Women Who Inspire Us

Women can inspire young men, too!
Women leaders can inspire young men, too!

At our recent Black History Month celebration guest speaker Kellie Carter Jackson of Harvard challenged the audience to “Name 5” leaders each of the following categories: African Americans, Latino Americans, disabled Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans. She didn’t include women leaders, however, and had she asked, she might have heard the same handful of names repeated by many. Doubtless Ms. Carter Jackson would have pushed us to go beyond the easy big names (Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Oprah) and to dig deeper.

So, in honor of Women’s History Month, English teacher Erin Morin asked her colleagues—both female and male—to name some women who inspire them. The names and photos cover a wall in the Upper School hallway.

Elizabeth Warren, first female U.S. Senator from Massachusetts

Nancy Pelosi, first female Speaker of the House

Condoleeza Rice, first African American Secretary of State

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, first female president of Liberia

Angela Merkel, first female Chancellor of Germany

Christine Lagarde, first female director of the International Monetary Fund

Drew Faust, first female president of Harvard

Susan Hockfield, first female president of MIT

Shirley Tilghman, first female president of Princeton

Ruth Simmons, first female Brown University president and first African American leader of an Ivy League university

Gloria Steinem, matriarch of the modern “women’s liberation” movement

J.K. Rowling, author of the bestselling book series of all time

Rigoberta Menchú, activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner from Guatemala

Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani teenager shot for speaking out against the Taliban’s violence against women

Hannah Storm, ESPN SportsCenter anchor

Leslie Marmon Silko, Native American writer and MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant winner

Michelle Rhee, education reform leader and former chancellor of the D.C. public schools

Phillis Wheatley (d. 1784), first female African poet to publish a book in America

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (d. 1902), first women’s rights leader and suffragist

Maria Montessori (d. 1952), first women to graduate from medical school in Italy, founder of the international Montessori schools movement

The Mirabel Sisters (d. 1960), three political dissidents assassinated in the Dominican Republic

Margaret Mead (d. 1978), groundbreaking cultural anthropologist

Christa McAuliffe (d. 1986), selected to be first teacher in space, died in Space Shuttle Challenger disaster

Ella Baker (d. 1986), founding director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference civil rights group

Wilma Rudolph (d. 1994), overcame childhood polio disability to win three Olympic gold medals in sprinting

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