Being a woman is not always easy. Women have had to fight for everything we’ve gotten, women of color especially, and we are still fighting today for equal pay and bodily autonomy. Throughout history, many powerful women have tried to fight the misogynistic cultural norms that they’ve encountered. These seven women have been fighting for rights for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and working-class individuals and are responsible for many of the freedoms we have now.

  1. 1 Gabriela Mistral, 1889-1957

    Gabriela Mistral, born in 1889, was a Chilean poet and later in life diplomat. Throughout her time writing poetry, she drew inspiration from her difficult childhood and experience with early heartbreak. Her thoughts on themes of love, loss and faith, in addition to her work earning her a Nobel Prize in Literature. She was the first Latina to win a Nobel Prize, and the 5th woman! After her death in 1957, her personal letters were found and published- revealing her passionate relationship with Doris Dana, believed to be a secretary and American translator. She is remembered as an early modern queer writer and outspoken humanist and her poems continue to be shared and discussed worldwide.

  2. 2 Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, 1987-present

    Raffi Freedman-Gurspan is a Honduran-American activist and is proudly the first openly transgender person to work as a White House staffer. Under former President Obama, she served as the Senior Associate Director for Public Engagement & the White House’s primary liaison for the LGBTQIA+ community. All her life, she has been dedicated to activism and political work on behalf of all marginalized people and helped pass one of the first transgender civil rights bills, that expanded state civil rights protections to transgender individuals.

  3. 3 Ellen Ochoa, 1958-present

    Ellen Ochoa made history in 1993 when she became the first Latina to go to space! At the age of 35, she made history with her nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, and at the age of 55 she made history again- this time becoming the first Latina director of the Johnson Space Center. In doing this, she has commanded many aspects of space flight, including the Orion Program, which is preparing to create vehicles that can travel into deep space and back with living astronauts. Ochoa strives to inspire Latinas in STEM and continues to be a role model for young women everywhere.

  4. 4 Dolores Fernández Huerta, 1930-present

    Dolores Fernández Huerta is a woman who definitely cannot be left off this list! Born in 1930, and thriving currently at the age of 93, Huerta is an American labor leader and civil rights activist. Along with Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the National Farmworkers Association, which had evolved now to be the United Farm Workers. A key aspect of her activism work has been non-violent protest, inspired by her mother’s independence and father’s experience in politics. Through non-violent protest, she’s been able to help Mexican, Filipino, African-American, Japanese, and Chinese families working in local agricultural communities. In the late 20th century, she set about traveling across the country to promote the Feminist Majority’s Feminization of Power, a campaign that aimed to even out the male to female ratio in politics by the year 2000. This saw a tremendous increase in the number of women representatives at local, state, and federal levels.

  5. 5 Sylvia Rivera, 1951-2002

    1. Sylvia Rivera, born in 1951, was a Venezuelan and Puerto Rican transgender drag queen from New York City. Throughout her life, she advocated for the gay rights movement and was a loud and persistent voice for the rights of lower-income queer people of color. In the LGBTQIA+ community, she is celebrated for being a dedicated advocate for the queer community. Notable among her accomplishments, Rivera founded the Street Trans. Action Revolutionaries with Marsha P. Johnson, which provided a space for queer people to organize and discuss issues facing specifically the transgender community in NYC. They furthered this by creating the STAR House in order to assist homeless LGBTQIA+ youth. Rivera’s dedication to gay rights has gained her recognition for the strong and thoughtful woman she was. 

  6. 6 Julia de Burgos, 1914-1953

    Julia de Burgos was a Puerto Rican poet who was integral to the creation of the Nuyorican Movement. This movement consisted of artists, writers, musicians, and other creatives and centered on the social, economic, and political issues facing Puerto Ricans who had migrated from Puerto Rico to New York City. De Burgos would write poems about the beauty of her childhood and her identity as a Black immigrant Latina in America. In retrospect, her poems are considered to be extremely ahead of their time in the way she writes about feminism and civil rights issues. In 1936, she became a member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and was elected as Secretary General of the Daughters of Freedom that same year. De Burgos was a fierce advocate for Puerto Rican independence and was given a hero’s burial in her home country. 

  7. 7 Dr. Antonia Novello, 1944-present

    Dr. Antonia Novello may need no introduction to those interested in the medical field. She made history in 1990 as the not only the first Latiné person to be appointed as Surgeon General, but the first woman & person of color to hold the position as well. She started her career as a Puerto Rican physician and public health administrator. As Surgeon General, she campaigned to improve health conditions and access to medical care for women, children, and minority populations. She also advocated for a review of the factors deciding who receives an organ transplant, the effects of which are still being felt today. 

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