For our first blog during Women’s History month, I have elected to share the Top 5 Women in History that I admire for their courage, persistence, leadership and overall difference they made that has positively impacted countless.
1. Harriett Tubman
Leading hundreds to freedom leveraging the underground railroad, Harriett Tubman was a strong woman who overcame unimaginable challenges. Harriet Tubman was born into slavery estimated in 1820, working as a servant as young as age 5. Most know that she was a key figure in leading slaves to freedom and never lost a “passenger”.
What you may not know was that she was also a spy and scout for the Union Army during the Civil War. Her vast knowledge of routes made her valuable to Union forces. She also worked as a nurse helping soldiers. After the war she worked with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in support of Women’s Suffrage efforts.
Harriett led when women were rarely seen as leaders. Her persistence and commitment to free others was outstanding. Her contribution was significant and her tenacity unmatched.
2. Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt was born in 1884 and in contrast to Harriett Tubman her family was affluent and politically powerful. Before she took her role as First Lady, Eleanor taught immigrant children and had already demonstrated her passion for helping. In WW I, she “volunteered with various relief agencies”. She took on leadership roles in organizations such as the League of Women Voters and the Women’s Trade Union League contributing to early public recognition of her and what she stood for.
Eleanor was an active First Lady and was one of the first to become highly involved in public policy. As the First Lady she “wrote nearly 3000 articles in newspapers and magazines,… authored six books and traveled nationwide delivering countless speeches ”. Her political work extended beyond that as First Lady and after her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death.
Her work supported those that did not have a voice. She leveraged her access to support those that needed her help. She has been one of the most respected women in history for many. To me, I hear her voice in the many quotes of hers I love. One has been a constant reminder for me: “Happiness is not a goal, it’s a by-product of a life well-lived.” When I think of her life and contributions, she embodies the essence of a life that was not wasted.
3. Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa was born in 1910 as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in what is today, Skopje, North Macedonia. She knew as early as age 12 her life’s mission to serve God. She took her vows to become a nun in 1931.
In 1950 she was able to gain the necessary permission to start her own order – “The Missionaries of Charity” focused on helping the poorest of the poor, primarily in Calcutta India. The Nobel Peace Prize 1979 was awarded to Mother Teresa "for her work for bringing help to suffering humanity". She continued to work tirelessly until her death in 1997.
Mother Teresa is the ultimate servant leader. Her leadership created an organization that has helped countless that could not help themselves. When I think of a woman that embodies service of others, I think of Mother Teresa. No matter your faith, you can’t help but acknowledge that she is a woman to be admired.
4. Carmie Mae (Sallee) Montague Stich
My Paternal Grandmother, Carmie Mae Sallee was born on December 29, 1921. Beyond being one of the most admired women that has personally impacted who I am, she was a “Rosie” working at Republic Aviation in Evansville, Indiana between 1942 to 1945 on the P-47 Thunderbirds. She was responsible for riveting on the rear fuselage. She shared that she felt that she wanted to do her part for the war effort and was also willing to give up her amazing freedom and joy of working after the war to provide a job to returning soldiers.
She experienced hardships throughout her life, losing both her husbands, my father’s father 1 month before he was born. In spite of that, she was one of the most selfless people I knew. She was a lover of people, but she was equally a lover of nature. During the Spring and Summer her Wildflower garden would be in full bloom. The trees were full of homemade bird feeders, and she took care of countless stray cats.
In her senior years she once again found the spirit of her youth and participated in 2 different Mission Trips and challenged norms. My Grandmother showed her family that we need to be open for the call to duty, whatever that might be and when doing so, be fearless! Pictured above you can see the pride she felt when at the age of 82 she got to see a P-47 once again.
5. Shirley Chisholm
Shirley Chisholm was born in 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. She is best known for being the first African American Woman in Congress (1968). Her autobiography was titled Unbought and Unbossed, also her life’s motto. Her focus was on racial and gender equality and was an active member in the League of Women Votes, the NAACP and the Urban League. Among the many notable things that Shirley accomplished was being the first African American and first Woman to seek the nomination for President from a major political party and the first Black woman to serve on the House Rules Committee.
Shirley Chisholm was a trailblazer and many have followed after her on the “Chisholm Trail”. I so admire her courage and conviction that kept her focused on her mission in spite of so many obstacles she faced. Her efforts have made it possible for many other women after her to have a seat in the still very male dominated arena of politics.
Tell us who your top picks are for of historical women who have impacted your life, or you admire. Whose quotes do you lean into? Who from your own family has made the biggest impact on who you are today. Celebrate those women this Women’s History month! Comment below by becoming a JennQuest site member.