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Contemporary Women Activists You Should Know

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In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating trailblazing women who advocate for equal rights and power our democracy.  

Read on to learn about five iconic women, from Hollywood’s finest to 21st-century leaders. 

Byllye Avery smiling in front of a window

Byllye Y. Avery

Byllye Y. Avery  

Byllye has dedicated her life to fighting for reproductive health, specifically health care and reproductive access for Black women. 

Her own experience battling an autoimmune disease and her work with special needs children inspired her to address the systemic health disparities facing the Black community. In 1974, she and her partners opened the Gainesville Women's Health Center to provide reproductive needs to people in Florida.

A year after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion care, Byllye and others opened the only clinic in Gainesville, FL, to provide reproductive health services (including abortion care and birth control). She went on to start the Black Women’s Health Imperative, formerly known as the National Black Women’s Health Project.  

Throughout her lifetime, Byllye has written and lectured about the intersections between race, sex, class, and health care. She is the recipient of a MacArthur fellowship in health policy. 

Activist America Ferrera

America Ferrera

America Ferrera 

America is known for her work as an actress and author, but she also champions women’s and Latino rights.

Along with Wilmer Valderrama and Ryan Piers Willians, she launched Harness in 2016 — a community of artists, activists, and leaders who use storytelling to power social change. America also co-founded Poderistas (formerly known as She Se Puede), a digital platform that empowers and encourages voting within the Latina community. 

America has been an active participant in the #MeToo movement and the Times Up campaign. In 2017, she was the opening speaker for the Women’s March in Washington, DC. She regularly participates in Get Out the Vote campaigns across the country.

Activist and actress Jane Fonda waving from the red carpet

Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda  

Jane might be best known for her iconic work as an actress and model, but don’t be fooled — she’s an activist at heart.

Fonda began her activism in the '70s and has since been a civil, women’s, and environmental rights champion.  She has notably stood up against the Vietnam and Iraq wars, violence against women, and racial injustice while promoting LGTBQIA+ rights and environmental protections.

In 2019, she was arrested five times in Washington, DC, while protesting alongside climate justice activists. In a recent interview, she spoke to the interconnectedness of climate, racism, and social injustice, stating, “Well, you know, you can take anything — sexism, racism, misogyny, homophobia...And if you really get into it, and study it and learn about it and the history of it and everything’s connected." 

Coretta Scott King in a pink jacket

Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King  

Coretta Scott King was one of our time's most prominent women activists. Along with her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta played a major role in the civil rights movement. She harnessed her unique skills as a singer and speaker to captivate audiences and spread the messages of racial justice and nonviolence, even in the face of violent threats from white supremacists.

In 1966, she helped found the National Organizing for Women (NOW) and was one of the many trailblazers for women’s rights. She also founded The King Center, a nonprofit focused on nonviolent social change. Additionally, Coretta used her platform to speak out against apartheid and support LGBTQIA+ rights.

Throughout her lifetime, Coretta received honorary doctorates from over 60 colleges and universities, wrote two books, and helped found many organizations, including the Black Leadership Forum, the National Black Coalition for Voter Participation, and the Black Leadership Roundtable.  

Winona LaDuke speaking into a microphone at a rally

Winona LaDuke

Winona LaDuke  

Winona is a writer, economist, and environmentalist dedicated to fighting for Indigenous land, sustainable development, and women’s rights.

In 1985, she helped found and co-chaired the Indigenous Women’s Network (IWN), a coalition dedicated to uplifting and empowering Native women to more roles in tribal politics. Winona also partnered with Women of All Red Nations to publicize the forcible sterilization of Native women and worked to recover land for the Anishinaabe people.

In 1993, she co-founded Honor the Earth, a native environmental advocacy organization, with the musicians the Indigo Girls. 

In 1996 and 2000, she ran for Vice President of the United States as a Green Party candidate. In 2016, she became the first Green Party member to receive an electoral vote for that office. 

These five women inspire us, and we know many more (past, present, and future) are paving the way for a better future. This month and every day, we are reminded that women power democracy. Let us know which women leaders you're celebrating on Twitter!

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