Biographies to Consider: Country

Biographies to Consider: Country

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

“A woman is like a tea bag-you never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water.”

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was an American politician.  She was the longest serving First Lady in the United States, holding the post from March 1933 to April 1945 during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office.  She was the first presidential spouse to hold press conferences, write a syndicated newspaper column, and speak at a national convention.

For more Inspiration:

How do you react in ‘hot water?’

Harriet Tubman (1822-1913)

”I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”

Harriet Tubman was an African-American humanitarian, abolitionist, and Union spy during the American Civil War. She was born onto slavery. Tubman escaped and made about thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved family and friends using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

For more inspiration:

What might Harriet ask us to consider as she put herself through danger freeing her brothers and sisters in slavery?

Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994)

My doctors told me I would never walk again.  My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.”

Wilma Glodean Rudolph was an American athlete and an Olympic champion. In the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome, Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic games. As a track and field champion, she raised the awareness of women’s track and field to a major presence in the United States. As a member of the black community, she is also regarded as a civil rights and women’s rights pioneer.

For more inspiration:

What might Wilma ask us to reflect on when we are given a hopeless situation?


Indira Gandhi (1917-1984)

“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.”

First female prime minister of India.  She was in power from between 1966-77 and 1980-84.  She was accused of authoritarian tendencies. She only narrowly avoided a military coup by agreeing to hold an election at the end of the “emergency period” of 1977.  Her Sikh bodyguards in response to her storming the Golden Temple assassinated her in 1984.

For more Inspiration:

What did Indira mean when she said, ‘You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist’?

Cleopatra (69-30 BC)

The last Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt.  Cleopatra sought to defend Egypt from the expanding Roman Empire. In doing so she formed relationships with two of Rome’s most powerful leaders:  Marc Anthony and Julius Caesar.

 For more Inspiration:

What might Cleopatra ask us to consider about women in leadership roles?

Shirin Ebadi (1947 – )

“Women are the victims of this patriarchal culture, but they are also its carriers. Let us keep in mind that every oppressive man was raised in the confines of his mother’s home.”

An Iranian lawyer, Ebadi has fought for human rights in Iran, representing political dissidents and founding initiatives to promote democracy and human rights. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.

For more Inspiration:

What might Shirin ask us to consider about family and your country’s rights?

Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007)

“If you do not learn from history, it tends to repeat itself.”  “If a woman is tough, she is pushy. If a man is tough, Gosh, he’s a great leader.”

Benazir Bhutto was the first female prime minister of a Muslim country.  She helped to move Pakistan from dictatorship to democracy becoming Prime Minister in 1988.  She sought to implement social reforms, in particular helping women and the poor.  She was assassinated in 2007.

For more Inspiration:

 What might Benazir ask you to reflect on of your history, your country?

Joan of Arc (1412-1431)

“ I am not afraid, I was born to do this.” The patron saint of France, Joan of Arc inspired a French revolt against the occupation of the English. An unlikely heroine; at the age of just 17, Joan successfully led the French to victory at Orleans. Her later trial and martyrdom only heightened her mystique.

For more Inspiration:

What might Joan ask us to consider about the strength of young women in our society and in your country?

Alice Walker (1944-       American)

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Women’s Rights Activist, Author, and Civil Rights Activist, Alice Walker was born in Eaton Georgia.  She worked as a social worker, teacher, and lecturer, and took part in the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi.  Walker won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for her novel, The Color Purple.  She is also an acclaimed poet and essayist.

“How do you give up your power? What power do you have?”

 Tz’u Hsi (1835-1908 China)

“I have read a great deal about Queen Victoria.  Still, I think her life isn’t half as interesting and memorable as mine.”

Tz’u was a powerful and charismatic woman who effectively controlled the Chinese government for forty-seven years, from 1861-her death in 1908. She has often been seen as a despot by some of her critics and also portrayed no worse or less cruel than her predecessors. Some have even thought she was part of Chinese government reform in her later years. However you see her, the fact that she, as a woman, was able to rule a kingdom in China or anywhere on the planet is something to think about.

Betty Makoni (1971-   Zimbabwean)

“Never again will a girl or woman get raped, killed, drop out of school, be harmed by our culture or be sexually enslaved.  That is as long as I know about it.”

Betty Makoni is known for her gender activism. In 1999 Betty Makoni founded the Girl Child network, a charity which cares for Zimbabwe’s young sex abuse victims; the organization has rescued more then 35,000 girls. Makoni left Zimbabwe in 2008, following torture threats.  She is married with three children and lives in England.

“How can we join Betty to bring awareness and aid to girls who suffer tragic abuses?”