Top 10 Women’s Activists

Script written by Craig Butler. Without these women, the world would be a much, much different place. For this list, we’ve chosen those women who pioneered the women’s right movement and fought for women’s issues and equality between the sexes throughout their lives. In honor of International Women's Day, join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 women’s activists. Special thanks to our user Muppet_Face for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Craig Butler.

Without these women, the world would be a much, much different place. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 women’s activists.

For this list, we’ve chosen those women who pioneered the women’s right movement and fought for women’s issues and equality between the sexes throughout their lives.

#10: Margaret Sanger
(1879 - 1966)

As a nurse among poor immigrant women, Sanger saw the toll that poverty and unplanned children took on them. That moved her to establish the first birth control clinic in the United States in 1916; in 1921, she founded the American Birth Control League, which evolved into today’s Planned Parenthood. Sanger’s activism brought major changes to an issue of great importance to the women’s movement.

#9: Mary Wollstonecraft
(1759 - 1797)

Wollstonecraft played a significant role in establishing the very concept of women’s rights. In 1792, the British writer wrote the landmark A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which decried sexual double standards common in the era. Her advocacy of the equality of education or that men be held to the same standard of fidelity as women was seen as revolutionary.

#8: Emmeline Pankhurst
(1858 - 1928)

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the fight for women’s right to vote took on a new cast in Britain. Suffragettes like Emmeline Pankhurst believed in “deeds, not words.” They smashed windows, set fires and accosted police to get their message across. Pankhurst and her allies were thrown in jail for their actions. But it paid off: in 1928, the year of her death, British women obtained full voting rights.

#7: Hillary Clinton
(1947-)

Numerous U.S. first ladies, like Eleanor Roosevelt and Betty Ford, have advanced women’s issues; Hillary Clinton has carried on that tradition by moving beyond her role as the President’s wife to become a U.S. Senator, a Secretary of State and a contender for the office of President. Among her accomplishments is the establishment of the position of United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, which ensures a place for women’s issues on the U.S. foreign policy table.

#6: Simone de Beauvoir
(1908 - 1986)

It can be argued that the modern women’s movement kicked into high gear after the publication of de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex in 1949. In this book, the French philosopher laid out in detail the exact dimensions of inequality and oppression which women faced. Her work served as a blueprint for many of the women’s activists who followed.

#5: Betty Friedan
(1921 - 2006)

American Betty Friedan is one of those activists who is indebted to de Beauvoir. Her 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, appeared just as the 1960s was evolving into a decade of change. Women’s activists embraced its message in a big way. Friedan also founded the National Organization for Women, organized the national Women’s Strike for Equality and helped establish the National Women’s Political Caucus.

#4: Lucy Stone
(1818 - 1893)

The first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree, Stone was part of the first National Women’s Rights Convention in 1850, as well as the Woman’s National Loyal League. She also founded Woman’s Journal, which was hugely influential in spreading women’s rights messages.

#3: Gloria Steinem
(1934-)

Arguably the most famous women’s activist of the 20th century, Steinem helped carry the 1960s women’s liberation movement from the counterculture to the mainstream. Co-founder of Ms. Magazine, she worked with Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan to establish the Women’s Media Center in 2005. She has also been a vocal opponent of pornography, considering it degrading to women, and a strong advocate for greater participation by women in politics.

#2: Susan B. Anthony
(1820 - 1906)

As the name most identified with American women’s activism, the dynamic Anthony made the woman’s right to vote her life’s goal. She founded The Revolution with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, which was a journal that featured what could be her motto: “Men their rights, and nothing more; Women their rights, and nothing less.” A tireless speaker and organizer, she died before her dream of a woman’s right to vote came true; however, the 19th Amendment granting that right is also known as the Anthony Amendment.

Honorable Mentions

- Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 - 1962)
- Betty Ford (1918 - 2011)
- Malala Yousafzai (1997-)

#1: Elizabeth Cady Stanton
(1815 - 1902)

Not as well known now as she was in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Stanton was a passionate advocate for equal rights. She was the driving force behind the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and subsequent women’s right conventions. Although an ardent supporter of the right to vote, she was equally focused on issues such as birth control, property rights, divorce, employment and custody issues. Her book The Woman’s Bible and her many fiery speeches inspired countless women to believe they had a place in the world and not just the household.

Do you agree with our picks? What ardent activists would you have put on the list? For more enthralling Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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