“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” ~ Brigham Young
Growing up, I was raised by a wonderful mother who constantly proved to me—through her own achievements—what women are capable of.
She always told me that “behind every great man, there’s a great woman.” And so, I firmly believe that she purposely raised me to be a feminist. Fortunately, I’ve also been affected by certain women who left their stamp on history.
Through my mother and these prominent women, I’ve seen the affect women have had on society.
Every single woman in the world is making a remarkable impact—even if she’s not aware of it yet. Be it cooking a simple meal for her family or being elected for president, the effort and the impact that’s left is admirably the same.
Unfortunately, plenty of women are still unknown in so many countries. They aren’t being heard today due to their cultural or religious customs. This is why we need an urgent window of inspiration that can make us believe in our powerful role of shaping the world.
The women who have voiced their opinions are loudly speaking to us. It is through their own power that we can believe in ours.
Although we’re all making a daily change in the world, I have chosen 10 women from different fields who have contributed to my own success. They served as inspirational figures that have led me to believe in the power of women.
Today, we celebrate their strength and honor their revolutionary contributions.
1. Coco Chanel
“My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.”
She is arguably the woman who changed the course of women’s fashion forever. She is mostly known for advancing the fashion of women wearing trousers in their daily lives, taking into consideration that they only wore corsets and skirts at that time. Wearing pants was only associated with men until Coco Chanel decided that women should have the same level of freedom and comfort.
Coco Chanel teaches us originality, uniqueness and the courage to redefine womanhood. She was obviously ahead of her time and didn’t fear opposing society for the sake of her own comfort. For me, she represents the liberation of women and the importance of inventing my own way of thinking.
2. Amelia Earhart
“Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.”
Earhart was the first female aviator to fly 1400 feet solo across the Atlantic ocean. Sadly, her plane went missing over the Pacific ocean more than 80 years ago. Amelia is still an icon of fearlessness and revolution, especially when you consider that marriage came second for her at a time where it was a priority for women during the 1920’s.
Amelia taught me about freedom and passion: freedom to live as I please and pursue my passion regardless of what society labels it.
3. Mother Teresa
“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”
Mother Teresa was known for helping the poor and providing them food and shelter. We all know her as “the living saint” who had a compassionate, loving and generous heart. She is the woman who undoubtedly made a change in how we perceive and practice love.
Mother Teresa teaches us how far we can go in the realm of love and giving. She shows us the nurturing mother that lies inside of every woman. For me, she is a pivotal icon who taught me that love is the cure for all malignant illnesses and dire poverty.
4. Queen Elizabeth I
“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king.”
She’s the “virgin queen” who ruled England alone for almost 45 years. She refused to marry and proved to the world that she was capable of making her own political decisions. She rejected every marriage proposal she received and ascertained that a queen doesn’t need a husband to lead her military campaigns.
Queen Elizabeth I has been my greatest inspiration since I was a kid. The greatest lesson we can learn from her life is that women are indeed capable of doing a man’s job. She taught me that we, as women, have the ability of leading and educating nations.
5. Oprah Winfrey
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.”
Oprah is unquestionably the leading woman of our generation. Her accomplishments go beyond merely being a successful talk host show. She proved to the world that it is your heart that determines how far you can go and not your circumstances. Oprah was the first African-American woman to reach billionaire status and fortunately, she used her power and money to help people in need.
I’ve watched Oprah since I was 15 years old. She influenced me on a personal, educational and spiritual level, with her astonishing ability to listen and help people, while restoring our faith in humanity.
6. Malala Yousafzai
“If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”
She is the legendary girl who stood up to the Taliban, who shot her in the head in 2012. Fighting for education almost cost her her life, but this incident didn’t stop her from speaking out about the importance of educating women. It actually helped her raise her voice and she ended up being the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Malala is a remarkable lesson to the entire world, and particularly to the young generation, that the only effective weapons we can fight with are education and peace.
7. Jane Austen
“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”
Jane Austen is the iconic writer whose six novels are still widely read and admired to this day. Famous for Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, this young woman changed the history of novels at a time when women weren’t really known as extraordinary writers.
She wrote stories that still ring true to us even after almost 200 years. Jane Austen teaches us to do what we are best at, despite the society or time we live in.
8. Marie Curie
“Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.”
Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry and Physics, for discovering two elements, and was the first female professor at the University of Paris. She is a prominent figure in the realm of womanhood as she inspires us to achieve “firsts.”
What’s inspiring about Marie Curie is that advanced studies—like the ones she received and was passionate about—were neither current nor possible in Poland at her time. Yet, she pursued higher education and made an extensive discovery that changed science. She simply teaches us willingness and mental strength.
9. Joan of Arc
“I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”
This heroine and saint led the entire French army to victory over the British during the Hundred Years’ war. She was burned at the stake as a heretic by the English when she was only 19 years old.
Joan of Arc is regarded as a courageous martyr in the world of feminism. Just like Queen Elizabeth I, she achieved what was considered impossible for women. She inspired me to fight for what I believe in, even if it will cost me my life.
10. Rosa Parks
“I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.”
Rosa Parks is the iconic African-American civil rights activist who refused to give up her seat to a white patron on the Alabama city bus in 1955. Her story is history by itself. Rosa Parks’ extraordinary courage has made her one of my all-time influential idols.
Any woman can be an example to us. We needn’t look far to try and depict what inspiring things a woman can do. We can simply stand in front of the mirror and admire our own achievements.
Remember that you are as strong as you believe yourself to be.
Happy International Women’s Day!
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: YouTube screenshot