Buffy Sainte-Marie, born in 1941, has developed a career that spans decades and domains. An icon of the 60s folk scene, her music career is still going strong with 20 albums to her credit. Her songs, both beautiful and politically charged, continue to highlight the social issues of the day, but her activism does not stop there.
Buffy Sainte-Marie, born on a Plains Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada, has always been a voice for Indigenous rights in North America. She operates the Nihewan Foundation for Native American Education, which offers free resources to teachers to assist in the education of and about Indigenous peoples and cultures.
In addition to being a pop star and an activist, she is also an accomplished visual artist whose work portrays a number of subjects and themes that draw from her love of dance, design and Indigenous cultures. Her work can be found on public display in a number of permanent collections in central Canada and the American Southwest.
In 1946 Viola was a prominent business woman from Halifax and was passing through New Glasgow, Nova Scotia when her car broke down. She was informed that her car would be repaired the next day, so she booked a hotel room and decided to enjoy a movie.
Viola bought her ticket at the Roseland Theatre and took her seat. She was promptly told she was in the ‘whites only’ section and needed to move. Viola refused. She was then aggressively removed from the theatre, and she spent the night in jail. The next morning she was charged with a tax violation for not paying the extra penny on the price of her ticket.
Viola Desmond's experience is one of the earliest high-profile cases of racial discrimination in Canada and, by fighting the charge, she triggered the civil rights movement in Canada.
After the trials in Halifax, Viola closed her business, moved to Montreal and then to New York, where she died at the age of 50.
Her sacrifice did not go unnoticed. In 2010 Viola Desmond was pardoned from the Government of Canada, in addition to an apology from the Government of Nova Scotia. She also has the honour of being the first non-Royal woman to appear on a banknote in Canada. We will see her face grace the $10 bill in 2018.
Amelia Mary Earhart, born on July 24, 1897, is best know as the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic ocean. She flew from Newfoundland to Ireland on May 21, 1932.
In 1937, she and her co-pilot, Fred Noonan, began their flight around the world from California. Heading east and sticking fairly close to the equator, they travelled from North America to South America, across the Atlantic to Africa, across the continent, through South East Asia and into Polynesia, where they disappeared before reaching Hawaii.
As a pilot and university lecturer, she was behind the creation of an organization for female pilots, and as a best-selling author, she quickly became a role model for women, everywhere, who wish to push the limits.
Virginia Woolf was born in England in 1882, to wealthy and accomplished parents. She began her first novel, The Voyage Out, in 1908, which was completed a few years later and was published in 1915. From this point, until her death in 1941, she wrote much more, including such famous works as To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928) and A Room of One's Own (1929).
Valued as an intellectual, she became very influential, speaking at universities, and publishing a number of essays and short stories. She was considered a modernist, but also a pioneering feminist. As such, it is no surprise that the women’s movement of the 1970’s sparked a resurgence in the popularity of her work that has carried her name into the 21st century.
Frida's life began in Mexico City at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. She had a close relationship with her father, who was a photographer. It was he who enrolled her in the Preparatoria, one of Mexico’s premier schools. At the time of her enrollment, the institution had among the 2000 students only thirty-five girls. Her goal was to become a doctor.
At the preparatory school, Frida joined the "Cachucas", a group of nine rebellious students, many of whom would become leading figures of the Mexican intellectual elite. It was in this group that Frida declared herself a "daughter of the revolution".
At the age of 18, Frida was in a horrific bus accident that changed her path forever. As a way of dealing with her pain and isolation she began painting. As the months continued, the realization of the extent of her injuries settled in, and her dream of becoming a doctor slowly faded.
Frida was a strong and driven young woman and, like the rebirth of the phoenix, a new passion had arisen from the ashes giving rise to one of Mexico's most celebrated artists, while she was still a young woman.
Today Frida Kahlo is a symbol for all women. She represents strength and passion, brutal honesty and an unbroken spirit. This is Frida.
Marie Curie was a chemist and physicist known mostly for her pioneering research in radioactivity. Not only was she the first woman to win a Nobel Prize but she was also the first person to win twice and in two different sciences.
Marie’s work extended into World War I, where she became the director of the Red Cross Radiology Service. Here she set up France's first military radiology centre with inventions of her own designs.
For the benefit of the scientific community, Marie Curie intentionally refrained from patenting the radium-isolation process so that the scientific community could further their research unhindered.
During her lifetime Marie received many monetary gifts and awards. She insisted that these gifts be given to the scientific institutions she was affiliated with rather than to her. Albert Einstein reportedly remarked that she was probably the only person who could not be corrupted by fame.
Dr. Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928, became an incredibly influential author and thinker. Before her death in 2014 she had become a best-selling author, educator and civil-rights activist. She was also a singer, dancer, producer, award-winning actress, and historian. As a mark of her accomplishments and the respect she garnered in her numerous roles in life, she accumulated 50 honorary doctorate degrees!
A memoirist, initially famous for her 1969 autobiographical novel I Know why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou was also an acclaimed poet, screenwriter, playwrite, essayist and an author of a collection of children’s books.
Maya Angelou is well-loved and timeless in her wisdom, strength and dignity. Among her most famous quotes is, I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel, which highlights the importance of the relationships in our lives. And in saying bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave she reminds us all that we are the the future of our ancestors and the living history of future generations.
Carrie Fisher, born in 1956, was an American actress best known for her iconic role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films. Though Star Wars launched her career she appeared on broadway as a teen as well in the early 1980s, and throughout the 80s in a number of other films, rounding out a solid acting career.
Apart from acting she was an accomplished writer, humourist and outspoken activist for mental health and addiction issues. She is known for her fictionalized autobiographical best-sellfer, Postcards from the Edge (1987), which became a film, as well as a number of other books such as Shockaholic, and Wishful Drinking, which expose her talent for both humour and memoir.
Behind the scenes, Carrie Fisher was in demand in Hollywood as a script doctor. Her talent for writing easily translated to editing and polishing screenplays and scripts for both television and movies, including the Star Wars prequels.
In 2016, when Carrie Fisher died suddenly at the age of only 60, Hollywood was shocked; she was known and loved by so many. Social media also buzzed as the public voiced appreciation for her as a strong role model, an activist, and as a sassy and endearing voice for social change.
Michelle Obama, best known as the former First Lady of the United States, is more than the wife of the former President, Barack Obama, she is a lawyer, a writer, a mother of two, an accomplished public speaker and an inspiration to many women and girls.
Having come from the south side of Chicago which was a predominantly African-American working-class area, she felt a out of place at Princeton University, but graduated cum laude and earned entry in Harvard Law School. Her advocacy began while in university where she lobbied for the Harvard to hire professors from visible minority groups, and she worked for legal aid at Harvard, assisting low-income tenants with housing issues
Outspoken and dignified, she became an important voice in raising awareness of poverty issues, and the need for proper nutrition and physical activity in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Born in Iraq, in 1950, to a political activist father and artist mother, Zaha Hadid moved to England in 1972 to study architecture and, having already gained recognition internationally, she opened her own Architecture firm in London in 1980. At the time of her death in 2016, Zaha Hadid Architects employed about 400 people.
Looking at her designs, it is no wonder she was called ‘Queen of the Curve’ by the Guardian. Among her numerous innovative designs are the Guangzhou Opera house, the aquatic centre for the London 2012 Olympic games and the CityLife Milano Residential Complex. Her designs incorporate both organic and geometric shapes, and many buildings look like sculptures.
Among her more prestigious awards are the Sterling Prize, a top honour in UK architecture, as well as the Pritzker Architecture Prize and Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects, both of which had never before been awarded to a woman. To top off her honours, she was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II, and was named one of the 100 most influential women by Forbes in 2008.
Having learned about the suffrage movement in her early teens, it soon became the cause she would dedicate herself to. At the age of 21 she married her husband, Richard, a lawyer and strong supporter of women’s rights. He supported Emmeline’s political efforts throughout their marriage, despite having 5 children.
Early in the 20th century Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women's Social and Political Union which was a suffrage advocacy organization that became known for being very militant. Within a few years members, including Emmeline and her daughters, had even been arrested and imprisoned. When World War I broke out, she changed the tactics of the organization, encouraging women to join the war effort, and in 1918, after the war, women over 30 were granted the right to vote. 10 years later, just a few weeks before her death, the vote was extended to women at the same voting age as men, 21.