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Qiu Jin

Qiu Jin

(b. November 8, 1875 – July 15, 1907)

Qiu Jin was a Chinese writer who’s publications advocated for her feminist and revolutionist ideas. She was executed after a failed rebellion against the Qing Dynasty, and is considered in China a heroine and martyr for women’s rights and republicanism.

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Christiana Figueres

Christiana Figueres
(b. August 7, 1956)

Christiana Figueres is a Costa Rican diplomat and internationally recognized leader on global climate change. She served as the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010-2016. During this tenure, she forged a new form of collaborative diplomacy that culminated in the historical Paris Agreement of 2015. She is currently the convener of Mission 2020, a global initiative that seeks to ensure the world bends the curve on greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

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Jaha Dukureh

Jaha Dukureh
(b. 1989)

Jaha Dukureh, from Gambia, is the UN Women’s Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Africa. Her primary goal is to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) worldwide. She campaigned in Gambia for this cause, resulting in the Gambian government’s ban on FGM. In 2017, she created a documentary about her work in order to stimulate discussion and change.

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Empress Theodora

Empress Theodora
(c. 500 – 28 June 548)

Married to Emperor Justinian, ruler of the Byzantine Empire from 527-565, Empress Theodora was his most trusted advisor. Many historians suspect that she controlled the political affairs of the kingdom and she is thought to be the most powerful woman in the history of the Byzantine Empire. She was one of the first rulers to recognize the rights of women, passing legislation that prohibited the trafficking of young women.

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Queen Nzinga Mbande

Queen Nzinga Mbande
(b. 1583 – December 17, 1663)

Queen Nzinga Mbande ruled the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms (modern day Nambia) during Portugal’s colonization efforts. She built up her kingdom to become an equal of that of the Portuguese colonizers. As such, despite on-going conflicts, she was able to broker peace for a considerable time between the Ndongo Kingdom and Portugal.

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Queen Liliuokalani

Queen Liliuokalani
(January 29, 1891 – January 17, 1893)

Queen Liliuokalani was Hawaii’s only female ruler before it was annexed by the United States. Prior to becoming the queen, she worked towards organizing schools for Hawaii’s youth. Throughout her reign as monarch, Liliuokalani fought against America’s efforts to gain control of Hawaii. Though she was not successful in this endeavor, she did work towards the reinstatement of Hawaii as a sovereign nation until her death.

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Federica Montseny

Federica Montseny
(February 12, 1905 – January 14, 1994)

Federica Montseny was named Spain’s Minister of Health during the Spanish Revolution of 1936, becoming Spain’s first female cabinet minister. Montseny accomplished several reforms including preventative family planning, sex education, and the legalization of abortion. At the end of the Revolution, the communist party had regained control. Montseny lived in exile in France where she continued her efforts through the publication of the anarchist newspaper, L’Espoir.

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Begum Hazrat Mahal

Begum Hazrat Mahal
(b. 1820 – April 7, 1879)

During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Begum Hazrat Mahal led a rebellion against the British East India Company. This came to be the longest resistance against the British. The British were forced to seek refuge in Lucknow while Mahal ruled for 10 months as regent. Eventually, Mahal retreated to Nepal.

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Shirin Ebadi

Shirin Ebadi
(b. 1947)

Shirin Ebadi was named the first female judge in Iran in 1969. Following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Ebadi was demoted and retired early. She eventually formed her own legal practice and defended many human rights cases pertaining to women, children, and dissident figures. Ebadi’s human rights efforts won her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.

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Krystyna Skarbek

Krystyna Skarbek
(May 1, 1908 – June, 15 1952)

Born in Poland, Krystyna Skarbek became an agent of Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) where she demonstrated bravery and resourcefulness in her intelligence missions against Nazi forces. Among her many awards and honors, Skarbek was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Her successes as an agent have also been credited with influencing the SOE to recruit more women. Skarbek was killed in 1952 while working as a flight attendant.

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