17 Strong Women In History Who Destroyed Stereotypes and Inspired Future Generations

By | August 26, 2015

Throughout history, women of strength, will and vision have fought to break free from society's norms, fighting for freedom, human rights, and equality.

Here are 17 most rebellious who influenced history forever:

1. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina

These two are members of the Russian feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot, and are also known human rights activists. They were arrested, charged and convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" after protesting against Russian President Putin in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior in 2012.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova - Maria Alyokhina

Yuri Kozyrev for TIME


2. Tawakkol Karman

Karman is a journalist and politician in Yemen. She serves as the chair of Yemen's human rights group Women Journalists Without Chains. Karman was arrested a few times during her peaceful protests most notably for pressuring Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down from power.

Tawakkul Karman



3. Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese opposition politician and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyu is the foremost leader of National League for Democracy (NLD) in Burma. The League aims to democratize the Southeast Asian Nation. In 1990, during the general election, NLD won 59% of the national votes and 81% of the seats in Parliament. The government refused to acknowledge the votes, placing Suu Kyu instead under house arrest for 15 years.


Platon for TIME


4. Corazon Aquino

Corazon "Cory" Aquino was the President of the Philippines from 1986-1992. She was the first woman to hold that position in the country. Aquino led a peaceful People Power Revolution which led to the end of the 10-year authoritarian rule in the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos from 1972 to 1981.

Anti-president Marcos activist and opposition pres

Washington Post

5. Phoolan Devi

Phoolan Devi infamously known as the "Bandit Queen" of India. She was estranged from her family at a very young age and later on became the moll of the leader of an Indian bandit group. They began a streak of violent robberies across India that targeted upper class people. She also led the massacre of over 20 men in the high-caste village in 1981 that led to the death of her former lover.

Phoolan Devi

The Bandit Queen


6. Angela Yvonne Davis

Davis is a prominent American counterculture activist in the 1960s and the leader of the Communist Party USA. She was accused of supplying the gun used to kill a federal judge. Davis fled and was included in the Most Wanted List. She was caught in New York but was acquitted in 1972.

angela davis

The Red List


7. Golda Meir

Golda Meir became 4th Prime Minister of Israel on March 17, 1969. She made her mark on the revolutionary Zionist movement during 1973 Yom Kippur War.

golda meir



8. Vilma Lucila Espin

Vilma Lucila Espin Guillois took up arms against the Batista dictatorship in the 1950s. She's the wife of Raul Castro and was often referred to as "Cuba's First Lady." Espin disproved the stereotyping of docile Carribean woman by wearing full army fatigues.

vilma espin



9. Janet Jagan

Janet Rosenberg Jagan was an American-born socialist politician. She founded the People's Progressive Party in Guyana with her husband to promote Marxist ideals. She was jailed by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Jagan went on to became the first woman president of Guyana in 1997.

janet jagan

Larry Luxner

10. Jiang Qing

Jaing Qing was a Chinese actress and politician. After getting married to Chairman Mao Zedong in 1938, she became a valued member of the Communist Party and became the leader of Gang of Four. The group was charged with a series of treasons during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) in China.




11. Nadezhda Krupskaya

Krupskaya was a Russian Bolshevik revolutionary and politician. She was married to Vladimir Lenin who helped set up the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class in 1895.

Nedezhda Krupskaya 1890



12. Susan Brownell Anthony

Anthonyplayed an important role in the women's suffrage movement. She met a fellow women's right advocate in the person of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and together, they toured the country arguing the case for women's suffrage. In 1872, Anthony was arrested for voting illegally.

Susan B. Anthony

The World's Work


13. Emmeline Pankhurst

British political activist Emmeline Pankhurst formed the Women's Social and Political Union in Britain. She didn't shy away from arson, vandalism, hunger strikes, and routine arrests and continued to help women win the right to vote.

Emmeline Pankhurst



14. Harriet Tubman

Born a slave in 1820, Harriet Tubman was an African-American abolitionist and humanitarian. Tubman went on 19 rescue missions to free more than 300 slaves on the Underground Railroad. She served as a Union spy during the American Civil War and became the first woman ever to lead a military expedition that liberated over 700 slaves.

Harriet Tubman

Seymour Squyer, National Portrait Gallery

15. Mary Wollstonecraft

Wollstonecraft was an eighteenth-century philosopher, writer, and women's rights advocate. She was the one who first made the claim that women's rights are equal to those of men.

Mary Wollstonecraft

John Opie, National Portrait Gallery


16. Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc, known as "The Maid of Orleans," was considered a Roman Catholic Saint. In 1429, Joan led the offensive that lifted the English siege on the city of Orleans. She was captured and burned in a public on a variety of charges a few years after her victorious feat. Joan was about nineteen years of age at the time.

joan of arc

Biography Online


17. Queen Boudica

Boudica, also known as Boadicea, was the Queen of the British Iceni tribe. In 1st century A.D., she led her tribe to rise up against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire. Despite her unsuccessful rebellion, Boudica is remembered as one of Britain's first nationalist heroes.

Queen Boudica

John Opie