As I said in last week’s post, I am a feminist and I am proud to be so. And even though I am aware of the many other social injustices, I am privileged enough to not experience them. After all, I am straight, white, and was born in the US. I know I am more privileged than some, and I know it comes with an advantage, but I understand I can use that advantage to help others and advocate for what is right, equality for everyone. As Albert Einstein said, “those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.” These women from various backgrounds have all acted in the name of justice and equality and I hope you learn at least a little bit about each of them.
First up, a woman we’ve all known of for years, Emma Watson. I am a huge fan of Emma’s and not just for her acting skills, but also for her advocacy. She is a huge inspiration to me, and I would love to be able to make an impact on other people as she has done for me and so many others. She is a major advocate for women’s rights and girls’ education. She has traveled to places such as Bangladesh and Zambia to promote education for girls and was appointed a UN Women Goodwill ambassador in 2014. Later that year she also addressed the UN to launch her famous HeForShe campaign that called on men to advocate for gender equality. She helped educate people that feminism is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities”, not, in fact, “man-hating”. She has traveled to Uruguay to promote women’s participation in government issues. She encourages feminism through reading by having a Goodreads book club and leaving books about for someone to pick up and enjoy and learn. She has received a lot of backlash and criticism for everything she stands for which just encouraged her to do more outstanding work and receive a number of “titles”, so to speak, for being such an inspiration. If all you know her for is her work as an actress, then you are missing out on some great work that Emma has done to help in the women’s rights movement all around the world.
Next is a woman I am surprised I never learned about in school, but that’s, unfortunately, how history works in the American school system. Coretta Scott King, or how I knew her in school, Martin Luther King’s wife, which is an absolute shame. She was also very active with her husband in the civil rights movement, but I never learned about her. The only female I really recall learning about in the civil rights movement was Rosa Parks. When MLK became a full-time pastor, Coretta had to give up her dream of becoming a classical singer. This sacrifice and devotion to the cause would become symbolic of the actions of many African American women in the civil rights movement. She received threats towards her and her husband which led to her having been nicknamed “Yoki” by him so he can publicly refer to her without using her real name. Together they became very involved in the civil rights movement and peaceful protests. She was by his side every step of his journey through the civil rights movement and continued his legacy after his death. She fought for many years to make his birthday a national holiday saying that “Martin is the best candidate we have” for at least one national annual holiday to pay tribute to an African-American man. She traveled all over the country making speeches about the civil rights movement, she promoted peaceful protests for various issues such as the US missile attack on Iraq. She urged President Reagan to approve economic sanctions against South Africa due to the prominent racial inequality. She has been referred to as a more devoted pacifist than her husband because of how much she advocated world peace but opposed the term of pacifism. She preferred being an advocate of non-violent direct action to achieve social change and I have to agree with her way of putting it and her ideals.
Lastly, a woman I never learned about and one you’ve probably never heard of either, Dolores Huerta. Huerta advocated for women’s rights, civil rights, and one we often forget, worker’s rights, primarily Latinos. She helped Fred Ross start the Stockton Chapter of the Community Service Organization. She basically became his right-hand woman and was delegated huge responsibilities to help deliver the organization’s fight for economic improvements for Latinos. Huerta also cofounded Agricultural Workers Association as well as the National Farm Workers Association (which became the United Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee). After seeing how farm workers were working, living, and being treated, she knew that there was a need for the NFWA. A lot of the workers got low to no pay, had no rights, slept on floors with wood boxes as furniture, didn’t have access to clean water or to bathrooms, and worked sunrise to sunset without any breaks. If the workers had kids, their education was not very good because they were likely out working with their parents and the families often moved around to where crops were being grown from season to season. Many women were sexually assaulted by landowners but never spoke up for the fear of losing their jobs. Through Dolores’ efforts, she pushed for laws to get passed in order to help these people. She organized boycotts and strikes and lobbies for laws that will improve working conditions. For her participation in strikes and non-violent civil disobedience actions, Dolores Huerta has been arrested a whopping twenty-two times. To this day she still advocated for their rights as well as other progressive causes for workers, women and civil rights. In 2002, she founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation which is a non-profit “community benefit organization that organizes at the grassroots level, engaging and developing natural leaders. DHF creates leadership opportunities for community organizing, leadership development, civic engagement, and policy advocacy in the following priority areas: health & environment, education & youth development, and economic development.” She has received many honors and awards for her work including the US Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and she became the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
These three incredible women have done/continue to do amazing work, just as so many other women do. There was so much more that I could have written about each of them – but where would that leave you? With a lot fewer questions, that’s for sure. I hope that this post leaves you wanting to learn more about them and about other women like them who fight for what is right, equal rights and opportunities for everyone despite one’s gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality.