In our quest for turning our real-life heroes into action figures, we’ve turned it over to you to help us decide who we should make next. Take a moment to read about each of these fearless women and let your voices be heard on who you want.
“I can’t understand why men make all this fuss about Everest– It’s only a mountain.”
September 22, 1939 – October 20, 2016 | Japan
Junko Tabei was the first woman to climb Mt. Everest and the first woman to ascend all Seven Summits. She relentlessly pursued climbing despite perceived frail health, modest finances, and sexism with her male counterparts. The women in her Japanese Women’s Everest Expedition had to stitch together much of their own equipment for the journey due to lack of sponsorships while also balancing jobs and motherhood in order to make the history-making journey. Following her mountaineering adventures, Tabei devoted her life to ecological efforts focused on preserving mountain environments.
“They are afraid of us because we are not afraid of them.”
March 4, 1971 – March 3, 2016 | Honduras
Berta Isabel Cáceres was an environmental and indigenous rights activist who worked towards defending the land and rights of the Lenca people. Caceres co-founded the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to unite and support indigenous groups against corrupt government and the destruction of indigenous land. She was best known for organizing the campaign to stop the construction of the Agua Zarca dam in Río Gualcarque for which she was assassinated for in 2016.
“Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, “We’ve always done it this way.” I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”
December 9th, 1906 – January 1st, 1992 | United States
Grace Hopper was a pioneering computer scientist and a US Navy rear admiral, known for her impact on modern computer programming languages of today. She invented the first compiler for computer programming languages, which replaced obtuse mathematical symbols into ordinary English words to make programming more accessible. Her work led to the development of COBOL and has impacted the core philosophy behind the creation of subsequent programming languages. In addition, Hopper served in the Navy during World War II as a part of an all-female division called Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), which placed women in fields beyond nursing. It was during this time that Hopper discovered her love for programming after previously striking a career as a mathematics professor.
“I think if I can be in the street with the people I can achieve more than if I am the president.”
February 7, 1979 | Yemen
Tawakkol Karman is the first Yemeni and the first Arab woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, for which she earned through her work for women’s rights. While working as a journalist in Yemen, Karman vocally protested for press freedom and organized weekly protests calling for reform. She is the co-founder and leader of Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC), a human rights group that promotes the rights for freedom of opinion and expression, and democratic rights.
“When you oppress people either by gender, by race, by sexual orientation, when you do that and the doors become ajar, they will fly open and they will come, and they have.”
November 22, 1943 | United States
Billie Jean King is regarded as one of the greatest female tennis players of all time with 39 Grand Slam titles. She cemented that title when she won the Battle of the Sexes tennis match against Bobby Riggs, who had declared female players as inferior. King is also one of the first professional female athletes to come out as a lesbian when she was forcibly outed in 1981, which led to losing all of her endorsements overnight. Since then, King has become an advocate for LGBT rights, gender equality, and social justice.
“Every time I have had a problem, I have confronted it with the ax of art.”
March 22, 1929 | Japan
Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese multi-medium, avant-garde, contemporary artist. As one of the most influential female artists, her work has impacted pop, minimalist, and feminist art movements. Her success did not come without conflict: she defied her family who did not support her artistic ambitions and has openly (and candidly) dealt with mental health disorders. She is known for her Infinity Rooms, her love for polka dots, and exquisite works of art encapsulated in everything from performance to installations.
“When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope.”
April 1, 1940 – September 25, 2011 | Kenya
Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots, indigenous organization focused on environmental conservation and community development that trains women in forestry, bee-keeping, and other trades. Her work uniquely bridged environmental conservation, women’s rights, poverty, and democracy. Maathai was the first Eastern African woman to receive a Ph.D., and the first African woman and environmentalist to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in sustainable development, democracy, and peace.
October 25, 1940 | United States
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a transgender rights activist, known for her actions during the Stonewall Riots and community organizing for trans women, particularly for trans women of color. During the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, Miss Major organized community efforts to provide services and care for those affected. Miss Major is a vocal critic of the prison-industrial complex as well as the exclusion of transgender persons in mainstream society. She is currently the Executive Direct for the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project, which supports incarcerated transgender persons.
“The most fulfilled people are the ones who get up every morning and stand for something larger than themselves.”
November 18, 1945 – April 4, 2010 | United States
Wilma Mankiller was the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation who oversaw a rejuvenation of the Cherokee community through her focus on economic development and health. Born in Oklahoma, she was raised in California when her family moved there as a part of government relocation programs for Cherokee people. Experiencing the Civil Rights Movements led to her progressive and revolutionary passion for revitalizing the Cherokee Nation. She faced rampant sexism from existing Cherokee leadership but was determined to better her community and prove to young Cherokee girls that they could achieve the seemingly impossible. Mankiller was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993 and honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.