Intro: Women have shaped the history of the world through advocating for causes dear to them.

In the trials of time, women have had the tendency to be overlooked or underestimated. In history, women have shaped the timeline for better in many different ways. Many times over, they have not been given the recognition they deserve for setting some of the most powerful movements forward. Utilizing their strengths that society had deemed as weaknesses and prevailing in their journeys of advocacy.

Women are strong, smart, well rounded, and have many other qualities that have given them the opportunities to make history. Giving recognition to those women that have given the next generations to come, better opportunities is important and understanding the hurdles they had to overcome during their time gives a newfound strength and possibility of lessons learned.

5 Influential Women in History

Mary White Ovington

Mary Ovington, Journalist, and Activist born – African American Registry (

Mary White Ovington was a women’s activist and civil rights leader that was born in Brooklyn of 1865. Her parents, both, supported abolition of slavery and women’s rights. After hearing a speech given by Frederick Douglas, she decided that pursue a life in civil rights. She dove straight into this work by helping establish the Greenpoint Settlement in Brooklyn and Greenwich House Committee on Social Investigations a few years later in 1904. There, Ovington would study employment and housing problems in black communities of Manhattan.

Proceeding this, she would later take on the role of helping establish the NAACP. Ovington and Walling ha met where they had came to the conclusion that they needed a national conference on civil rights and justice for Black Americans. A number of white activists heeded the call along with Black Americans including W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells. A statement was released on February 09, 1909 and a few months later the first meeting of the NAACP was held. Mary Ovington would serve as the NAACP’s executive secretary and later, after World War I, would become the organization’s chair.

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks was born February 4th, of 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama as Rosa Louise McCauley. Her grandparents, were both enslaved people and strong advocates for racial equality. Parks’ childhood would give her different kinds of experiences in the face of racism and discrimination. She would attend segregated schools for the entirety of her education. Where in the 11th grade, she would leave school and come back home to care for her sick family. Rosa married Raymond Parks, a member of the NAACP, at the age of 19. After finishing school, she would then become involved in civil rights matters by joining the NAACP in 1943.

December 1st, 1955, Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. She had stated that she was not tired physically, but rather tired of giving in. During this time, laws of discrimination were prominent to where African Americans were meant to sit in the back half of the bus designated by a sign. As the bus was filling up and white passengers were standing, the bus driver moved the sign a row back telling the African Americans to give their seats up for the white people. Rosa refused and was arrested prompting the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This movement helped overturn the segregation for public transportation at the Supreme Court.

Malala Yousafzai

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Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education advocate who, at the age of 17 became the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. Prior to this, at the young age of 15 years old, the Taliban attempted to assassinate her in which she survived. Yousafzai had become an advocate for the education of girls, which resulted in the failed assassination. This did not stop her from advocating for the unheard voices of many girls in her community and around the world.

She continues her work to this day, speaking on the importance of education for all. Yousafzai had written her book I Am Malala and spoke at the United Nations in 2013. Her book highlights her journey as an advocate for education and the hardships her and her family had to overcome in order to be where they are today. The strength it took to not only survive but to persevere in the conditions presented to them is extremely motivational.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a phenomenal career as a Supreme Court Justice and other roles prior. She was a strong courtroom advocate for fair treatment of women and continued this advocacy through her work with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. Ginsburg came from a low income household where her mother stressed the importance of education and having independence. She would later receive her Bachelor’s Degree from Cornell University in government in the year 1954. She would later then pursue law at Harvard where she was 1 of only 8 women in her class of more than 500. She would face discrimination, hardships, and a hostile environment throughout her career because she was a woman.

Ginsburg would later go off to teach at Rutgers Law School where she became the school’s first female tenured professor. She would also serve as the director of the Women’s Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union in the 1970’s. In 2015, Ginsburg would side with the majority of Supreme Court Ruling in favor of upholding the Affordable Care Act on June 25th. On June 26th, the Supreme Court majority ruled in favor of Obergefell v. Hodges that would make same-sex marriages legal in all of the 50 states. Ginsburg was a trail blazer for gender equality, women’s rights, and same-sex rights for marriages.

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s Conservative Party leader and was elected in 1979 as prime minister. She had became the first woman to ever hold this position. During her three terms, she would cut social welfare programs, privatize particular industries, and reduce trade union power. Thatcher would later resign due to power struggles within her party in 1990 and later would die April 8th, 2013, at the age of 87.

The year 1974, the Conservative Party in Britain would lose power, and Thatcher would become a dominant force in the political climate. She was then elected leader of the Conservative Party in 1975 where she would beat out Heath for this position. With this victory, she became the first woman to in the House of Commons to server as the opposition leader. May, 1979 she would then make history, being elected as the first female prime minister of Britain.

These stories of strong and powerful women persevering in the face of discriminations and hardships are motivational. They continued to work hard and become powerful voices and advocates for matters that were and are important to them. There are many points to be taken from these women and many like them. Continue in your fight for what is important to you.

About the Author: Matthew Skibniewski is currently an intern at the Lesniak Institute and The Outreach Department of The Governor’s Office. Matthew is a PR/Social Media Intern, Outreach Intern, and current student at Kean University studying Public Administration.