some notable women throughout history...
Nzinga of Angola (c. 1581-1663), a monarch in the area of Africa which is today Angola, was a formidable military leader who inflicted numerous defeats upon the Dutch and Portuguese seeking to usurp control over territories within her sphere of influence. She was a talented political strategist, whose ability to gain her objectives through deft negotiation and political maneuvering often precluded the need for battle. [Source: Delamotte, Eugenia; Meeker, Natania; O'Barr, Jean, Women Imagine Change, 1997]
Upon her husband's death, Cherokee leader Nancy Ward took his place in a 1775 battle against the Creeks, and led the Cherokee to victory. After the victory, her people named her Agi-ga-u-e (Beloved Women), and she became head of the Woman's Council and a member of the Council of Chiefs. [Source: Olsen, Kirstin, Chronology of Women's History, 1994]
On April 26, 1777, sixteen-year-old Sybil Ludington raced through the darkness on a daring mission to warn New York patriots that the British were attacking nearby Danbury, CT, where munitions and supplies for the entire region were stored. Her spirited and heroic ride, which succeeded in rallying enough patriots to repel the British raid, covered twice the distance traveled by Paul Revere in his famous nighttime ride.[Source: Kazickas, Jurate; Sherr, Lynn, The American Woman's Gazetteer, 1976]
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony spent their lives fighting for women's suffrage, never seeing the Amendment granting women the right to vote, but never giving up hope, insisting "Failure is impossible."
Alice Paul, in an effort to revitalize the suffrage movement which was focused on winning the vote for women on a state-by-state basis, lobbied Congress in 1910 to amend the Constitution to establish women's suffrage. She led a vital, grassroots and lobbying movement that eventually became the National Woman's Party, the group that initiated and penned the Equal Rights Amendment.
In 1929, Maria L. de Hernandez co-founded the civic and civil rights organization, Orden Caballeros of America. In the 1970s, she co-founded the Texas La Raza Unida Party. A native of Mexico and longtime resident of Texas, Hernandez wrote and spoke for equity and justice for her people.
On January 12, 1933 Hattie Caraway won a special election to fill her husband's Senate seat, becoming the first elected woman Senator. In February of the following year, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Frances Perkins U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perkins was the first woman ever to serve as a member of the President's Cabinet.
Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) was the founder and first president of the National Council of Negro Women in 1935, and was an officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for five years. Bethune also started a school in Florida which eventually developed into Bethune-Cookman College, graduating hundreds of students a year. She was appointed Advisor on Minority Affairs for the National Youth for the National Youth Administration under President Franklin Roosevelt and other high-level government positions.
Educator and civil rights activist Septima Clark trained teachers and worked in schools across the South to empower African Americans with knowledge and literacy to stand up for their rights. She spearheaded the registration of thousands of new voters in the Deep South as executive staff member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
In 1964, Patsy Mink was the first Asian-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She wrote legislation for the Women's Educational Equity Act and was a founding member of the National Women's Political Caucus. She also served as the Assistant Secretary of State during the Carter administration and became president of Americans for Democratic Action in 1978.
In the early 1970s, Ruth Bader Ginsburg won precedent-setting sex discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, where she currently sits as only the second woman Justice. She was also the first female law professor tenured at Columbia University, and has been called the "godmother of legal feminism."
The gender gap was first identified and popularized in 1980 by Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal, who as President of the National Organization for Women, noted an 8% difference between men's and women's for Reagan in his election over Carter. In that race, Reagan won support from 55% of men, but only 47% of women. Since 1980, the gender gap has become a staple of modern election analysis. The gender gap has been credited with the election of President Clinton in 1996 and the election of many Congressional and statewide candidates over the past two decades.
Ada Deer has been one of the leading activists for Native American issues in recent years. She became the first Menominee to graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she led her tribe in lobbying Congress to pass the Menominee Restoration Act which restored their land and treaty rights as American Indians. After an unsuccessful Congressional bid in 1992, Deer was appointed by President Clinton to a position in the Bureau for Indian Affairs.