With the emergence of social media and the new idea of “influencers,” most of which are at a very young age, popular female celebrities and models often make poor decisions or represent questionable images. Some social media influencers portray unrealistic body images that only lead to people comparing themselves to this impractical idea of how people should be. Oftentimes, people are justified in wondering if these young women are good influences for children and teens.
Influencers do not give people the full story of their lives; people only get a perfect snapshot, although life is not always perfect. However, there is always the more classic definition of a female icon. Here is a list of five women who have contributed monumental impacts not only on the definition of femininity and what it means to be a woman in the world.
1. Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great was the Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796, the longest female ruler ever in that country. She was a successful leader who conquered an immense amount of new territory. Additionally, Catherine was very enlightened and well educated. In her lifetime, she wrote numerous pieces of literature all aimed to improve Russia’s educational system. Catherine the Great also led her troops into several wars that ended in Russian success, and some of the effects of her reign are still notable today.
2. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg has also made history and lives up to her profound name. Also known as the Notorious RBG, Ginsburg has personally overcome the struggle of sexism and still proved to be advantageous. She proved this by becoming the top of her class in law school at Columbia University and fought for equal pay from her male colleagues that were professors at Rutgers University as well. She co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, was one of only four female Supreme Court Justices in history, and was the first member of the Supreme Court to officiate a same-sex marriage, thus legalizing it.
3. Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai is another woman who stood her ground in the name of injustice, and her story only truly began a few years ago in Pakistan where she just wanted to go to school. Pakistan, however, has a large force group called the Taliban that prohibits girls to go to school based on scriptures in their Muslim faith. Yousafzai was not about to never go to school again, so when her school bus was stopped by the Taliban on their way to an all-girls school, she stood up to the men and found herself with a bullet wound in her head. But this did not stop her, prayers and well-wishers were coming from all over the world, making her a household name in gender equality. She is also the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize, at the ripe age of 17 she left her permanent imprint on the world and will forever be known as doing so.
4. Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday was a jazz singer who is famous for her songs talking about racial inequality. She lived from 1915 to 1959, when segregation between people of different races was legal in the United States through heinous Jim Crow laws, which made it legal to discriminate against all people of color, and a time where many Black people were lynched and not given fair legal trials. Her classic song “Strange Fruit,” has won the song of the century, brought this unfair treatment to light, and made Holiday an iconic and strong woman.
5. Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is a female poet and civil rights activist. She overcame tremendous tragedies in her life as a Black woman in America and conquered them all with her resilience and determination, her childhood home was in Arkansas where in Southern states like that, several Jim Crow laws were in effect and it was typical to be discriminatory based on the color of one’s skin. She was known for her positive outlook on life, no matter how society was treating her based on the color of her skin. Angelou was known as “the nation’s wise woman” as she inspired many with her touching words through poetry. One of her most famous quotes is “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” She encouraged people to have a positive look on life no matter their circumstances and to always consider the more positive side.
It is important to recognize good role models that are worthy to have people aspire to and admire them. There are so many negative influences online that could easily seep into the minds of vulnerable kids and teens, especially young girls, so it is paramount to identify people that have left positive impacts on society. These five women have done just that, and have left impressionable impacts on women and the globe alike.
Illustrations by Sofie Kahlig