Feminism is a broad range of movements and ideologies which seek to work towards greater equality between men and women. Within feminism, there are different strands and emphasis, but most feminists would share the same idea of equal rights and equal opportunities.
A list of famous feminists and famous quotes.
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797) English author, Wollstonecraft wrote the most significant book in the early feminist movement. Her tract “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” laid down a clear moral and practical basis for extending human and political rights to women.
“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”
– Mary Wollstonecraft
Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883) African-American abolitionist and women’s rights campaigner. In 1851, gave a famous extemporaneous speech “Ain’t I a woman?” which explained in plain language how women were essentially equal to men.
J.S. Mill (1806-1873) John Stuart Mill was a leading liberal philosopher of the Nineteenth Century. He argued for universal suffrage (extending the vote to women and all classes of people) His pamphlet The Subjection of Women (1861) was influential for raising the issue of votes for women.
“the legal subordination of one sex to the other — is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other. “
– J.S. Mill Subjection of Women (1861)
Margaret Fuller (1810 – 1850) An American women’s rights advocate. Her book Women in the Nineteenth Century (1845) was influential in changing perceptions about men and women and was one of the most important early feminist works. She argued for equality and women being more self-dependent and less dependent on men.
“Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But in fact they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman… Nature provides exceptions to every rule.”
― Margaret Fuller, Women in the Nineteenth Century (1845)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 – 1902) American social activist and leading figure in the early women’s rights movement. She was a key figure in helping to create the emerging women’s suffrage movements in the US. She was the principal author of ‘Declaration of Sentiments’ in 1848.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”
― Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
Susan B. Anthony (1820 – 1906) American Campaigner against slavery and for the promotion of women’s and workers rights. She played a key role in the movement to pursue suffrage for women.
“Woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself.”
― Susan B. Anthony
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836 – 1917) – Britain’s first qualified female doctor. She passed the medical exam and obtained a licence (LSA) from the Society of Apothecaries. She set up her own medical practice. In 1873 was the first woman to be admitted to the British Medical Association (BMA)
Emmeline Pankhurst (1858 – 1928) British suffragette, Emily Pankhurst dedicated her life to the promotion of women’s rights. She explored all avenues of protest including violence, public demonstrations and hunger strikes. She died in 1928, three weeks before a law giving all women over 21 the right to vote.
“We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help to free the other half.”
― Emmeline Pankhurst,
Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) – Through her work as a nurse in New York’s Lower East side in 1912, Margaret Sanger worked hard to improve birth control practice to prevent unwanted pregnancies. This groundbreaking shift in attitude led to the foundation of the American Birth Control League. Sanger is credited with playing a leading role in the acceptance of contraception.
“No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body.”
― Margaret Sanger
Marie Stopes (1880 – 1958) British author, palaeobotanist and campaigner for eugenics and women’s rights. Stopes played a major role in making contraception more widely available.
Katharine Hepburn (1907 – 2003) Multiple Oscar-winning American actress. Hepburn’s independence of mind and assertiveness helped redefine women’s roles in Hollywood and post-war America.
“I just recently realized that women are supposed to be the inferior sex”
— Katharine Hepburn
Simone de Beauvoir (1908 – 1986) – French existentialist philosopher. Simone de Beauvoir developed a close personal and intellectual relationship with Jean-Paul Satre. Her book “The Second Sex” depicted the traditions of sexism that dominated society and history. It was a defining book for the feminist movement.
“To gain the supreme victory, it is necessary, for one thing, that by and through their natural differentiation men and women unequivocally affirm their brotherhood.”
– Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1949)
Betty Friedan (1921 – 2006) – American social activist and leading feminist figure of the 1960s; she wrote the best-selling book “The Feminine Mystique” Friedan campaigned for an extension of female rights and an end to sexual discrimination.
“The feminine mystique has succeeded in burying millions of American women alive.”
– Betty Friedan, “The Feminine Mystique” (1963)
Coretta Scott King (1927 – 2006) Civil rights and social activist. After the death of her husband, she continued to campaign for civil rights and gay rights. She also helped to found the National Organisation for Women. (NOW)
Gloria Steinem (1934 – ) An American feminist, journalist, and social activist. She was one of the most prominent leaders of the US feminist movement of the 1960s 1970s. She played a vital role campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment passed in 1972. She was the co-founder of several feminist groups, such as the ‘Women’s Action Alliance’.
“I’m not sure feminism should require an adjective. Believing in the full social, political, and economic quality of women, which is what the dictionary says “feminism” means, is enough to make a revolution in itself.”
– Gloria Steinem
Germaine Greer (1939 – ) Australian feminist icon of the 1960s and 1970s, Germaine Greer, enjoys raising contentious issues. In particular her book “The Female Eunuch” was a defining manifesto for the feminist movement, which proved influential in the 1960s.
Billie Jean King (1943 – ) American tennis player. Billie Jean King was one of the greatest female tennis champions, who also battled for equal pay for women. She won 67 professional titles including 20 titles at Wimbledon.
“I have often been asked whether I am a women or an athlete. The question is absurd. Men are not asked that. I am an athlete. I am a women.”
Shirin Ebadi (1947 – ) An Iranian lawyer, Ebadi has fought for human rights in Iran – representing political dissidents and founding initiatives to promote democracy and human rights. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.
“Whenever women protest and ask for their rights, they are silenced with the argument that the laws are justified under Islam. It is an unfounded argument. It is not Islam at fault, but rather the patriarchal culture that uses its own interpretations to justify whatever it wants.”
– Shirin Ebadi
Naomi Klein – Anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation writer. Also, labels herself as feminist, and supporting the equal rights movement.
Rigoberto Menchu (1959 – ) Menchu is an activist for the rights of indigenous Guatemalans. She was active during the Guatemalan Civil War (1960–1996) and after. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992. She also serves as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador. She also formed the Nobel Women’s Initiative with other Nobel winners, such as Shirin Ebadi and Betty Williams.
Naomi Wolf (1962 – ) Author of The Beauty Myth – which argued beauty was a socially manufactured construct. She has been considered one of the leaders of the third wave of feminism.
“What are other women really thinking, feeling, experiencing, when they slip away from the gaze and culture of men?”
― Naomi Wolf,
Emma Watson (15 April 1990 – ) British actress famous for role as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter film series. UN ambassador for women and feminist activist. Watson sought to redefine feminism to be more inclusive of involving men in the campaign for equal rights and ending the idea of feminism as ‘man-hating’.
“When at 15, my girlfriends started dropping out of their beloved sports teams, because they didn’t want to appear muscle-y, when at 18, my male friends were unable to express their feelings, I decided that I was a feminist.”
– Emma Watson
Malala Yousafzai (1997 – ) Pakistani schoolgirl who defied threats of the Taliban to campaign for the right to education. She survived being shot in the head by the Taliban and has become a global advocate for women’s rights, especially the right to education.
“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
We Should All Be Feminists
We Should All Be Feminists at Amazon
Famous female authors – Authors and poets including Sappho, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Gabriela Mistral and J.K. Rowling.
Women’s rights activists – Prominent women who helped promote women’s and civil rights. Including Margaret Fuller, Susan Anthony, Millicent Fawcett and Malala Yousafzai.
100 Famous Women – A list of 100 famous women from the arts, sport, literature, acting and politics.