Women were once the quiet changers of history. Thankfully, times are changing and we can openly celebrate women’s successes, achievements and stories. These 15 women are testament to the strength of female pioneers around the world. Read their inspiring quotes on everything from the importance of education to cultivating your passion.

1. Melinda Gates: On finding your voice

“A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult.” - Melinda Gates, philanthropist, co-founder and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

2. Anita Roddick: On entrepreneurship

“Nobody talks about entrepreneurship as a survival, but that’s exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking. Running that first shop taught me business is not financial science; it’s about trading: buying and selling.” – Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop.

3. Emmeline Pankhurt: On women’s right to equality

“If it is right for men to fight for their freedom, and God knows what the human race would be like today if men had not, since time began, fought for their freedom, then it is right for women to fight for their freedom and the freedom of the children they bear.” Emmeline Pankhurst, British political activist and suffragette.

4. Kathryn Bigelow: On overcoming obstacles

“If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.” - Kathryn Bigelow, first woman to win Academy Award for Best Director.

5. Maya Angelou: On strength of character

“A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.” - Maya Angelou, African-American author, poet, dancer, actress and singer.

6. Malala Yousafzai: On education

“I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I’m afraid of no one.” - Malala Yousafzai, young education activist and author from Pakistan.

7. Rosie The Riveter: On determination

“We can do it!” – Rosie The Riveter, Fictional icon of WW2 propagating women working in factories to support the war effort.

8. Julia Child: On cultivating passion

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” - Julia Child, American chef, author and television personality.

9. Betty Friedan: On welcoming life experience

“Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”— Betty Friedan, American writer, activist and feminist.

10. Rosa Parks: On overcoming fear

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” — Rosa Parks, African-American civil rights activist

11. Mae C. Jemison: On living your dreams

“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.”— Mae C. Jemison, first African-American woman astronaut.

12. Mother Theresa: On individual impact

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” - Mother Teresa, Christian missionary

13. Shami Chakrabarti: On channeling anger

“Rebels don’t produce change, because they are fanning their own anger. You have to learn to save your outrage and focus.” - Shami Chakrabati, human rights activist and UK, director of advocacy group, ‘Liberty’. 

14. Aung San Suu Kyi: On the fight for freedom

“Human beings want to be free and however long they may agree to stay locked up, to stay oppressed, there will come a time when they say ‘That’s it.’ Suddenly they find themselves doing something that they never would have thought they would be doing, simply because of the human instinct that makes them turn their face towards freedom.” – Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese opposition politician and democracy advocate.

15. Rita Dove: On the power of imagination

“You have to imagine it possible before you can see something. You can have the evidence right in front of you, but if you can’t imagine something that has never existed before, it’s impossible.” — Rita Dove, first African-American poet laureate of the U.S.

Featured photo credit: Brian Stansberry via commons.wikimedia.org

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