10 Women Trailblazers You Haven’t Yet Heard Of

10 Women Trailblazers You Haven’t Yet Heard Of

10 Women Trailblazers You Haven’t Yet Heard Of

Yoncé said it first: girls run the world. 

Around the globe, women consistently make ripples, drive change, and build towards our collective future. A handful of them are widely celebrated, but there are far more female trailblazers who have made (and are making!) history—and their names often go unspoken. They deserve a moment in the sun, and a place in our convos, especially this International Women’s Day. 

So, without further ado: here are ten women trailblazers, from the past and present, who we should all talk about more. 

Iconic Women From The Past

Hatshepsut | Egypt 1504 B.C. 

We’re trying our best to suppress a YESSS, QUEEN here! One of a rare few female pharaohs, Hatshepsut was the definition of iconic. Despite her relatively short reign, she’s known by historians as “one of Egypt’s greatest pharaohs—man or woman.” After cementing her place on the throne through a controversial usurping, Hatshesput revitalized Egyptian trade systems through expeditions and led massive architectural projects. Multiple structures she designed and built are still standing today. 

Naturally, almost all evidence of her reign was erased by her successor, so her impact wasn’t revealed until the early 1800s. If you have trouble recognizing her in any of the found artifacts, you’re not alone. Per her own orders, Hatshepsut was depicted as a man with a beard in many carvings and statues, to make clear to her subjects that she was owed “the same respect as any male pharaoh.”

Patsy Mink | United States, 1927

Born and raised in Hawaii, Patsy Mink made ripples in 1964 as the first Asian-American woman elected to serve in Congress. Additional accolades include: Founder of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the first Japanese-American law practitioner in Hawaii, and author and sponsor of the historical Title IX law that forbids discrimination on the basis of sex within education programs. Following her passing in 2002, that same law was renamed in her honor. 

As if the resume wasn’t long enough, Mink also served on countless Congressional committees, presided over Americans for Democratic Action for two years, and was elected to Honolulu City Council. In short? Patsy Mink was a political powerhouse—and someone you should definitely know about. 

Little Sister Lozen | Southern Plains, 1840 

A Chiricahua Apache freedom fighter, warrior, AND prophet, Little Sister Lozen’s name should be known everywhere. The name itself came from her strategic prowess in stealing horses from enemy forces, and the life that followed did not disappoint. After a coming-of-age ritual believed to have granted her supernatural powers, Lozen was known among the Chiricahua Apache for an uncanny ability to locate her enemies—and for her fearless approach in combat. 

Communal stories about Lozen depict her as a magnificent, powerful woman with unmatched courage on horseback and rarely-countered skill on the battlefield. She fought alongside famed Apache chief Geronimo, ushered hundreds of people to safety during attacks from U.S. forces, and defended her community against capture from military forces. Though she passed as a prisoner of war at Mount Vernon, Lozen’s legacy lives on. 

Rose Marie McCoy | United States, 1922

Allow us to introduce you to a little-known co-author of The Great American Songbook: Rose Marie McCoy. 

An Arkansas native who discovered the Blues in her teen years, McCoy is best known for breaking through a highly male-dominated and anti-Black industry to become “one of the most prolific songwriters” of all time. Throughout her career, McCoy penned hits for The Eagles, Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Big Maybelle, Eartha Kitt, and many, many more.

McCoy’s catalog, reaching past 850 songs, transcended genre and thrived on pop, R&B, and rock charts alike. She was, in large part, responsible for the soundtrack of the ‘50s and ‘60s—and to this day, artists record covers of songs she put pen to paper for. Though many people don’t recognize her name, McCoy’s voice has reverberated throughout the music industry for decades. It’s time we acknowledge it. 

Caterina van Hemessen | Belgium, 1528

There’s nothing quite like being the first. Caterina van Hemessen was a Flemish artist and painter during the Renaissance period—and the earliest woman from her region to have painted on record. In 1548, she clinched another first with a piece titled Self Portrait. The painting was, of course, a self-portrait—and the very first one to feature the artist sitting at an easel, almost as if they were painting themselves. For this never-before-seen meta portrait, and her entire body of work, van Hemessen is known among art historians as a creative genius. And now, she’s known among us as a trailblazer. 

Iconic Women Here & Now

Yesika Salgado

In her own words, Yesika Salgado is a “Los Angeles-based Salvadoran poet who writes about her family, culture, city, and fat body.” In ours, she’s a groundbreaking artist and activist who routinely reaches beyond the bounds of language to hold the experiences of Latinx women and women of color everywhere. You can find Yesika’s work in The New York Times, NPR, Teen Vogue, HBO, Mitu., and VIBE Magazine—or, you can join us and thousands of others tapping into her  Instagram for poetry, good vibes, and her dating app adventures. Salgado’s collection of poetry books (Corazon, Tesoro, and Hermosa) is perfection year-round. Fair warning: beware of reading these in public—or at least make sure you have tissues on hand. 

Michaela DePrince

Even if you didn’t binge-watch Dance Academy or Center Stage, you need to know who Michaela DePrince is. Born during the civil war in Sierra Leone and raised by adoptive parents in Cherry Plains, New Jersey, DePrince first rose to prominence with the 2011’s First Position. This well-awarded documentary followed gifted dancers competing in the Youth America Grand Prix, the largest international ballet competition in the world. DePrince went on to be the youngest company member in the Dance Theater of Harlem’s history—at seventeen years old. 

Today, DePrince is a soloist with the Boston Ballet, a global ambassador for humanitarian NGO War Child, and best-selling author (check out her memoir, Taking Flight, here). Aaaaand she performed a solo for Beyoncé’s visual album “Lemonade,” so—there are truly no limits to her magic. 

Zhanar Sekerbayeva

Speaking out in the face of danger is par for the course for Zhanar Sekerbayeva, human rights activist and journalist. In 2014, Sekerbayeva founded Feminita, a queer women’s rights collective in Kazakhstan that advocates for the rights of LGBTQ+ women, disabled women, and sex workers. Though government officials have refused to recognize Feminita as a legal entity, the work has not stopped for Zhanar. Whether it’s at the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Harvard University, or live protests, Zhanar consistently exercises her right to insist on a better, safer future for marginalized groups in her community—all while being doxxed, threatened, and detained for speaking up. 

Tamika Catchings

For fourteen years, Tamika Catchings dominated as a small forward for the Indiana Fever. Today, she’s in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, and still considered one of the top fifteen players that the WNBA has ever seen. The numbers don’t lie: with four Olympic gold medals, two Most Valuable Player distinctions, five Defensive Player of the Year wins, and a Rookie of the Year honor during her very first season, she’s that good. 

Born hard-of-hearing, Catchings uses her platform to bring awareness to access inequalities in sports and pathways to disability justice. She’s also a game analyst, a tea-shop chain owner (swoon!), and Director of Player Programs for the Pacers. 

Winona LaDuke

If you weren’t already talking about Winona LaDuke, you’re about to be. LaDuke is a Native American economist, activist, and environmental researcher whose work champions “Indigenous control of [their] homelands, resources, and cultural practices.” Some highlights from LaDuke’s incredible career are as follows: In 1989, she founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP), an organization that seeks to return purchased reservation land to the Native population. In 1996 and 2000, she ran for the Vice Presidency alongside Ralph Nader. And in 2016, she stood on the front lines of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. And trust us, we’re skipping quite a few accolades—you’ll definitely want to do your own research on this one. 

So, what now? This International Women’s Day, let’s take an extra minute to honor the leaders among us that aren’t often celebrated. You can start with the women on this list, and end with the ones you know personally. However long it takes you, let’s bask in a day—and month—that was created to uplift the phenomenal women in our circles. For all the work we do, we deserve it!