Category Archives: Activists & Revolutionaries

Mary McLeod Bethune – Educator & Civil Rights Shero

Mary Mcleod Bethune was an amazing woman; an African-American teacher, who started her own school for girls from scratch and went on to be an advisor to presidents, campaigner for civil, and human, rights and champion of girls and young people.

Mary was born in 1875 in Mayesville, South Carolina, she was the fifteenth of seventeen children, and her parents were former slaves. From a very young age Mary worked in the fields with the rest of her family. Mary was the only child in the whole family who was lucky enough to go to school; she had to walk eight miles there and back, to a school which only had one room, and was only for black children. Because no-one else in her family could attend, she would come home from school each day and pass on what she had learned to her brothers and sisters.

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Dame Ethel Smyth: Composer and Suffragette

Ethel Smyth was a composer, suffragette and writer known for her passionate public and private life.

Born on 23rd April 1858 Ethel developed an interest in music from a young age. At 12, when she learned that her governess had studied music at the Leipzig Conservatory in Germany, she decided that was where she needed to go.

Unfortunately her father saw things differently, and was completely against the idea. He even stopped her music lessons to try and change her mind. Ethel was having none of it, and over the next seven years she persistently pressured her father; refusing to eat, locking herself in her room, skipping church and other social occasions until he finally gave in! At the age of 19 she finally left to attend the music school.

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Leila Khaled

Leila Khaled was born on April 9, 1944 in Haifa, a coastal city in Occupied Palestine. Leila’s family fled to Tyre in Lebanon after al-Nakba, also known as the Catastrophe, which resulted in the displacement of around 750,000 Palestinian refugees and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

Leila fled Palestine with her mother and her siblings leaving her father behind to take care of the house and their family business, and thinking that they would return home after the bloodshed. However, he joined them a year later, after both the house and the shop were confiscated by Israeli forces.

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Bhikaiji Cama – ‘Mother of the Indian Revolution’

Bhikaiji Cama was an important figure in the movement for an independent India. Known to some as ‘Madam Cama’ and others as ‘The Mother of the Indian Revolution’.

Bhikaiji Sorab Patel was born on the 24th September 1861 into British-ruled India. Her young life was fairly uneventful; raised in a privileged family,  she did well at school and had a flair for languages.

In 1885 she was married, and her name became Bhikaiji Rustom Cama. Unfortunately this marriage wasn’t very successful. By this time in her life Bhikaiji had begun to have strong feelings about the British rule of India, and had become very interested in the Indian Nationalist Movement which campaigned for a free and independent country. Sadly her husband didn’t share her views, he was pro-British and enjoyed the benefits this gave him. Eventually, and controversially for the time, she left him.

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Lillian Harman

Lillian Harman, born in 1869, was the daughter of radical newspaper editor and social reformer Moses Harman. She campaigned for changes to the way society treated women from an early age and, alongside her brother George, helped her father publish a number of provocative newspapers.

Lillian went on to become an important voice in late nineteenth-century campaigns for social and sexual equality in her own right. She published widely on the importance of giving women the power to choose if and when they became mothers, as well as their right to access birth control.

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Louise Otto-Peters

 

On this day in 1819 Louise Otto-Peters was born. A German writer, feminist, poet & activist she said, “History of all times, of today especially, teaches that women will be forgotten if they forget to think of themselves.”

She started a newspaper called ‘Women’s News’, which had written on the front “I am recruiting females citizens for the realm of freedom!”
Louise Otto

Tina Modotti – Revolutionary Photographer

For our first contribution to Sheroes of History, Chiara Bernardi , a PhD student at Warwick University, and her sister Benedetta, who studies photo-journalism and women in Italy, tell us about Tina Modotti:

Assunta Adelaide Luigia Modotti, or Tina, as she became known, was born in Italy on the 17th August  1896.

In 1898 her family moved to Austria, but then came back to Italy in 1905, when Tina was nine years old. Tina, who couldn’t speak Italian, was a quick learner and soon succeeded in all classes and finished primary school. However, her promising results in school didn’t grant her access to further education; her family’s poor background forced Tina into a job in a spinning mill.

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