Special Report

25 Women Who Shaped the Feminist Movement

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1. Betty Friedan
> Occupation: Writer
> Known for: The Feminine Mystique

Betty Friedan’s 1963 book “The Feminine Mystique” is often credited with igniting the women’s rights movement of the ’60s and ’70s as it rejected women’s roles as mothers and wives first, individuals second. In 1966, Friedan co-founded the National Organization for Women, which ran campaigns to gain better access for women to jobs, childcare, abortions, and representation in government.

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2. Maya Angelou
> Occupation: Author, civil rights activist
> Known for: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

A survivor of devastating childhood trauma, Maya Angelou spent years of her youth mute but grew up to become a writer, performer, director, civil rights worker, and recipient of over 30 honorary degrees. Her first of six memoirs, the autobiography “I know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” has sold over 1 million copies. It details her tumultuous childhood and her long path to overcoming racism and sexism. In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Angelou a Presidential Medal of Freedom for her inspirational and hopeful works, which helped generations of women survive racism and sexism and still find joy in their lives and their bodies.

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3. Adrienne Rich
> Occupation: Poet
> Known for: Declining the National Medal for the Arts

Adrienne Rich was an award-winning American poet whose work spanned seven decades. Her work was known for its feminist, lesbian, and political content, focusing on issues of war, social justice, sexuality, and oppression. She brought awareness to women and lesbians’ oppression and called the American dream a myth. In 1997, when selected to win the National Medal for the Arts, Rich famously refused the award, stating that “The radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening at a devastating rate. A president cannot meaningfully honor certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonored.”

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4. Dolores Huerta
> Occupation: Labor organizer
> Known for: United Farm Workers Association

Dolores Huerta is a long time labor and Mexican-American civil rights activist. Active since the ’50s, she’s founded numerous workers’ rights organizations, lead labor strikes, and instigated consumer boycotts. In the ’70s, she became a lobbyist for workers’ rights, and in the ’90s and 2000s she began working to get Latinos and women into political offices. She is a recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She is also the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

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5. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
> Occupation: Supreme Court Justice
> Known for: Frontiero v. Richardson

Though best known for being the second female justice ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been using her legal skills to fight for gender equality since the ’70s. While teaching at Columbia law school in 1972, she co-founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, where she challenged laws that classified people based on gender. Ginsburg won five Supreme Court cases, the most famous of which is Frontiero v. Richardson. Four of the justices, for the first time ever, declared that classifying people based on gender was “inherently” suspect under the Constitution.” Ginsburg helped to establish equal protection for all people regardless of gender.