Five women that you should totally know about

By Lily Foss ‘13Feminism Columnist

Happy Women’s History Month! I love this month. There are so many badass women out there, and while we should be recognizing them all the time, a month’s worth of recognition is a start. Plus, Epilepsy Awareness Day is in March, so this is basically a month to celebrate me as a woman with epilepsy! Yep, I’m great. So are these other women:

1. Shirley Chisholm. Oh my god, where to start with Shirley Chisholm? I could go on and on. For starters, she was the first black woman elected to Congress. She was so awesome that when she got assigned to the House Agricultural Committee, she was all, “Um, no. I’m from Brooklyn. No farms there,” and asked the Speaker for a reassignment. He was like, “No, you have to be a good soldier, blah, blah, white male paternalism, blah, blah,” but she refused to back down and eventually got reassigned to Veteran’s Affairs. She ran for President in 1972, becoming the first major party black Presidential candidate and the first woman to run on the Democratic ticket. So, she basically made the 2008 Democratic primary race possible. In a nutshell, Shirley Chisholm is everything I want to be when I grow up. She wrote two autobiographies, “Unbought and Unbossed” and “The Good Fight,” both of which I’ve read cover to cover, and both of which are available in the library.

2. Georgina Beyer is a former mayor and Member of Parliament from New Zealand. She is also a transwoman, making her the first openly trans mayor and MP ever. One of the bills she introduced during her time in Parliament was a move to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. She also wrote an autobiography—“Change For the Better”—plus she sang a rendition of “Summertime” from “Porgy & Bess” on an album called “Wairarapa Pride.” Cool, huh?

3. Shirin Ebadi was the first Muslim woman and the first Iranian to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She’s currently in exile in the UK, but when she lived in Iran, she was a lawyer who defended political dissidents being persecuted by the government. She also campaigned (and still campaigns) to better the status of women and children worldwide. I haven’t read her autobiography, “Iran Awakening,” but she did co-author a book called “Democracy, Human Rights, and Islam in Modern Iran: Psychological, Social, and Cultural Perspectives,” which I recommend.

4. Wilma Mankiller has the most awesome last name that I’ve ever heard. Seriously, no one will mess with you if your last name is ‘Mankiller.’ Apparently it’s a traditional Cherokee military rank. Mankiller was the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. When she took office, leadership of the Nation was mostly dominated by men, but she created community programs where men and women could work together for the good of the Nation. She worked to establish tribally-owned businesses and improve the infrastructure, as well as establish facilities for hydroelectric power. She wrote a whole bunch of books, including “Mankiller: a Chief and her People,” and “The Chief Cooks: Traditional Cherokee Recipes,” which I totally want to buy now.

5. It always kind of bums me out there’s a Cesar Chavez Day, but no Dolores Huerta Day. Along with Chavez, Huerta helped create the National Farmworkers Association, which became the United Farm Workers (UFW). She started out her career as a teacher, but decided that she could do more by “organizing farm workers than by trying to teach their hungry children.” She organized many groups to that end, and directed the UFW grape strike in 1965. She’s been arrested for her activist activities twenty-two times. Twenty-two times! And she’s still active in lobbying here in California.

So, in the spirit of equality, I declare today to be Dolores Huerta Day. Feel free to miss class so you can spend the rest of the day reading all those books I mentioned above. Your professors will understand, I promise.