7 Girls Who Changed The World You Probably Didn’t Learn About In School
From Malala Yousafzai to Anne Frank, world history is full of girls who contributed massively to the biggest events in human civilization while still not being quite 18 yet. But as world history has shown us, it's rare that girls and women get the credit they're due for the work they've done. These seven girls who changed the world probably won't show up in your history textbooks — but it's important to learn about them anyway.
If there's one takeaway from these seven amazing stories, it's that it's never too early in your life to start getting into activism, politics, or campaigning to fight for your beliefs. Young people are shaping our political conversations right now, from the Parkland shooting survivors leading the push for gun reform, to the teens behind the Standing Rock protests. We're also in an inspiring period where young people, particularly women, are running for office and winning in great numbers, and it's an amazing thing to watch — and to participate in. Whether it's exercising your hard-won right to vote in the midterms this Novemeber, campaigning for the issues that matter to you, or even running for office yourself, these seven girls show it's passion that matters, not age.
1. Sophie Scholl
Sophie Scholl was part of a resistance campaign in Nazi Germany called the White Rose, according to Timeline. They were caught distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets and scrawling graffiti about Hitler throughout wartime Munich. Scholl, by then a college student, was only 21 at the time, and scrawled the word "Freedom" on the back of the indictment that would lead to her death sentence.
2. Barbara Johns
Barbara Johns was one of the great youth activists of the Civil Rights Movement. At the age of 16 in 1951, she made a speech at her high school in New York that would lead to a mass walkout by students in protest against the institutionalized racism of the school system, according to Virginia Women In History. Her family faced threats, but Johns persisted. She and other activists would go on to sue the school, a lawsuit that would become part of the Brown v Board of Education case that led to the end of educational segregation in the United States.
3. Thandiwe Chama
When Thandiwe Chama's local school closed in 1999, then-8-year-old Chama walked to the next school with a collection of other children in protest, a band that added up to 60 kids. Her activism since then led to her receiving the 2007 International Children’s Peace Prize when she was 16 for her pursuit of education in her home country of Zambia.
4. Gwendolyn Sanders
Children were a key part of the Civil Rights Movement, and Gwendolyn Sanders was one of the many who were arrested in 1963 as part of a series of protests now known as the "children's crusade," according to Fast Company. Though she was only in 7th grade at the time, she organized other children to participate in a school walkout on May 2, and went to jail for eight days. After her release, she went right back out to the protests. ''I cannot tell you how many times that water hit us in the face, and how many times in Kelly Ingram Park that water swept us off our feet," she told the New York Times in 2003.
5. Sharbat Gula
It's regularly called one of the most iconic photographs ever taken: Stephen Curry's image of green-eyed Sharbat Gula, the "Afghan girl," in a refugee camp in Pakistan. The image of Gula, who was then 12 years old, appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 1985 and drew a huge amount of attention to the Soviet invasion that had driven Gula and thousands of others to flee Afghanistan. Gula herself now lives near Tora Bora in Afghanistan with her family and children.
6. Anna Dickinson
Anna Dickinson agitated for women's rights and the abolition of slavery in the United States while she was still in her teens, according to the Civil War Women blog. She started writing essays and lecturing at the age of 13, in 1845, after an anti-slavery essay was published in The Liberator and brought her fame. She became a renowned speaker, performing in front of Abraham Lincoln and publishing many books about social reforms, including mixed-race marriages and women's right to work.
7. Audrey Faye Hendricks
Audrey Faye Hendricks was also part of the May 2 Children's Crusade in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, and was renowned for being the youngest person to be arrested; she then was just nine years old. She was the only girl in her school to walk out for the protest, and would be in jail for five days without her parents, Lola Mae and Joseph Hendricks, both important figures in the Birmingham protests. Press coverage of the arrest of Hendricks and the other children made outraged headlines around the world.
The girls from the past are fuel for inspiration for the future, showing you're never too young to effect change. And while their stories may not appear in history books, their actions are no less important.