advocates like Hilary Clinton and Michelle Obama.  Gaining strength, determination, and self-reliance after FDR’s lengthy affair with her social secretary and his subsequent paralysis, Eleanor worked with the Women’s Union Trade League and acted as a Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.  More than the equality of women (she actually heavily petitioned against the Equal Rights Amendment because she felt a blanket equality would hurt women in the workplace), she fought for the empowerment, invaluable and unique perspective, and human rights of women and African Americans.

So although these women aren’t veterans in the technical sense, I think it’s important to honor their fight for our rights as humans and Americans.  Their battlegrounds were speech podiums, voting booths, city buses, and underground tunnels and their weapons?  Brave words and courageous actions.

Happy Veteran’s Day!


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