As somebody who minored in women’s studies in college, I tend to forget that not everyone knows the stories of some of modern history’s most fascinating and important women. Women’s History Month isn’t until March, but I got to thinking: why do we need a special month to talk about them?
I have written about several of my green heroines on Care2 before, but some have been so inspirational to me that I am including them again here.
Here are just a few of these remarkable women.
Rachel Carson was a marine biologist and an early conservationist. Her seminal book, Silent Spring, detailed the detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment. Silent Spring led to the banning of DDT for agricultural use and to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The global impact of the book is why she is usually considered the founder of the modern environmental movement.
Rosalind Franklin was a British scientist and is seen by many as the unsung heroine of DNA. In 1952, she captured one of the first images of DNA. It was her x-ray images of the double helix that provided the data that James Watson and Francis Crick used to come up with their hypothesis about its structure. While the duo were given full credit for discovering this structure when they published their work, they only gave Franklin a brief acknowledgement in the paper’s footnotes. Watson and Crick went on to receive the Nobel Prize for this discovery in 1962, four years after Franklin had died from ovarian cancer.
Dolores Huerta, along with Cesar Chavez, co-founded the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) in 1962. The UFW was the country’s first and the largest farm workers union. It is dedicated to improving social and economic conditions for farm workers. She left her job as a teacher to become a labor organizer because she said that she couldn’t stand to see kids coming to class hungry and needing shoes. She felt she could do more by organizing farm workers than by trying to teach their hungry children. She has received many awards for her work including being inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. Even at the age of 83, she continues to work to improve the lives of women, immigrants and workers.
Wangari Maathai was an environmentalist, women’s rights and pro-democracy activist from Kenya. She founded the Green Belt Movement as a grassroots tree planting campaign in the late 1970s, and it has grown into an international organization that works to improve rural communities by providing both sustenance and income opportunities through the planting of trees. It also works to empower women by raising awareness of women’s rights. She was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize becoming the first African woman and the first environmentalist to receive it.
Anita Roddick was a British entrepreneur and human rights and environmental activist best known as the founder of the Body Shop. Founded in 1976, The Body Shop was one of the first cosmetic companies to ban the use of ingredients tested on animals and to promote fair trade sourcing of its products. Starting with just one store, it grew to over 1,900 stores worldwide. Aside from being known for her work to ban animal testing, she was also well known for her support of other causes including indigenous farmers, debt relief for developing countries, whales, and saving the rainforests. In 2006, in a controversial decision, she sold the Body Shop to L’Oreal, but said that since she would remain in a limited capacity with the company, she would have input on their supply decisions. Roddick died in 2007.