Top 10 Radical Women in History

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earheart. Photo: Smithsonian Institution

It’s not easy to defy norms now, so imagine how difficult it would have been in the staid societies of the past! Despite rigid rules and exigent expectations, more than a few marvelous maidens rose up to assert their power, intelligence, and just plain awesomeness. Today’s Top 10 recognizes a few of these rebellious role models!

10. Boudica (unknown - c.AD 60). Bold Boudica led an uprising against the oppressive Roman occupation in her Iceni tribe homeland.
9. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910). Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to graduate medical school and the first female doctor in the U.S.!
8. Amelia Earhart (1897-c.1937). This fearless lady was a women’s rights activist who is most notably known for being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
7. Trung Sisters (c.12-AD 43). For more than two years, these Vietnamese sisters fought back Chinese invaders by organizing an army of willful women.
6. Tin Hinan (c.4th or 5th century). Viewed as a matriarch and heroine, Tin Hinan was the first leader to unify the Taureg, a Berber people. She also founded their kingdom in the mountains of what is now Algeria.
5. Olympes de Gouges (1748-1793). From writing abolitionist plays to scripting the famous Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, Olympes de Gouges was a fierce feminist and fair-minded maiden.
4. Tomoe Gozen (c.1157–c.1247). With her skilled swordsmanship, awesome archery abilities, and excellent equestrianism, Tomoe was one of history’s few female samurais.
3. Mary Kingsley (1862-1900). Ms. Kingsley did it all — she traveled solo in Africa, was the first European to climb the 13,760-foot Mount Cameroon, canoed up the Ogowe River and collected new species of fish, spoke up for indigenous people’s rights, and was the first woman to address the Liverpool and Manchester chambers of commerce. Phew! Try accomplishing all that!
2. Harriet Tubman (c.1820-1913). No stranger to U.S. history books, Harriet was conductor on the Underground Railroad, led a raid for the Union Army, was a spy for the Union Army, fought for women’s rights, and more!
1. Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906). Our list wouldn’t be complete without Ms. Anthony — thanks to her, we can vote.

Which women do you admire?

About Hannah

"Q: Where do cantaloupes go for the summer? A: John Cougar Mellon Camp!" From that joke you can surmise a few things about Hannah -- she loves a good pun, she delights in irreverence, and red peppers are her vegetable of choice. How does one figure out Hannah loves red peppers from that joke? Hmm, that's top secret. Hannah also adores outdoor activities, arts & crafts, reading, and being abroad.

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0 Responses to Top 10 Radical Women in History

  1. Sophie 05/06/2010 at 2:17 pm #

    ooh Elizabeth Blackwell and Harriet Tubman were BALLERS!

    I am also a fan of Rosa Parks. I like that even though she didn’t lead an uprising literally, she made a powerful statement with a small act of defiance.

  2. Courtney 05/06/2010 at 3:10 pm #

    Coco Chanel- fashion forward and arguably one of the most influential women in fashion history!

  3. Coco 05/06/2010 at 3:28 pm #

    Emmeline Pankhurst! leader of the British suffragette movement – she played a significant role in securing our right to vote – which feels especially relevant today on our General election! Thanks Emmeline!

  4. Carolina Zelaya 05/06/2010 at 4:01 pm #

    Kate Hepburn!
    Beauty and elegance personified!

  5. Emily 05/06/2010 at 4:09 pm #

    Lucy Burns and Alice Paul – Susan B may have started suffrage, but they ended it.

  6. Lulu 05/06/2010 at 4:42 pm #

    Frida Kahlo! a free thinker and a brilliant artist. i love her to death! definitely one of my idols.

  7. Emily 05/06/2010 at 6:21 pm #

    I’m related to Elizabeth Blackwell on my mom’s side! Plenty of strong women.

  8. Fabiola 05/06/2010 at 7:14 pm #

    why isnt Joan of Arc here?!

  9. nina 05/06/2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton! Worked with Susan B. Anthony and woefully underappreciated, in my opinion. She’s less remembered because she was a bit more radical, writing “The Woman’s Bible” and supporitng interacial marriage, to name a few.

    Also, Lucretia Mott was pretty awesome.

  10. Elli 05/06/2010 at 10:38 pm #

    I suppose you couldn’t put Olympe de Gouges AND Mary Wollstonecraft, since you can only have ten and there are so many awesome women . . . . . :(

  11. Alicia 05/06/2010 at 11:35 pm #

    Eleanor Roosevelt!!! She did alot of work for women and family rights while she was First Lady. She was also a delegate for UN back when women had trouble getting PTA positions, just saying.

  12. c_tyler 05/07/2010 at 8:56 am #

    Great post and there are so many more – I know it must have been hard to choose. Amelia Earhart’s story has always been one of my favorites, but I grew up pouring over a book I had about Eugenie Clark – The Shark Lady. She was absolutely fascinating and I wanted to research and swim with sharks just like her when I grew up.

  13. Victoria / Justice Pirate 05/07/2010 at 9:38 am #

    I always loved Boadicea (Boudica as you called her, she goes by a few names). I used to study her on my own when I was younger, plus the English version of her name is Victoria which is my name. I loved that she was a redhead and queen of the celts, but I was always sad that she poisoned herself.

  14. lumikha 05/07/2010 at 10:32 am #

    harriet tubman was a bada$$…love her. i admire my mother the most. :)

  15. jill 05/07/2010 at 3:53 pm #

    How about the recently deceased civil rights and womens rights icon, Dorothy Height? Talk about inspiring.

  16. Kim 05/08/2010 at 8:12 pm #

    Annie Oakley!! First female sharpshooter and first female american superstar! Or what about Sacagawea who accompained Lewis and Clark with a newborn baby on her back!

  17. Diane 05/09/2010 at 10:07 pm #

    Edie Sedgwick. Despite her unfortunate drug addiction she was a great fashion icon, model, and actress. And also Andy Warhol’s muse in the 60s :)

  18. Eliza 05/09/2010 at 11:23 pm #

    I loved the shout out to other suffragettes, but what about the most radical American of them all, Matilda Joslyn Gage? And what about the political revolutionaries of the anarchist movement, like Voltairine de Cleyre, women who were too radical to color inside the lines? Emma Goldman was conflicted about a woman’s right to vote when she believed “you can’t take down the master’s house with the master’s tools.”

  19. Alexa (modcloth) 05/10/2010 at 1:01 pm #

    Laurie Anderson — female electronic musician who even invented her own instrument!!

  20. Alanna J 05/10/2010 at 2:40 pm #

    Gráinne Mhaol!!!! The fearless Irish pirate queen!

  21. Katharine Ellis Tapley 05/11/2010 at 1:24 am #

    Rest in Peace, Lena Horne.

  22. Cécile 05/11/2010 at 5:14 am #

    Louise Michel and Louise Bourgeois! Two French Louises, the first a great political activist, the other an amazing artist.

  23. Michaela 05/11/2010 at 6:29 pm #

    Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth the I of England. They threw people’s views on women’s positions through a loop.

  24. Emma 05/11/2010 at 11:44 pm #

    I second Lucy Burns and Alice Paul! They were so tough, and what they went through!! Not many people could stand it.

    Ditto Rosa Parks, who was so radical with such an innocuous task.

    And talk about radical–the Feminist Mystique by Betty Friedan, who was forward-thinking enough to address women about women’s issues, and to imagine that women had identities separate from men.

  25. Eliza 05/14/2010 at 5:50 am #

    Rosa Parks WAS a radical, Emma, but that small act of disobedience was so well-received by white America that the civil rights movement wanted to downplay her politics.

    Michaela, you might want to look up Caterina Sforza if you like strong women of that time period. She overthrew her husband and assassinated several other men to wield power for a couple decades.

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