For Women’s History Month this March, the Demon Press wants to highlight some of the female trailblazers who helped advocate for women getting the rights that they deserve. The women on this list broke barriers and helped push forward the cause of not just women’s rights, but also the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community and people of color. Though many of these women may have faced setbacks or even been barred from pursuing their passions because of their gender, they continued to push through, and helped to move us closer to a world where future women and girls could have a life in which their gender did not stop them from pursuing their dreams.
1. Ida B. Wells: Journalist and Civil Rights Advocate
In 1892, journalist Ida B. Wells published an exposé pamphlet in which she shed light on the issue of lynching, specifically regarding white mob violence against African Americans. Though this action infuriated many in her town and caused her to be ridiculed by many white suffragettes, who ignored racial issues similar to the ones Wells advocated for, it was and still is an important document. She also helped to found the National Association of Colored Women’s Club. Though she faced many injustices because of her race and her gender, Ida B. Wells is a pivotal figure in the fight for civil rights in America.
2. Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady and Human Rights Champion
Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the most prominent figures in women’s history and was an advocate for women’s rights and civil rights. During her time as First Lady, Roosevelt revolutionized the work expected of a First Lady and promoted various social issues. She traveled across the globe and penned an almost-daily column called My Day, which she continued to write until 1962. After her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt, died in 1945, she went on to serve as a delegate to the United Nations, and even helped to write the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Upon the request of President John F. Kennedy, she chaired the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, a position she held from 1960 up until her death in 1963.
3. Coretta Scott King: Author and Activist
Though she is probably best-known by most for her husband, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King was a leading figure in her own right in many social justice movements, specifically the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. She also founded the King Center, which aims to keep the legacy of her late husband alive. Aside from her work as a civil rights champion, she was also a skilled musician, and she would often incorporate this skill into her advocacy. She authored 3 books in her lifetime and has received over 60 honorary doctorate degrees.
4. Bella Abzug: Congresswoman and Feminist Advocate
Bella Abzug, nicknamed ‘Battling Bella’ for her tenacious spirit, was a politician, anti war activist, and champion of the women’s liberation movement. She helped to found the Women Strike for Peace organization and the National Women’s Political Caucus. Abzug is often associated with her hats, which she wore at most, if not all, public appearances. The origins of this habit, according to Abzug herself, are that, “When I was a young lawyer, I would go to people’s offices and they would always say: ‘Sit here. We’ll wait for the lawyer.’ Working women wore hats. It was the only way they would take you seriously. After a while, I started liking them. When I got to Congress, they made a big thing of it. So I was watching. Did they want me to wear it or not? They didn’t want me to wear it, so I did.”
5. Gloria Steinem: Journalist and Feminist Leader
Gloria Steinem is one of the most prominent and iconic leaders of the 2nd wave of feminism. Before she was on the forefront of the 1960s/70s feminist movement, Steinem was a journalist—one of her most notable works being an exposé on working conditions for Playboy bunnies. She founded notable feminist magazine Ms. in 1972 and has written multiple books.
6. Marsha P. Johnson: LGBTQ+ Rights Activist
Marsha P. Johnson was one of the most prominent and influential figures in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights during the 20th century. Johnson was transgender and also performed as a drag queen. She first came to be known in the public eye in 1969, when she was a key figure in the Stonewall riots, which is considered by many to be the moment that sparked the fight for equal rights for members of the LGBT community. She, along with fellow advocate Sylvia Rivera, helped to found STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), which aimed to help transgender youth, specifically surrounding the issue of homelessness. During the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s, Johnson was an advocate, attending protests and ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) meetings.
7. Sonia Sotomayor: Supreme Court Justice
Sonia Sotomayor became the third woman and first Hispanic and Latina person to become a justice on the United States Supreme Court in 2009. After being raised by a single mother in a housing project in the Bronx, she went on to receive her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and her juris doctorate from Yale Law School. Sotomayor worked as a prosecutor when, in 1997, she was nominated by then-President Bill Clinton to serve in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In January of 2021, she swore in Kamala D. Harris, the first woman and person of color to hold the office of Vice President.
8. Geraldine Ferraro: Vice Presidential Candidate
In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman to be nominated for national office by a major political party when she was nominated to run for Vice President along with Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale. Though she and her running mate lost their bid for the White House, she still remains an important figure in women’s history. About her loss in the 1984 election, she has stated that, “Throwing Ronald Reagan out of office at the height of his popularity, with inflation and interest rates down, the economy moving, and the country at peace, would have required God on the ticket, and She was not available!” Before her stint as Vice-Presidential nominee, Ferraro worked as a criminal prosecutor and then a U.S. Representative from New York’s 9th Congressional District.
— Blake Ciresa