Inspiring Women Who Shaped Feminism Throughout Modern History

As a woman, is there anything better than knowing there are a ton of inspiring feminists who are shaping our culture for the better? While feminism doesn’t always get a good rep due to all of the misinformation out there, these women are breaking boundaries, creating their own rules, and showing the world that equality is the mission. By erasing the status-quo, these inspiring women of diverse backgrounds are fearlessly bending all the rules while making a positive impact on our future for generations to come. It takes passion, grit, and the confidence to make a difference, and these women have all of those things.

Emma Watson Wants Everyone to Fight For Women’s Rights

this is an image

Photo by Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The lovely Emma Watson is one of her generation’s newest and brightest voices of feminism today. The actress captured attention with her riveting speech in front of the United Nations that launched a new initiative for gender equality. Watson’s work is a reminder that feminism isn’t just a fight for women, making it known that men can do their essential part too.

In part of her efforts, Watson also launched a feminist book club along with the #HeSheMovement and continues to push boundaries wherever she goes.

Diane Von Furstenberg Raises Women Up

this is an image

Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images

Diane Von Furstenberg has built her entire DVF brand on the concept of female empowerment. The fashion mogul has two empowering mantras that continue to inspire: “Feel like a woman, wear a dress” and “Proud to be woman!” Not only does her brand empower women to feel their most confident, but the fashion icon is recognized for her missions and work.

She founded The DVF Awards which highlights powerful women who have made positive impacts through leadership, philanthropy, and of course, hard work. Her designs are to die for as well!

Sophia Bush is an Advocate for Females

this is an image

Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

You may know her best as Brooke Davis on One Tree Hill or as Erin Lindsay on Chicago PD, but Sophia Bush is a trailblazer we’ve been obsessed with since day one! Bush has an incredibly active Twitter presence where she advocates feminism, women’s empowerment, education for girls, and more.

Bush stands up for justice and is always ready to fight for those who may not have a voice or for those who feel silenced.

Amandla Stenberg Doesn’t Like Labels

this is an image

Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

You probably know 19-year-old Amandla Stenberg from her portrayal of Rue in The Hunger Games and Madeline Whittier in Everything, Everything, but did you know that Stenberg identifies as a pansexual non-binary intersectional feminist?

The actress is an advocate for standing up for your beliefs and is quite outspoken on Twitter on the issues close to her heart. In 2015, she was named Feminist of the Year by the Ms. Foundation for Women.

Lorde Embraces Authenticity

this is an image

Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

One of the best things about being a Lorde fan is listening to the singer – who is wise beyond her years – speak her mind. The singer is known for championing her female counterparts and creating quality work that reflects a growing sense of what it truly means to be a feminist in today’s modern culture.

Always captivated by art and authenticity, Lorde continues to inspire women and young girls around the world be unapologetically genuine and aware of the issues women face.

Grimes Believes Society’s Behavior Needs to Change

this is an image

Photo by Scott Dudelson/WireImage

Grimes is a fighter in her own right but her stance on sexism make her even more powerful. After a long touring season, the singer took to her Tumblr page to share her stories of sexism in her career and how it can be damaging. “I don’t want to be infantilized because I refuse to be sexualized,” she wrote.

“I don’t want to be molested at shows or on the street by people who perceive me as an object that exists for their personal satisfaction.” She later shared with Spin, “The more I’ve had to work in this industry, the more I’ve just been shocked at the way people behave.”

Shirley Manson Wants Equality in the Music Industry

this is an image

Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

As the lead singer of Garbage, Shirley Manson has been a vigorous advocate for feminism and women’s rights. Always quick witted and smart as she is savvy, Manson holds a powerful voice fighting against ageism in the music industry. In an interview with Elle, the singer shared, “I want things to be better for women because I love my fellow women and I’m very aware of a lot of disadvantages we all have as a sex in essentially a patriarchal system.”

She continued, “I demand equality when I’m working with my fellow compatriots who happen to be male. Every now and again when we encounter old school sexism I deal with it. And I’m not afraid to make a scene about it. I’m certainly not going to swallow it down just to keep the peace. When I encounter it, when I see it I stand up against it and I keep squeezing until the blood pours out.”

“There isn’t one way to be a feminist” -Kerry Washington

this is an image

Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Kerry Washington may be your Scandal obsession but the actress is also an activist in addition to playing a political fixer. It’s no secret that the meaning of feminism can be misconstrued.

Washington took it upon herself to stop the negative stigma stating, “There isn’t one way to be a feminist or to practice feminism, to exercise feminism. You can be feminist in lots of different ways because the point is freedom of choice.”

Cyndi Lauper Wants to Have Fun… And Rights!

this is an image

Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

If her 1983 hit, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” wasn’t enough of a clue, we don’t know what is. Cyndi Lauper is a feminist icon in our eyes and with an anthem like that, who wouldn’t want to join in on the fun?

While the track is very blatantly feminist, Lauper has also been an advocate for gender equality, LGBTQ rights and female empowerment since the beginning of her career.

Malala Yousafzai Takes on the Taliban

this is an image

Photo by Carlos Tischler/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The always inspiring Malala Yousafzai is probably one of the most courageous teenagers you will ever come across. Malala was shot in the face in 2012 by a Taliban gunman in an assassination attempt in retaliation to her activism.

With her famous memoir, I Am Malala, Yousafzai documented her journey as a young student fighting for education access in Pakistan. Malala has been traveling the world fighting for education rights for women and children through her fund, The Malala Fund.

Beyoncé Never Backs Down

this is an image

Photo by Etienne George/Corbis via Getty Images

We know you’re all here to see if Queen Bey made the cut. This one is a no-brainer. Beyoncé ultimately brought the feminist movement to modern day pop culture. After releasing her 2013 self-titled album, she fully embraced what it truly means to be a feminist. On the track, “Flawless,” the singer sampled author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s motivational TED talk, “We Should All Be Feminists.”

However, the much-needed storm arrived after the release of Lemonade, one-upping herself with a short film dedicated to black women and the issues they face. This woman will always be a feminist icon in our eyes.

The Suffragettes Fought for the Right to Vote

this is an image

Photo by Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

These women were the OG feminists! The Suffragettes- comprised of some notable women like Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Stone Blackwell, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Sojourner Truth – fought heatedly for women’s rights, most specifically, the right to vote. All of their hard work paid off.

After radial and peaceful protests, 1920 saw the year women were granted the right to vote.But as history has shown us, there was still a long way to go.

Rosie The Riveter Represented Female Strength


Photo: Harold M. Lambert/Lambert/Getty Images

Rosie the Riveter was based on a real woman, Naomi Parker Fraley, who lived to be 96 and passed away in 2018. Rosie encompassed female strength displayed in the feminist movement, proving that women shouldn’t take any nonsense.

Representing the women who worked through World War II, Rosie The Riveter is still an empowering feminist symbol today, reminding us of all of the female strength of the 1940’s.

Gloria Steinem is a Leader in Women’s Liberation

this is an image

Photo by Getty Images

Where would we be without the “Mother of Feminism,” Gloria Steinem? Steinem led the women’s liberation movements throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s and continues to break barriers today. Steinem is the co-founder of feminist-themed, Ms. Magazine, along with trailblazing groups including Women’s Action Alliance.

In 1993, her efforts led her to be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. 20 years later in 2013, Steinem was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Steinem currently heads the VICEland series, WOMAN.

Barbara Walters: The First Female Co-Host in News

this is an image

Photo by Getty Images

This one is for all of you hardworking female journalists out there! You might remember Barbara Walters from her stint on ABC’s The View, but it goes much deeper than that. Walters was the first female co-host of a news program.

She later became the first female co-anchor of an evening broadcast for ABC News. Since the 1970’s, Walters has not only paved the way for women in journalism but for women who aspire to go higher in the workforce.

Yoko Ono’s Art and Essays Push Boundaries

this is an image

Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images

The lovely Yoko Ono is most known for her peaceful protests with John Lennon, but Ono has been a powerful voice for gender equality for decades. Her 1972 essay, “The Feminization of Society,” Ono helped usher in the female revolution of the ’70s. Ono continues to be a positive and trailblazing force in the feminist movement today.

Speaking of protesting and progression in women’s rights, she told the Washington Post, “Anger is very good because it leads to the next positive situation. If we’re not angry about it, we won’t do anything about it.”

Hillary Clinton’s Empowering Message

this is an image

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton is the only First Lady to ever run for public office and is the first-ever female Senator from New York. She was the Secretary of State under President Obama and the first-ever female presidential candidate in the 2016 election. Clinton has been a powerful voice in the women’s movement since the 1970’s, stating, “Women’s rights are human rights.”

After facing sexism during the 2016 presidential election, Clinton won the hearts of women everywhere with her memorable concession speech stating, “To all the little girls watching… never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.”

Oprah Winfrey Wanted Equal Pay

this is an image

Photo by Mike Marsland/Mike Marsland/WireImage

Where would this list be without Oprah Winfrey? This trailblazer was first motivated by the unequal pay she received at the start of her broadcasting career, showing that a negative situation is only a stepping stone to grow. She set out to start a television show, and from there built the empire we all know and respect today.

Her efforts cater to helping women grow, develop, and thrive in their careers and are the leading force of feminism in the workplace today. She has since started the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, the Oprah Winfrey Network, and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Madonna’s Career is Built on Feminism

this is an image

Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images

Madonna may be the Queen of Pop, but she’s also a feminist icon. The singer built her entire career on pushing limits and female sexuality through her music and unapologetically breaking gender barriers along the way. Madonna was the artist that genuinely encouraged women to take ownership of their lives and sexuality, causing a storm of critical outrage and revolution.

Most recently, she has been an advocate for speaking out against sexism and ageism women receive in the workforce today while continuing to prove that age is only a number as she heads towards approaching 60 this year.

Angelina Jolie Changed the Way We Talk About Breast Cancer

this is an image

Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage

Aside from being a successful actress, Angelina Jolie is also a UN diplomat and philanthropist. After facing a double-mastectomy in 2013, Jolie chose to share her story which ultimately led to changing the face of breast cancer awareness.

In a personal essay, Jolie revealed how the decision of taking control of her health empowered her as a woman while encouraging other women to come forward and share their own harrowing stories of breast cancer.