A Feminist a Day: Betty Ford

Who is she?

betty fordBetty Ford was the wife of US President Gerald Ford and used her First Lady status to speak out about many social issues.

She’s perhaps best known for the addiction treatment centre that bears her name – the Betty Ford Clinic. Betty co-founded the clinic in 1982 after her own battle with alcohol and drug addiction.

Betty raised awareness for breast cancer after undergoing a mastectomy in 1974 and she was a passionate supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. She was pro-choice on the abortion issue and famously commented on many social issues, including sex, drugs, abortion and equal pay.

Why should we thank her?

For being an extremely outspoken First Lady. Remember that she was a Republican, so speaking out about issues like abortion is pretty amazing, let alone the fact that she was pro-choice.

Best quote

“I have an independent streak. It’s hard to tell and an independent woman what to do.”

 

 

A Feminist a Day: Betty Ford

A Feminist a Day: Eleanor Roosevelt

Who is she?

rooseveltEleanor Roosevelt was the wife of US President Franklin Roosevelt and a human rights advocate.

Eleanor was deeply influenced early in life by the feminist headmistress of her school. Her marriage to FDR was complicated – he cheated on her with his secretary, but she stayed with him regardless.

Eleanor revolutionised the role of the First Lady – when her husband was struck down with polio, she campaigned and made speeches on his behalf, and she introduced her own regular press conferences and wrote a syndicated newspaper column. Sometimes she openly disagreed with her husband’s policies.

She campaigned for greater roles for women in the workplace, for civil rights and for the rights of WW2 refugees. After her husband’s death, Eleanor remained active in politics for the rest of her life. She pressed the United States to join the United Nations and became one of its first delegates. Perhaps her greatest achievement was overseeing the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Why should we thank her?

Eleanor paved the way for forthright First Ladies, like Hillary Clinton and Betty Ford and showed that they could be more than just ‘silent partners’.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of the most important documents in the world, and is undoubtedly as relevant today as when it was first drafted.

Best quote

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

A Feminist a Day: Eleanor Roosevelt

A Feminist a Day: Sarah Hale

Who is she? 

Sarah_Hale_portraitSarah Hale is best known as a campaigner for the creation of the American Thanksgiving holiday and also for writing the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, but she was also the editor of the Godey’s Lady’s Book for 40 years.

Godey’s was THE fashion magazine of the day in America, and although it preached a lot of traditional ‘women’s values’, Sarah also worked to try and expand women’s role in society.

Though she didn’t believe in suffrage, she was an advocate for women’s education and women’s entry to the workforce (her father believed in equal education for boys and girls and she was home-schooled).  While editor of the magazine, she created a section called ‘Employment for Women’ and she also helped to found Vassar College.

Why should we thank her?

Well, without Sarah, Americans wouldn’t have a national holiday to chow down with family and friends and give thanks.

But she was also an early (albeit rather gentle) campaigner for women’s rights and access to education.

 

 

 

 

 

A Feminist a Day: Sarah Hale

A Feminist a Day: Margaret Fuller

Who is she?

fullerMargaret Fuller was a journalist and feminist, who was the first full-time book reviewer in America.

Margaret was given a remarkable education by her father – he insisted she get the same as any boy’s education and forbade her from reading what was considered “women’s literature” of the time.

She became a journalist and began to hold what she called “conversations” – discussions among local women intended to compensate them for their lack of formal education. A number of significant figures in the women’s rights movement were part of these discussions.

In 1845, Margaret’s work Woman in the Nineteenth Century was published. It discussed the role women played in the American democracy and is subsequently considered the first work of feminism in American history.

She later became the book critic for the New York Tribune – becoming its first female editor in 1846.

Why should we thank her?

Margaret was one of the first voices of feminism in America – she believed in such radical notions as equal access to education, she advocated for women to seek any employment they wished and she warned women to be careful in marriage and not to become dependent on their husbands. Pretty radical for the day. Margaret was also a huge influence on famous women’s rights advocates Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Best quote

“If you ask me what office women should fill, I reply—any … let them be sea captains if you will. I do not doubt that there are women well fitted for such an office.”

A Feminist a Day: Margaret Fuller

A Feminist a Day: Malala Yousafzai

Who is she?

Malala-Yousafzai_Antonio-OlmosMalala Yousafzai is a Pakistani advocate for women’s education and the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malala defied the Taliban ban on girls’ education in her region and grew to international prominence when she wrote a blog about her experiences for the BBC when she was 11 years old. In 2012, she survived an assassination attempt, when a gunman shot her three times. The Taliban have reiterated their intention to kill Malala and her father.

In 2014, Malala was named the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy of children’s education.

Interestingly, Malala only recently declared herself a feminist – she told actress Emma Watson that it was the Harry Potter star’s speech at the UN launching the HeForShe campaign that changed her mind.

Why should we thank her?

For defying brutal extremists in their bid to restrict female access to education and being brave enough to defy assassination attempts and death threats. Malala has raised the profile worldwide of the issue of children’s (and particularly girls’) access to education.

Best quote

“Extremists have shown what frightens them most: A girl with a book.”

 

 

A Feminist a Day: Malala Yousafzai

A Feminist a Day: Lucy-Anne Holmes

Who is she?

Lucy-Ann HolmesLucy-Anne Holmes is a British actress and writer who started a campaign to end The Sun’s publication of topless “page three girls”.

Lucy-Anne started the campaign in 2012 with a petition asking then-editor Dominic Mohan to remove the page three girls. The petition gathered 215,000 signatures in three years. The campaign also targeted Rupert Murdoch with Twitter messages and lobbied Lego not to advertise in the newspaper (they stopped).

The campaign also targeted supermarket newspaper displays, asking for them to be redesigned so kids could not see sexually graphic content – this was implemented by UK supermarket chains Tesco and Waitrose.

Lucy-Anne won her fight and since January 2015, there have been no page three girls in The Sun (though they’re still available online apparently).

Why should we thank her?

For highlighting just one of the ways that ‘casual sexism’ that pervades our society in so many ways. The fact that for so many years, the British public just accepted topless photos of women in a daily newspaper, as part of their daily life is deplorable. Lucy-Anne was pilloried as a ‘killjoy’ and (ha) ‘jealous’ by many detractors, but won out in the end.

Now, if we in Melbourne could turn out attention to those huge “Schnitz n’ Tits” signs everywhere….

Best quote

“We’re hearing about 15-year-old girls who have been walking down the school corridor and their boobs are being graded out of 10 compared with the model on the page. They’re not buying it. The mother who walks into a cafe and has to explain to her six-year-old daughter why there’s a naked woman in The Sun? She’s not buying it. The paper isn’t bought and read in isolation, and we all have to live in a society that says ‘shut up and get your tits out’.”

 

A Feminist a Day: Lucy-Anne Holmes

A Feminist a Day: Taslima Nasrin

Who is she?

taslimaTaslima Nasrin is a Bangladeshi writer and human rights activist who has lived in exile since 1994. She has a fatwa (death threat) on her by Islamic extremists because of her unflinching criticism of Islam, particularly its treatment of women.

Taslima writes about and has spoken widely about the treatment of Bangladeshi women – she says men want to keep the women ‘veiled, illiterate and in the kitchen’. She refuses to wear a burqa or veil of any kind. Taslima says that women should have control whether they have children or not and have equal marriage rights to men in Islamic societies.

Her 2010 novel Lajja describes a Hindu family’s persecution by Muslims seeking revenge for the destruction of a mosque, including the rape, kidnap and murder of women. The book sold more than 60,000 copies in Bangladesh before it was banned.

Why should we thank her?

Taslima has defied religious zealots who want her dead for her beliefs, enduring numerous death threats and being forced to live in many different countries for her safety. She has spoken out about the treatment of women in her home country and religion’s subordination of women.

Best quote

“I have shaken the society with my anger. I’m nothing without the anger, so no compromise on that.”

A Feminist a Day: Taslima Nasrin