Continuing on with our International Women’s Day celebration, today’s post is dedicated to the amazing female politicians and lawmakers who help to make the world a better place. From AOC to RBG, read on to discover which ladies have made our list. First up, we’re paying homage to none other than Michelle Obama.
Politicians and Lawmakers
Everybody loves a First Lady: Jackie Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton are as familiar to the public as their husbands are, but nobody can deny that Michelle Obama is amongst the most admired of them all.
Born on January 17th 1964, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson spent her childhood on the South Side of Chicago. Her parents held humble jobs (her father, Fraser, was an employee at the city water plant, and her mother Marian was a secretary), but encouraged her to pursue her studies and to stay out of trouble. By sixth grade, the young Michelle had joined a gifted class, and by her teens she was attending the elite Whitney Young High School. In order to attend school, she was required to take a three-hour round trip. During her time at Whitney Young, Michelle was sometimes regarded with a sense of negativity, but she felt as if the issues she faced, such as gender discrimination, ‘fuelled’ her, and ‘kept (her) going’. Eventually, she made the honor roll (four years running), finally graduating in 1981 as the salutatorian of her class.
Later that year, she decided to follow in the footsteps of her older brother by attending Princeton University. Her choice to apply to Princeton had been looked down upon by her former teachers, who told her that she was ‘setting (her) sights too high’, but soon enough she was able to prove them wrong. In fact, Michelle Robinson flourished during her time at Princeton, even offering after-school tutoring for older children as part of the university’s Third World Centre (now known as the Carl A. Fields Centre). By 1988, she had earned her Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School, and actively took part in demonstrations to advocate the hiring of professors from minority groups. During her time at Harvard, she also worked for the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, assisting low-income tenants with housing cases – a hint of the caring nature we would all come to be familiar with later on, and a jumping-off point for the next phase of her career.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Michelle Robinson met her future husband, Barack Obama, and the rest, they say, is history. Michelle's role in making Barack the man he became - an excellent politician, and the eventual President of the United States - is well-known, but it is her own time in the White House which has left many inspired. Michelle Obama was instrumental in the passing of numerous, meaningful initiatives, such as The School Lunch programme (which provides free and reduced-price meals to school children from low-income families), the Reach Higher Initiative (an effort designed to inspire young Americans to complete their education beyond high school), and the Let Girls Learn initiative (a movement to help young girls around the world have access to, and stay in, education). She has also been a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights - indeed, she 'made sure' that the White House was 'lit up in the LGBT colours' on the night that same-sex marriage became legal, but she also worked alongside her husband and her public to make America a better place for members of the LGBTQ+ community overall.
From a youth spent fighting for better, to her eventual life in the spotlight, Michelle Obama has never shied away from trying to make the world a better place for all. Her approval rating during her time as First Lady was always impressive, but it's her lasting legacy (and continued, soothing influence on modern society) which makes her place on our list all the more deserved.
The next member of our International Women’s Day countdown is an increasingly well-known name in the Democratic party, and a firm favourite amongst her peers and supporters alike.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (or AOC for short) became known to the masses when she won the Democratic Party’s primary election for New York’s 14th congressional district, unseating ten-termer Joe Crowley – this ‘upset’ was the biggest defeat in the 2018 midterm primaries overall. Later in the same year, she beat Republican Anthony Pappas in November’s general election, earning her position as the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress.
At just 29 years old, AOC has experienced a great deal of push-back from older, more ‘traditional’ members of the government, but this does not slow her down. In fact, she has become wildly popular with the public (and communicates effectively with them via social media), and is considered something of a darling based on her relatability and considerable intelligence – traits which she can put to excellent use, as seen this viral video. In just a few minutes, Ocasio-Cortez was able to effectively illustrate a topic which is somewhat familiar to Americans, but often deemed unclear, as she encouraged members of the house to play a game – a ‘lightning round’ of questions – designed to illuminate the injustices within the US’s current campaign finance laws. No jargon could be heard, and no attempts were made to confuse the casual listener – she was clear, concise, and effective in exposing the flaws of a system which has gone unchallenged for too long.
AOC’s communicative nature is something seldom seen in the world of politics. It’s rare to see an orator this relatable and, indeed, likable. Amusingly so, her opponents even tried to run something of a smear campaign against the congresswoman, sharing a video of her dancing to Lisztomania by Phoenix during her high school years– while the original (now-deleted) tweet referred to AOC as a ‘commie know-it-all’ and a ‘clueless nitwit’, the video itself only endeared Ms Ocasio-Cortez to a wider audience, re-enforcing her relatability.
Throughout AOC’s ascent into the public conscious, she has continued to capture the heart of the masses by aligning herself with a range of worthy causes, including those which aim to better the lives of minorities. A wonderful example of this can be found in her support of Mermaids, a charity which offers support to young transgender people. During a Twitch stream/game marathon hosted by Youtuber Hbomberguy (aka Harry Brewis), which was set up to raise funds for the charity, Ms Ocasio-Cortez caught wind of the event and posted about it via her Twitter account. Shortly after, she called into the stream to offer her support, lending a much-needed signal boost to the (already brilliant) cause and helping Hbomberguy/Brewis to raise an incredible $340,000 for the charity. Elsewhere, AOC continued to offer support to the LGBTQ+ community, giving a powerful speech about equality at the 2019 Women’s March in New York.
In addition to her support of the LGBTQ+ community and a call for fairer tax rules, Ocasio-Cortez is a vocal opponent of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), repeatedly calling for its abolishment. She attended a protest at an ICE child-detention centre in Texas just two days before the primary election (which she would go on to win), and has remained steadfast in her support for immigrants and their human rights.
Certainly one to watch, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the most exciting, magnetic individuals in American politics – and is more than deserving of a place on our list of inspirational women.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The final woman on today’s list is the subject of a recent Oscar-nominated documentary film, and the second female Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. We are, of course, talking about Ruth Bader Ginsburg – or RBG for short.
Ginsburg’s career has been well-documented (elements of which we shall discuss shortly), but her ascent and early-days advocacy is not to be overlooked. She was one of just nine women in a class of 500 at Harvard Law School (which she attended from 1956), and faced discrimination by the Dean of Harvard Law who felt that she and the other women in class were ‘taking the place of a man’. An eventual transfer to Columbia Law School saw Ginsburg earn her degree at the top of her class, though despite her skill and qualifications she struggled to find work, again a symptom of her gender. Recommendation was given by the Columbia Law Professor Gerald Gunter to Judge Edmund L. Palmieri of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, and after some persuasion she was hired for her clerkship for Palmieri – a position which she held for two years.
In 1970, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the first law journal in America to focus exclusively on women’s rights. Later, in 1972, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); the project went on to participate in over 300 gender discrimination cases over the next two years. As the director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, she argued six cases of gender discrimination before the Supreme Court, winning five.
From challenging a statute which made it more difficult for female service members to claim increase housing allowance for her husband (versus a man’s claim on behalf of his wife), to taking aim at specific discriminatory statues which appeared ‘beneficial’ for women (but, ultimately, still required their reliance on men), the earlier days of Ginsburg’s work have been credited with making significant advancement for women in the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Her time at the Supreme Court was, too, significant, as she battled for women’s rights on the topics of abortion, ‘search and seizure’, and gender discrimination as a whole.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a profoundly influential member of the Supreme Court, having served as Associate Justice since 1993 – an extremely long term, and all the more impressive given her age (85 years old) and a series of illnesses, including colon and pancreatic cancer. Her dedication to American law-making is indisputable; her legacy, indelible. She is the epitome of the phrase ‘balance for better’, and for that we applaud her.
Join us on Thursday the 7th of March, when we’ll be paying homage to incredible scientists and pioneers who have helped to make the world a better, more balanced place. In the meanwhile, why not check out our lists of inspirational musicians, artists and actresses?
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