During hard times, inspiration is a powerful thing. While the world is still dealing with the immediate concerns of a pandemic and an uncertain future, it’s important to look back on our history and the people that made it, not just to learn from our mistakes, but to remember that we are not alone. We are where we are today because generations before us made the world what it is, and the people that come after us will be shaped by the world we create today. People have been through hard times before and have gotten through them. We will too. But sometimes we need to be reminded of that.
Women’s History Month is a time to think of the women who have made our world better. These women are not inspiring because they lived carefree lives where change came easily, they are inspiring because of the adversity they faced and overcame.
You’ll find countless inspiring women throughout history, but here are just a few of our picks.
Frida Kahlo (1907–1954)
You might know Frida Kahlo as the unibrowed artist Miguel meets in the movie Coco. She was a Mexican artist who taught herself how to paint after a bus accident left her bedridden for three months. She even had a special easel constructed so that she could paint while lying down. Although she eventually healed enough to learn to walk again, she dealt with chronic pain for the rest of her life.
She used her art to explore and express her disability, her identity as a woman, gender roles, her European and Indigenous heritage, and important social issues. She painted more than 140 paintings in her life, 55 of which were self-portraits. But why did she have a unibrow? While it wasn’t as prominent in real life as she depicted in her paintings, she deliberately chose to grow out her facial hair as a rejection of traditional beauty standards! Frida Kahlo (and her artwork) remains one of the most famous artists in history.
Barbara Jordan (1936–1996)
Born in Houston, Texas, Barbara Jordan was a lawyer and politician. She ran not once, but twice for the Texas House of Representatives (in 1962 and 1964). She lost both times. Two years later, she ran and won a seat in the Texas Senate. She was the first Black state senator since 1883, and the first Black woman to ever serve in the state senate. She eventually did serve in the House of Representatives, making her the first woman to do so in Texas.
Here are just a few amazing things Jordan did during her long political career: raised the minimum wage in Texas, expanded the Voting Rights Act to protect Hispanics, fought for the rights of immigrants, and gave one of the most powerful and famous speeches of the 20th century during Nixon’s impeachment hearings.
Maria Tallchief (1925–2013)
Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief was the daughter of an Osage Native father and a Scottish-Irish mother. She started dance lessons when she was three, and moved to New York City when she was 17 to pursue ballet full-time. For the first five years, she danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She was often urged by dancers and choreographers to change her last name to something “more Russian sounding” (a trend among ballet dancers at the time) in order to be seen as more professional, but Tallchief refused (though she did shorten her name to Tallchief).
Eventually, she became the New York City Ballet’s principal dancer when it was established in 1946, and is considered America’s first prima ballerina. Some of her most notable productions The Firebird which revolutionized ballet choreography, and her role as the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker is what made the ballet so well-known today.
Dr. Sally Ride (1951–2012)
Sally Ride was 26 and finishing up her Ph.D. in Physics at Stanford University when she saw a newspaper ad that NASA was looking for astronauts for their space program. But there was something different: for the first time ever, women could apply for the program. After years of training, Ride was selected as one of six women for the space program, and became the first American woman to go to space in 1983 (as well as the youngest American astronaut at 32). Ride’s long-term female partner has said that Ride’s experiences as the only female astronaut on these flights was exciting, but challenging due to the workplace culture. She flew on the same spacecraft again in 1984, after which she became a physics professor at the University of California, San Diego, and eventually founded a nonprofit organization that encourages STEM literacy for children.
We want to hear what women inspire you! Tag us on our Girl Scouts of West Central Florida social media accounts so we can share your favorite female trailblazers: