20+ Women Every Girl Should Know About

Being a woman today is easier — not easy, but easier — because of the women who paved the way for us listed below. I feel such gratitude for the many women before me who struggled and persevered, so the road for me and my daughters is a little less bumpy. Here are a few that immediately come to mind. Feel free to email us and we’ll grow the list.

If your daughter is a poet, she should know about Sappho.
(circa  570 BCE) is one of the first known female writers. While most of her poetry was lost, her reputation has remained. She is known for writing about love. Plato referred to Sappho as one of the great 10 poets. “Some an army of horsemen, some an army on foot and some say a fleet of ships is the loveliest sight on this dark earth; but I say it is what-ever you desire…”

If your daughter is strong and beautiful — and I’m sure she is — she should know about Cleopatra. 
Many contemporary sources speak of the mystique of Cleopatra’s beauty and allure, but attractiveness was not her only attribute. Cleopatra was born around 69 BC and was the last Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt. She sought to defend Egypt from the expanding Roman Empire. In doing so she formed relationships with two of Rome’s most powerful leaders, Marc Antony and Julius Caesar. Cleopatra has been immortalized by William Shakespeare’s play ‘Antony and Cleopatra’

If your daughter is small, tell her Joan of Arc was too — and, look what she did!
Joan of Arc (1412–1431) , the diminutive patron saint of France, inspired a French revolt against the occupation of the English. At the age of just 17, Joan successfully led the French to victory at Orleans. Her later trial and martyrdom only heightened her fame.

If your daughter has a powerful voice, she should know about Sojourner Truth.
Sojourner Truth (1797–1897) was born into slavery, but escaped to freedom and became one of the most noted African-American women speakers on issues of civil rights and abolition. She is best known for a speech she gave in Ohio on racial inequalities where she asked, “Ain’t I a Woman?” Throughout the 1850s and 60s, she gave many speeches and this was a time when public speaking was mostly dominated by white men (no surprise). This tall imposing black woman (she was 6′!) had a low, powerful, resonant voice making her a compelling orator. Because of this, sometimes people thought she was a man. When she was speaking in 1858, someone interrupted her speech claiming that she was a man. Truth responded by revealing her breasts!

If your daughter is 18 and old enough to vote,
she should thank Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. 

They founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869, an organization fighting for the right to vote, regardless of gender or race. They published The Revolution, a periodical that carries the motto “Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less!” In 1872, Susan B. Anthony casts a ballot for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election and was arrested. After years of battling for a woman’s right to vote,  the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920–a little less than 100 years ago–finally granting women the right to vote.

If your daughter dreams of becoming president, she needs to know about Victoria Woodhull.
Women’s rights leader Victoria Woodhull might be off our radar now, but she once attracted more media attention than any other woman.  She was a lecturer, stockbroker, and self-proclaimed psychic! And in 1872, she had the guts to be the first woman to run for president. She was one of 10 children from Ohio and only had about 3 years of formal education. She moved to NYC with her sisters, and they were the first female brokers on Wall Street. The sisters claimed to have netted around $700,000.

If your daughter loves clothes, tell her about Coco Chanel.
The French fashion designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (1883–1971) redefined feminine style and dress during the 20th Century. Her ideas were revolutionary, freeing women from cumbersome and impractical attire. She often borrowed from traditionally male styles, and redesigned them for women. She was known for her elegant simplicity and her bias cut dress. She said, “If you’re sad, if you are disappointed in love, put on your makeup, give yourself some beauty care, put on lipstick, and attack,”

If your daughter is a science-lover, she needs to know about Marie Curie.
If your daughter is a science-lover, she needs to know about Marie Curie, the first women to win a Nobel Prize in 1903. She was a chemist and physicist who was famous for her work in radioactivity. Her work was crucial towards the development of xrays. She won a second Nobel Prize making her the only person to win two prizes in different fields of science: chemistry and physics.

If your daughter is a girl scout, she needs to know this name: Juliette Gordon Low.
Juliette Gordon Low was passionate about volunteering. She started an all-girls club whose mission was to encourage active participation in community. She also encouraged members to enjoy the outdoors. There have been many famous girls scouts: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gloria Steinem and Taylor Swift to name a few.

 If your daughter is adventurous, tell her about Amelia Mary Earhart. 
Amelia Mary Earhart was an American aviation pioneer and the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Amelia saw her first plane at a state fair when she was 10 years old but didn’t board a plane until she was 23. She was only the sixteenth woman to receive a pilot’s license.

If your daughter wants to be an actress, tell her about Katherine Hepburn.
Known for her unconventional style, Katherine Hepburn was a feminist on the big screen. She pushed for acting roles for women beyond the dutiful Hollywood blonde bombshells. She was fiercely independent, loved to wear pants and was proud of her “dirty fingernails.”

If your daughter is passionate about social justice, tell her about Rosa Parks.
United States was under the ‘Jim Crow laws’ that claimed to give African Americans “separate but equal” status. On December 1 1955, Rosa boarded the bus home and took a seat. When a white man boarded, the driver told the African American passengers to give up their seats for him. Rosa did not. She was arrested for breaking segregation laws and refused to pay arguing that the law that was wrong. The black citizens of Montgomery decided to boycott the city’s buses in protest. They kept it up for 381 days walking to and from work until the Supreme Court ruled that Alabama’s racial segregation laws were ‘unconstitutional.’ Rosa became known as “the mother of the civil rights movement.

If your daughter is compassionate, she should know about Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa 
(1910–1997) was an Albanian nun and devoted her life to helping the poor. She became an icon for selfless service to others. Through her Missionary of Charities organization, she personally cared for thousands of sick and dying people in Calcutta. She was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1979. She created a home where terminally ill could die in dignity. “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” Read more about Mother Teresa

If you’re daughter likes to be heard, tell her about Oprah Winfrey.
American talk show host Oprah Winfrey started her incredibly successful career by talking. She was the first woman to own her own talk show. On her show, she brought to light issues facing American women. She grew up poor and was often mocked at school because she had to dress in potato sacks at times. She was also sexually abused at an early age. While trying to get a job as a news anchor, she was told her eyes were too far apart and she’d never make it in tv!  She was the first black woman billionaire and has a net worth of more than 2.9 billion dollars. Who is laughing now? Read more about Oprah.

If your daughter wants to be a princess, tell her about Princess Diana.
Beloved by all for her elegance and beauty, she transformed the role of a princess with her extensive humanitarian charity work around the world. “I would like a monarchy that has more contact with its people.” she said. During the AIDS epidemic in 1987 when people worried that the disease could be spread by touch alone, Princess Diana was one of the first well known celebrities to be photographed with a victim of AIDS. Read more about Diana.

If your daughter is an athlete, tell her about Billy Jean King.
American tennis player. Billie Jean King, was one of the greatest female tennis champions. She battled for equal pay for women and won 67 professional titles including 20 titles at Wimbledon. In 1974, she took part in what was called ‘The Battle of the Sexes.’ Bobby Riggs, a former number one tennis player, boasted that the men’s game was superior to a women’s. King answered his challenge, and the game was by 50 million people on TV and Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

If your daughter wants to be a writer, she should know about J.K.Rowling.
As I’m sure your daughters know, British author J.K.Rowling wrote the phenomenal best selling Harry Potter series. She has even been credited with leading a revival of reading by children! When she wrote her first book, she was a struggling single mother trying to make ends meet. Now, she is estimated to be worth $650 million.  She contributes generously to numerous charities and is president of the anti-poverty charity, One Parent Families.

If your daughter wants to be a journalist, she should know about Christiane Amanpour.
While men still seem to dominate journalism, the distinguished international reporter Christiane Amanpour, is a force to be reckoned with. Her depth of knowledge and courage are formidable. Amanpour has received multiple Emmys and countless other honors for her work, including several Peabodys and an Edward R. Murrow Award. The daughter of an English mother and Iranian father, she spent time in Tehran, Iran, while growing up. Her world was turned upside down in 1979 when the revolution toppled the shah of Iran, sending her family into exile.

If you have a daughter with original ideas, tell her about Sara Blakely.
Sara Blakely is a hero to women everywhere! She’s the reason I can wear tight pants! The American billionaire businesswoman is the founder of Spanx, an American intimate apparel company that keeps it all tucked in! She is the youngest female self-made billionaire, and started her company with just $5,000 and an idea. In 2012, Blakely was named in Time magazine’s “Time 100” annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. After a having a few babies herself, your daughter will thank you for telling her about Sara.

If you have a daughter who likes lipstick, tell her about Bobbi Brown.
After a decade of bright clown-like faces in the 80s, Bobbie Brown revolutionized the makeup industry with her introduction of makeup with moderation. She said, “If I could make a collection of 10 colors, I can’t imagine a woman needing any other color.” Of course, fuchsia and bright orange weren’t in the palette. She encourages women to look like themselves. She founded Pretty Powerful Campaign for Women & Girls which removes barriers to education that many girls face in developing nations.

If your daughter believes in the importance of wellness, tell her about Michelle Obama.
Michelle Obama was first black First Lady in the White House and the only First Lady in American history to hold two Ivy League degrees. There is so much to love about her; her intelligence, her dedication to her family, her elegance and beauty … and she’s humble about it.. But, she also transformed the way this country thinks about food. She launched Let’s Move!, starting a nationwide effort to address childhood obesity. Then, in 2010 she passed The School Lunch program which provides free and reduced-price meals to more than 21 million low-income children and requires them to serve more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products. Read more about Michelle Obama.

If your daughter wants to be a dancer, she should know about Misty Copeland.
Misty Copeland has changed the face of ballet. She didn’t start studying dance until she was 13 living in a motel room with her 5 siblings. Within three months, she was dancing en pointe. She joined the American Ballet Theatre in 2000 and went on to become the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the ABT’s 75 year history.

For me, the most inspiring women are the ones right before us: our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and friends.

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Author: Heather Zachariah

Former Art Director for Home Magazine, Heather Leahy Zachariah, left her career in publishing after baby number number one. She now works from home as a freelance graphic designer and a chauffeur to her 3 busy kids. "Working on TipsFromTown has been a wonderful outlet for me. It renewed my love of publishing where I can design colorful, enticing pages online and allows me to share the things I love about being a mom." Heather grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a place that still is near and dear to her. " After living in Brooklyn for 18 years and studying Graphic Design at Pratt Institute, she now lives in the Jersey burbs. "I love living so close to NYC, but in my heart, I'm an Ohio girl."


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