It goes without saying how important women’s rights are, and we’ve seen empowered women protest for workplace rights, voting rights, reproductive rights, and so much more over the past hundred years. The list of incredible ladies who’ve influenced how we live today is endless. Where would we be if Gloria Steinem hadn’t gone undercover at the Playboy mansion? Or if Toni Morrisson hadn’t paved the way for female writers everywhere? Naturally, there’s a few women that come to mind when you think of historic trail blazers, like Marilyn Monroe and Rosa Parks. Though what about the women that fell through the cracks? The women whose work often went thankless, but was necessary nonetheless?

Here’s a list of 8 women whose names you may not know, yet the marks they’ve left on history will remain forever.

1. Rosemary Brown

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"Rosemary Brown was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1930, and moved to Canada in 1951 to study social work at McGill University in Montreal. She proceeded to earn a Master of Social Work at the University of British Columbia. . She served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in the British Columbia legislature as a part of the New Democratic Party from 1972–86, making her the first Black Canadian woman to be elected to a Canadian provincial legislature. . In 1975, she became the first black woman to run for the leadership of a Canadian federal party (and only the second woman, after Mary Walker-Sawka), finishing a strong second (with 40.1% of the votes on the fourth and final ballot) to Ed Broadbent in that year's New Democratic Party leadership election.[2] After departing politics, she became a professor of women's studies at Simon Fraser University. In 1993, she was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and served until 1996. In 1995, she was awarded the Order of British Columbia and in 1996 was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. Brown was sworn to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada as a member of the federal Security Intelligence Review Committee, responsible for overseeing the actions of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, a role which she held from 1993 to 1998. She also served on the Order of Canada Advisory Committee from 1999 until her death in 2003. . . . . #rosemarybrown #violadesmond #sojournertruth #abolitionist #aintiawoman #blackhistorymonth #sojourner #blackhistoryfacts #blackgirlmagic #intersectionalfeminism #myfilibo #womensright #slavery #emancipation #africanamericanhistory #activism#blm #representationmatters #undergroundrailroad #blackcanadianhistory "

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Rosemary Brown was the first black woman elected to Parliament in Canada in 1972. She stood for not only women’s rights, but racial equality, human rights, housing, and the overall advancement of minorities. She helped reform education in British Columbia, removing sexist lesson plans during the rise of feminism in the 60s. Brown dedicated her whole life to breaking down boxes that women and people of colour were often forced into. During the 70s, she introduced countless bills that many considered radical at the time, such as eliminating discrimination based on sex and marital status.

2. Alexa McDonough

Alexa McDonough is the first woman to have led a provincial party. She represented Nova Scotia’s New Democratic Party in 1980 and  kept the position until 1994. From then on, she won the position to represent the NDP federally and her policies prioritized people first. At 14-years-old, she made headlines by fundraising for the low-income black neighbourhoods all around her. After the attacks of 9/11, she openly fought anti-Muslim and Islamophobic sentiments at the federal level by standing up for Mahar Arar, an Arabic man wrongfully arrested for terrorism.

3. Kenojuak Ashevak

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In 1970, Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak saw her piece The Enchanted Owl reproduced by Canada Post on a six-cent stamp commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the Northwest Territories. The release marked the first time a female Inuit artist’s work had been displayed on a Canadian stamp. Ashevak, who was born in an igloo on the southern coast of Baffin Island in 1927, is considered one of Canada’s most influential artists and a pioneer in modern Inuit art. The Enchanted Owl, a colour stonecut on laid paper, is one of her most recognized and celebrated works of art. It has been 50 years since Ashevak’s work of art was selected to celebrate the centennial of Canada’s Northwest Territories. — This excerpt comes from the February-March 2020 issue of Canada’s History magazine. Head to the link in our bio for more great reads from our most recent issue! Photo: Kenojuak Ashevak displays two of her artworks. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.

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Kenojuak Ashevak was a prolific Inuit artist. If you had a Canadian 10 dollar bill in your possession in 2017, then you’ve probably seen her work. Her painting ‘Owls Bouquet,’ is printed on the holographic section of the commemorative bill. She broke records as the first woman to be involved in the printmaking shop at Cape Dorset. She was also one of the only female artists to have her work published in every Canadian print publication.

4. Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Mary Ann Shadd Cary was the first black woman to become a publisher in North America and Canada, and her work in the 1800s was groundbreaking. Although she was born into a free family in 1823, she spent years working for the Underground Railroad helping liberate other slaves. She went on to become an activist and journalist, writing historic papers on freedom and women’s rights. She spent most of her life travelling back and forth to Canada as a journalist, writing articles for other people escaping slavery. Ten years before her death in 1893, she became the second black woman in North America to earn a law degree.

5. Emily Pauline Johnson, ‘Tekahionwake’

Emily Pauline Johnson, also known by her Mohawk name, Tekahionwake, was a mixed-race writer in the 1800s. Tekahionwake spoke openly about being half Mohawk and half English-Canadian. Consensual marriages between European Canadians and First Nations people were rare at the time, but sexual assault towards First Nations women by European colonizers was unfortunately all too common. As a result, Tekahionwake’s parent’s marriage was largely stigmatized. She created art, poetry, and literature that discussed the integration of both her cultures and her criticisms of the Canadian government.

6. Chien-Shiung Wu

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Chinese-American nuclear physicist Chien-Shiung Wu is a significant figure in #STEM history. Wu traveled from China to the United States to earn a doctorate in physics at @UCBerkleyOfficial. Later, Wu joined the @USArmy’s secret project, the #ManhattanProject, at @Columbia University. After #WorldWarII, Wu continued to research at Columbia where she made history in experimental physics: Wu and two male colleagues disproved a law in physics called the “principle of conservation of parity.” Both of Wu’s male colleagues received a @NobelPrize_org in 1957 while Wu’s contributions went unrecognized. However, Wu earned many other awards including the Comstock Prize in Physics, the Bonner Prize, the National Medal of Science and the Wolf Prize in Physics. Wu’s book, Beta Decay, is a standard reference for nuclear physics. iDrive celebrates #WomensHistoryMonth by shining a spotlight on significant #WomenInSTEM. This movement aims to reduce the gender gap in #Science #Technology #Engineering and #Math by changing perceptions and inspiring women and girls to change the world with careers in STEM. Learn more about iDrive at #chinese #american #nuclear #ChienShiungWu #history #China #UnitedStates #PhD #doctorate #physics #berkley #university #relearch #physicist #radioactivity #radioactive #award #Women #movement #empowerment #GirlsInSTEM #gender #genderequality #parity #experiment #nuclear #atomic

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Chien-Shiung Wu was an award winning Chinese-American nuclear physicist. Her most significant accomplishments include contributions to the Manhattan Project during World War II and the discovery of separating uranium isotopes by gaseous diffusion, which she wasn’t properly credited for. Despite the experiment being named after Wu, her male co-workers won the Nobel Prize she deserved in 1957 instead. In 1978, she was finally publicly acknowledged for her work and given the Wolf Prize. Wu was also named the first female President of the American Physical Society in 1975 and was the first living scientist to have an asteroid named after her in 1990 called ‘2752 Wu Chien-Shiung’.

7. Bertha von Suttner

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Born on June 9 . Bertha von Suttner — Austrian novelist, radical pacifist, and the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Born on this day in 1843. . Cole Porter — American composer and songwriter from Indiana. He was noted for his sophisticated (sometimes ribald) lyrics, clever rhymes, and complex forms. Born on this day in 1891. . Michael J. Fox — Canadian–American actor, author, comedian, producer, and advocate. Born on this day in 1961. . Natalie Portman— Actress with dual American and Israeli citizenship. Her first role was as an orphan taken in by a hitman in the 1994 action film Léon: The Professional, but mainstream success came when she was cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Born on this day in 1981. . . . #berthavonsuttner #novelist #writer #author #coleporter #composer #songwriter #michaeljfox #actor #comedian #natalieportman #actress #borntoday #bornonthisday #onthisday #quote #quotes #quotestags #quotesdaily #dailyquotes #quoteoftoday #quoteoftheday #socialgood #socialimpact #socialentrepreneurship #dert #dertbook

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Bertha von Suttner was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She was born into an aristocratic family where military violence was encouraged. For the first half of her life, she never questioned the tradition. But after becoming an adult, she became curious about the violence all around her. She won the Nobel Peace Prize nine years before her death, when her work as an activist and writer was just starting to gain recognition. Her book, Lay Down Your Arms!, discusses women’s rights as well as their roles in society and war.

8. Pauli Murray

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As we prepare to celebrate Durham’s dynamic queer community at Pride: Durham this Saturday, it is important to pay homage to the past. Pauli Murray was among many historical figures who struggled with questions of sexuality and gender identity. She was known to identify as male, or sometimes with a mixture of genders. At a time when queerness was heavily policed, she had romantic relationships with women. While the LGBT+ movement was advancing, punctuated with major events such as Stonewall during her lifetime, we are reminded that to be queer and visible was not a freedom afforded to those who came before us, even if they were as outspoken as Pauli Murray. While this is sombering, her legacy reminds us to keep pushing forward. Let us celebrate how far we have come, and remember to be brave in the spirit of those who came before us! #paulimurray #durhampride #lgbtqhistory #lgbtq #blackfeminism

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Pauli Murray was a pioneer at the forefront of the civil rights movement. If you’ve heard of intersectional feminism, you can thank Kimberlé Crenshaw. But before Kimberlé Crenshaw wrote about the crossing of race and gender discrimination in 1996, Pauli Murray was discussing the discrimination she experienced in the 50s as a black woman. She called the intersection of racism and sexism “Jane Crow.” It was her work that went on to influence women and feminists of colour across North America.

Asha Swann

Asha Swann

Twenty-something-year-old writing, travelling, and veganizing.

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