5 Important Women You Should Know

by Ezinne Chukwu Anyasodo

Women’s History Month comes around every March and the aim is to highlight and celebrate the contribution of women across the globe and the impact they’ve had on society. 

Gerda Lerner started it off in 1978 as “Women’s History Week” in California. Since then it has been recognised as a national week (1980) and eventually a month (1987) in the States before spreading globally. 

Every woman is unique, powerful and beautiful in their own way and should be praised and celebrated every single day. 

But for now, allow me to introduce you to 5 significant women you should definitely know, highlighting their achievements and how they inspire me today.

Alice H. Parker

Alice Parker Patent Heater Drawing

If your house is warm right now, chances are that you owe it to this woman in one way or another.

Alice H. Parker is an African-American Inventor who invented the central heating furnace design which made use of natural gas for the first time to keep homes warm.

A lot of modern homes still use heating systems that are based on her original ideas. Her work formed the basis for features such as thermostats, zone heating and forced air furnaces

This is made even more impressive by the fact that she did all this before both the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Liberation Movement, which removed many of the barriers for black women of her generation.

Valerie L. Thomas

Valerie Thomas Landsat Computer Compatible Tapes

If you’ve ever gone to the cinema, worn those funky 3D glasses and marvelled at a 3D movie. This is the woman you need to be thanking!

Valerie L. Thomas is an African American scientist and inventor. She invented the illusion transmitter, the first mechanism to create the appearance of a 3D image using concave mirrors and light rays. This is what formed the basis of 3D technology. It also has applications in surgery and NASA still uses her technology today!

I’m inspired by her because she is a black Woman in Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) who worked her way up from Data Analyst to Associate Chief of the Space Science Data Operations Office at NASA.

Claudette Colvin

Claudette Colvin Wikipedia

If anyone ever tells you that you’re too young to make a difference. Just remember Claudette!

Claudette was a teenage civil rights activist who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on the bus home from high school. She did this at age 15!

Fun Fact: This happened 9 months before Rosa Parks did the same thing in what we now know as the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Why is Claudette not as famous as Rosa Parks? Claudette says the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) and all the other black organizations felt Parks would be a good icon because "she was an adult. They didn't think teenagers would be reliable."

She also says Parks had the “right hair and the right look. Her skin texture was the kind that people associate with the middle class. She fit that profile."

A bit of colourism there, but that’s for another time….

Claudette was also one of four women plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, the court case that successfully overturned bus segregation laws in Montgomery and Alabama.

Claudette and Rosa Park’s defiance paved the way for the civil rights movement and was an important step towards ending segregation.

Her courage inspires me because it shows that you don’t have to be a certain age to fight against institutionalised oppression of any kind.

Current Feminist Icons

Yara S. Shahidi

Yara Shahidi

Yara is an actress, best known for her role in the hit TV show, Black-ish and its spin off, Grown-ish. 

She is a feminist and outspoken activist that represents a new generation of young black women, like myself, who are invested and engaged in achieving social justice. 

Feminism and fashion:

“are intrinsically intertwined just because fashion has been such a political statement, whether it’s the reclamation of our power by wearing jeans and really pushing against the idea of what is considered feminine”

She inspires me because she uses her social media platform to bring awareness to so many social issues including the black lives matter movement, women’s rights, immigration policy and voter rights.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

AOC Congresswoman

AOC is an absolute badass of a woman!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress, taking office at the age of 29.

She is an American woman of colour, of Puerto Rican descent.

She represents a generation of women who refused to be silenced especially in such a male dominated political space.

She’s inspiring to me because when called a “F****** B*tch” by her colleague and opponent Ted Yoho, she used her House Floor Speech to address this instant of sexism.

 Addressing the “culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure of power that supports that”.

I’m personally really hoping she becomes the first female American President….

Hopefully you’ve read something you didn't know before!

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