Textbooks are overflowing with great stories of strong women in history who accomplished the unimaginable.
Of course, if you did come across those stories in a history book, say, back in high school, it’s possible you either couldn’t relate back then, or you simply forgot what you learned. But the opportunity to look at the accomplishments of powerful women from recent history, and even ancient history, and remember their sacrifices and their gifts can prove to be not just inspiring but integral to your success.
Strong Women in History Who Paved the Way for Your Success
There are literally thousands of great stories from which to choose. Here are three great famous women who didn’t shrink from the challenge and whose courage directly impacts us today.
As you read, think about this: How can you use your life to spark something great in your or your kids’ lives or those within your sphere of influence?
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Outspoken Human Rights Activist and Columnist
The quintessential New Yorker, Eleanor Roosevelt is perhaps best known for her fearlessness and sharp wit. She spoke out against injustice, yes. But more than anything, she spoke against playing small. Eleanor Roosevelt campaigned for civil rights, women’s rights, and human rights the world around, and it seemed almost circumstantial that her husband just happened to be Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States.
Eleanor Roosevelt single-handedly reshaped the role of the First Lady of the United States. Never one to sit quietly in the background, the First Lady was a vocal advocate of fighting to gain freedoms and fighting to keep American liberties. She spoke at civil rights meetings, despite receiving threats from hate groups. She was an active member of several key human rights and women’s rights organizations.
After being elected head of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in 1946, Eleanor Roosevelt drafted the Declaration of Human Rights, which the UN passed in 1948.
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, The Peasant Girl Who Invented Haute Couture
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was an orphaned peasant at the start of the 20th century. Born in Saumur, France, her mother died shortly after she was born, and her father deserted Gabrielle and her five siblings shortly after that.
She worked as a lounge singer for a while to support herself and worked as a seamstress. It was her married boyfriend who helped her set up the business that would soon remake women’s fashion.
The woman we know as Coco Chanel introduced haute couture to the world.
She invented the little black dress and gave Karl Lagerfeld his big break. All of this, she did at a time when women relied on their husbands for their identities and their sustenance.
Today, Coco Chanel is a staple in the fashion industry, amongst the influencer community, and in urban culture. Her perfumes still line the countertops of perfumeries and high-end department stores.
An orphan built an empire. A peasant changed fashion around the world.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abolitionist Who Fueled the Civil War, First Best-Selling Author in History
As the author of the first American book to sell a million copies, Harriet Beecher Stowe probably made it onto your high school reading list. Her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the best-selling book of the nineteenth century and one of her primary goals in life was to educate Americans on the horrors of slavery.
As an active abolitionist, Stowe believed that Americans owed the African race a debt, a topic about which she wrote to no end. She was no stranger to evil that looms when someone – particularly a woman – speaks against the status quo. Legend has it, she received her fair share of hate mail, most notably from a slave owner who included the ear of a slave in his letter to her.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is credited with playing a key role in starting the Civil War, but also in emancipating the slaves. The book was a global sensation, and Stowe’s most famous work, but she did a lot more writing, including a column in The Independent. She also published a book a year until her death, publishing 30 books in addition to her journalism work, poems and short stories.
The Power of Women
Throughout history, powerful women have taken courageous steps to push the world forward. When the stakes are high, and there’s no one else to act, there has always been a collective of famous women in history who have been unshaken by the threat of harm or even death. These are the women who have opened doors for us, change the way we relate to one another, changed the way we speak and the way we dress. Changed the way we parent, and helped society course-correct before anyone reading this ever even made it onto the scene.
That’s the power of women.
“When I was growing up, I thought a woman could have it all, and I find that, yes, a woman can have it all – but she has to be prepared to pay the price.” – Two-time Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto