30 inspiring icons of women's empowerment

International Women's Day 2019

There are leaders and then there are icons who serve as inspiration. The following list contains just some of the names that motivate us to achieve our very best. These women serve as ideal role models for the future generation, irrespective of gender differences.

Joan of Arc: Peasant girl turned patron saint of France; Joan of Arc led the French army in momentous victory over the British during The Hundred Years' war.

Marie Curie: Marie Curie didn't just discover radium, polonium, champion the use of radiation in medicine and fundamentally change our understanding of radioactivity, she's also the only person in history to win a Nobel Prize twice in two different disciplines of science.

Photo: Collected

Begum Rokeya: Widely regarded as a pioneer of women's rights in the Indian subcontinent, Begum Rokeya spent most of her life crafting literature that would enforce the importance of education for young women.

Dolly Parton: Dolly Parton is a world-renowned singer, guitarist, and actress. But she also happens to run the Dolly foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes literacy in poverty stricken Appalachian towns.

Julia Child: One of the first women to host her own cooking show, Julia Child is largely responsible for popularising French cuisine in America. Did I mention she was also a World War II veteran?

Sufia Kamal: Begum Sufia Kamal is one of the biggest cultural idols of this country. Not only was she a renowned poet and feminist icon, she also took part in the Bengali nationalist movement of the '50s and the Liberation War of 1971

Rosalind Franklin: Utilising a technique called X-ray crystallography, Rosalind Franklin discovered the helical structure of the DNA molecule. Unfortunately, sexism and her untimely death robbed her of winning the Nobel Prize.

Jane Goodall: The world's foremost expert on chimpanzees, Jane Goodall is best known for her 60-year study of primates and for completely transforming our understanding of our closest genetic relative species.

Jennifer Doudna: Jennifer Doudna helped develop CRISPR, a cutting-edge molecular tool that may possibly eradicate diseases like Huntington's, sickle cell anaemia, and HIV.

Mary Shelley: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was a British author who wrote the famous "Frankenstein", a novel that was inspired by her own sense of alienation and isolation. It is considered by many to be the first science fiction novel.

Jane Austen: Best known for the highly adapted "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility," Jane Austen is one of the most celebrated authors of romantic literature.

Amelia Earhart: The first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic and the first pilot to fly solo from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland.

Virginia Woolf: One of the most innovative writers of the 20th century, Virginia Woolf is best known for her contribution to modern feminist literature with classics such as "A Room of One's Own".

Bronte sisters: The three sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne authored classics such as "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights" but had to start their writing careers under a male pseudonym.

Valentina Tereshkova: The first and youngest woman to go to space. Need I say more?

Sharon Christa McAuliffe: McAuliffe was an American teacher from Concord, New Hampshire, selected from 11000 applicants to become a member of the Challenger space shuttle. Tragically, she died with the crew shortly after launch, but remains inspiring due to her role as the first civilian and teacher chosen through such a programme.

Katherine Johnson: An aeronautics specialist at NASA, she calculated and analysed flight patterns for the first US space mission and the moon landing.

Bibi Russel: Bibi Russel is an award-winning fashion designer and model who popularised sustainable fashion. She is also credited with engaging thousands of weavers from rural regions and merging indigenous Bengali culture into fashion.

Sylvia Plath: Sylvia Plath was a famous American poet who wrote confessional style poems that expressed a deep sense of alienation and self-destruction inspired by her own personal experiences.

Sultana Kamal: Daughter of the legendary Sufia Kamal, Sultana Kamal is also a lawyer and human rights activist. She served as the Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) for over 15 years.

Maya Angelou: World renowned poet, singer, dancer, actress and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou is possibly one of the most influential African American figures in history.

Photo: Collected

Wasfia Nazreen: A human's rights activist with an indomitable spirit, Wasfia Nazreen is the first Bangladeshi mountaineer to climb the seven tallest mountains in the world.

Alice Augusta Ball: Alice Ball was an African American chemist who developed the first successful treatment for Leprosy. She was 23 at the time.

Frida Kahlo: Often called the master of self-portraits, Frida Kahlo created 143 paintings out of which 55 are self-portraits. Her art was deeply complex and arguably surreal. 

Simone de Beauvoir: Acclaimed author of "The Second Sex" and a pioneering figure of contemporary philosophical feminism.

Rima Sultana Rimu: An 18-year-old peace activist, she organised gender sensitive literacy classes for Rohingya refugees.

Rina Akter: A former sex worker, Rina Akter runs a daily drop-in shelter for prostitutes in Gopibagh where she and her team provide and treatment for STDs.

Florence Nightingale: Known as "The Lady with the Lamp" she was British nurse during the Crimean War and is credited as the founder of modern nursing.

Photo: Collected

Mabia Akter: A record breaking Bangladeshi weightlifter who won a gold medal in the South Asian Games.

Harriet Tubman: A famous abolitionist and political activist, Harriet Tubman helped rescue 70 enslaved African Americans using the famous Underground Railroad.