As Jewish Museum Milwaukee prepares to exhibit Pictures of Resistance: The Wartime Photographs of Jewish Partisan Faye Schulman, we wanted to highlight women who have taken a stand. While some like Faye Schulman, were part of an organized movement or group; others defied convention and created their own forums.
March is Women’s History Month and we celebrate the women, both known and unknown who have fought for justice, created rights for others, and opened our eyes to the realities of the broader world. Here are seven women that we are eternally grateful to for helping to shape the world we live in today:
Golda Meir (1898 – 1978)
Milwaukee’s own Golda Meir started speaking for social justice on street corners as a teenager. She moved to Palestine in 1921, set on creating a Jewish state in the land of Israel. She signed the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948 and became the third prime minister of Israel in 1969.
Coretta Scott King (1927 – 2006)
Coretta Scott King is known as the ‘First lady of the Civil Rights movement.’ She advocated against the apartheid in South Africa and its terrible racial policies by calling attention to the issue and pressuring President Reagan to take action. Nowadays, middle-school aged girls can attend the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Atlanta where they can learn about leadership as well as academics.
Faye Schulman (1919 – )
Faye Schulman was born in Poland to a loving large Jewish family. She was able to escape her imprisonment during WWII during a partisan raid and joined them in their efforts. Faye is the only known Jewish partisan to capture the World War II experience on film. Schulman’s rare collection of images captures the camaraderie, horror and loss, bravery and triumph of the rag-tag, tough partisans – some Jewish, some not – who fought the Nazis and their collaborators.
Malala Yousafzai (1997 – )
Born in Pakistan in 1997, Malala Yousafzai made a huge impact on the world after she was injured by the Taliban after a normal day of school. The Taliban banned all of the girls from her village from any education but Malala demanded her education and continued attending. Since the injury, Malala has advocated successfully for human rights especially for the right to education for young girls. She has won a Nobel Prize for her efforts and continues to advocate for all life.
Vera Atkins, CBE (1908 – 2000)
Vera Atkins was a British intelligence officer who worked in the French Section of the Special Operations Executive from 1941 to 1945 during WWII. After the war, Atkins was determined to uncover what happened to French Section agents that went missing during missions in enemy territory. Originally she received little support and some opposition but eventually gained support and funding from the Secret Intelligence Service which helped her discover what happened to 117 of the 118 missing agents. Atkins was awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1948 and was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour by the French government in 1995. Additionally, she was appointed CBE or Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1997.
Sonia Sotomayor (1954 – )
Sonia Sotomayor is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009. She has the distinction of being the first Hispanic and Latina Justice. She focuses on issues of race, gender and ethnic identity. She continues to bring a alternate perspective to the court and makes sure that every race is represented in decision making.
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu (1912 – 1997)
Chien-Shiung Wu was a Chinese-American experimental physicist who made significant contributions in the field of nuclear physics. Born in a small town in Shanghai, Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu attended school at an early age even though it was uncommon for girls to receive educations in Shanghai at the time. Wu worked on the famous Manhattan Project and was also the first woman to serve as president of the American Physical Society. She won many awards for her discoveries and has affectionatly been nicknamed “the First Lady of Physics,” “the Chinese Madame Curie,” and the “Queen of Nuclear Research.”
Special thanks to Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Honors Humanities students who researched and prepared this list.