Radical women have served as agents of change throughout history, long before Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. And they’ll continue to do so long after.
Not familiar with the scores of women who’ve achieved greatness around the world? Start with Rad Women Worldwide, a collection of paper-cut illustrations that celebrate 40 women who’ve fought for equality, advocated for the disenfranchised and sparked definitive action in their respective countries.
From Malala to Wangari Maathai, Qiu Jin to Junko Tabei, Sophie Scholl to Enheduanna, Rad Women Worldwide merges art and literature in a history lesson that spans centuries, cultures and continents. Highlighting, as the subtitle of the tome notes, “artists and athletes, pirates and punks, and other revolutionaries,” the compilation from Ten Speed Press is a mini-manual on how to topple the patriarchy that might now seem more necessary than ever.
Check out six of the women profiled in the book, available for purchase now, below:
Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian-born woman to travel to space. From Rad Women:
When Kalpana Chawla’s math professor explained the concept of a “null set,” she used the example of a female Indian astronaut. There had never been one, so it was a classic case of a category that simply did not exist. “Who knows?” Kalpana exclaimed to her class. “One day this set may exist!” The other students laughed—they had no idea that their outspoken classmate would one day make history.
[...] In college Kalpana was the only woman in most of her classes, and counselors often urged her to choose a different career. But she persisted, got her PhD, and moved to America to work as a researcher for NASA. Kalpana was selected out of 2,000 applicants for the U.S. astronaut program, and in 1997 her dreams came true: she and five other astronauts traveled 252 times around the earth, or 6.5 million miles.
The path from dreams to success does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get onto it.
A message Kalpana Chawla sent to her students from space
Qiu Jin started a feminist magazine in China in 1906 that encouraged women to pursue education, find jobs and become financially independent. From Rad Women:
The “modern-day Mulan.” The “Chinese Joan of Arc.” “China’s first feminist.” These names have all been used to describe Qiu Jin, who defied tradition to become a revolutionary leader in China’s Qing dynasty.
[...] Qiu wanted to share her ideas with as many women as possible. She wrote essays, but many Chinese women couldn’t read, so she gave energetic speeches about women’s rights. She also wrote beautiful poetry, with lines like “Unbinding my feet I clean out a thousand years of poison / With heated heart arouse all women’s spirits.”
[...] Qiu Jin was arrested and charged with the crime of writing two revolutionary poems. Her execution shocked the nation and made her a hero to many and a symbol of women’s independence. Four years after her death, the Revolution of 1911 transformed China, bringing about the change she had fought for.
With all my heart I beseech and beg my 200 million female compatriots to assume their responsibility as citizens. Arise! Arise! Chinese women, arise!
Poly Styrene was the leader of the game-changing punk band X-Ray Spex in England. From Rad Women:
The British punk scene was often angry and dreary—and dominated by white men. Poly was radically different: a mixed-race teenage girl with a huge smile that showed off her silver braces. She sneered the opening lines of her first hit song (“Some people say little girls should be seen and not heard!”) and went on to prove that idea very wrong. She sang about consumerism, sexism, and unfair beauty standards, and she used humor and sarcasm to get her point across. For Poly, punk rock was about “young people getting up and doing something, creating something.” It was a way for her to express her emotions and ideas.
I started with nothing but a few melodic lyrics and a lot of determination.
Dame Katerina Te Heikōkō Mataira was an award-winning children’s book writer and the only person to write novels in Māori. From Rad Women:
In 1971 a researcher’s report confirmed that only 5 percent of the Māori population spoke their mother tongue. The language was dying. Katerina Mataira decided it was time for the Māori people to take matters into their own hands. Katerina was born in Tokomaru Bay as part of the Ngāti Porou tribe. As a teacher and mother she knew education was the key to saving the Māori language and culture. She decided the Māori must set up their own learning institutions, and she dedicated her life to making that happen.
Katerina and her friend Ngoi Pēwhairangi developed a system for teaching te reo Māori. They traveled the country recruiting native Māori speakers to become tutors. Soon a network of tutors were teaching the disappearing language to young people and adults. This became a nationwide movement, and Katerina helped found Māori-language immersion schools called Kura Kaupapa Māori. She became known as the mother of the “Kura Kaupapa Movement,” and hundreds of these schools are still thriving today. Māori was made an official language of New Zealand in 1987, and a 2013 census reported that 21 percent of native Māori now speak it.
Ko taku reo taku ohooho, ko taku reo taku māpihi mauria. / My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul.
Madres de la Plaza de Mayo was the name given to a group of grieving mothers who brought international attention to the disappearance of citizens critical to the government in Argentina. From Rad Women:
On April 30, 1977, Azucena Villaflor de Vincenti and 13 other women went to the Plaza de Mayo, a public square in the capital of Argentina. They sat on benches clutching their knitting, terrified of being arrested. Gatherings of more than three people were illegal, so when the police told them to move, they began walking around the plaza, two by two. These 14 women were all mothers, and they would continue to meet there every Thursday for the next 38 years, risking their lives and families in pursuit of one goal: to find out what had happened to their missing children.
From 1976 to 1983, Argentina was controlled by a military dictatorship that wanted to eliminate anyone who opposed it. During this time, sometimes known as the “Dirty War,” thousands of men and women were taken by the government, disappearing suddenly from homes, offices, classrooms, and streets, never to be seen again. They were called los desaparecidos (“the disappeared”): students, artists, professors, activists, social workers, and citizens who had expressed dissatisfaction with the military regime. Even the relatives of those who spoke up were targeted. No one knew whether they were alive or not. The government denied having anything to do with these disappearances, and most citizens were too scared to speak up.
One of the things that I simply will not do now is shut up.
María del Rosario de Cerruti, one of the madres
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera is one of the last prominent LGBTQ activists living in Uganda. From Rad Women:
Wearing “boy’s clothes” doesn’t make a person gay, but in a culture with strict rules about what boys and girls should and shouldn’t wear, it did make Kasha Jacqueline stand out. And because homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, as it is in 38 other countries, this teacher informed the girl and her parents that she had to leave the school.
This discrimination continued for her entire childhood: she was beaten, bullied, and expelled from schools. These experiences made her into the fearless leader she is today. The “Mother of the Gay Rights Movement” in Uganda began speaking out against homophobia in college. At age 23, she founded Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), one of Uganda’s main lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) organizations.
I’m full of rage, but I won’t get a gun and fight. I’ll use my words to break down the system of oppression.
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera