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American historian Laurel Ulrich once said 'Well-behaved women rarely make history' - And she was right! Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and others did not help win the war against slavery and apartheid by following the rules. Today in honor of Women's History Month, we present a few more women and a teenager, whose bold behavior and courage to break conventional wisdom helped pave the way for the respect and equality enjoyed by their counterparts today.
While we are now accustomed to having a First Lady who is smart and not afraid to speak her mind or take up an issue that may be considered politically incorrect, such was not the case when Eleanor Roosevelt came to the White House. During those times, the First Lady was merely a ceremonial figure - One that held tea parties and accompanied the leader of the country, to all social events. But Eleanor had never been that docile and coming to the White House, did not change that.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt spent most of her early life in New York City. Despite living in a swanky, privileged neighborhood, she always had a soft spot for those not as fortunate - A value instilled by her father who she was very close to.
She was also very ambitious and is believed to have been the guiding force behind Franklin D. Roosevelt's (FDR) storied political career that began in 1910, when he became the first Democrat to win the New York Senate seat since 1878 and ended in getting him elected not once or twice, but four times!
The best part was that while FDR worked hard to end the Great Depression, Eleanor did her share by speaking out against segregation and raising public awareness about international issues like world peace. She also traveled around the country, meeting people and giving speeches, for which she was handsomely compensated. Though this was not always looked upon favorably, Eleanor did not care - That's because she always donated the money to people in need.
And her work did not end once she left the White House either. Appointed by President Truman to be the first US representative to the newly founded United Nations, she spent the rest of her life fighting for her two favorite causes - Women and children.
It is therefore not surprising that even after all these years, Eleanor Roosevelt is often referred to as the 'First Lady of the World' and ranked by most historians as one of the 'Ten most powerful people in Washington'.
Often called a 'Pioneer of the sky', Amelia Earhart was very similar in nature to Eleanor Roosevelt - Just 13 years younger than the First Lady, she too lived in an era when women were considered too inferior to vote, let alone, break world records flying airplanes. It is therefore not surprising that the two were such good friends that Amelia once even convinced the First Lady to take a flight in her airplane, in the middle of the night!
But while Amelia is now famous for being the first woman to fly across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and largely remembered for her mysterious disappearance while attempting an around-the world-flight in 1937, there was much more to her than that.
She was an active member of the National Women's Party and lobbied hard for women's rights. In addition to that the always impeccably dressed pilot also shared her love for clothing by launching a successful line for active women. What is amazing is that she achieved all this in less than 40 years, which is how old she was, when her airplane crashed. It makes you wonder how much more she could have done, had she not met with the unfortunate accident.
Recognized today as one of the most successful monarchs to rule England, Queen Elizabeth 1, who reigned from 1558 - 1603 was not even expected to head the country. Why? Because in those times women were not considered smart enough to run a country.
Born to King Henry and his second wife Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth had a very tumultuous childhood. Disappointed that his wife had not produced a male heir, Henry had Anne beheaded so that he could marry again. Elizabeth was sent away to the country where she was brought up under the supervision of governesses.
But as fate would have it, her stepbrother Edward, who became king at the age of nine after King Henry passed away, also died at 15. However, this still did not entitle Elizabeth to the throne - that's because she had an older stepsister, Mary, who became the default heir.
While her father had simply neglected Elizabeth, Mary made her life a torture. Concerned that Elizabeth was trying to take her throne, she first imprisoned her and later, placed her under house arrest for numerous years.
Often called 'Bloody Mary' by the people of England, she was resented and feared and they heaved a sigh of relief when in November 1859, she finally succumbed to illness and passed away, after reluctantly naming the 27-year old Elizabeth the new, Queen of England.
During her 44-year reign, Elizabeth showed great leadership by reaching out and embracing the people that had been living under the harsh regime of Queen Mary, fending off attacks from Spain and essentially transforming what was a poor weak island into a wealthy European force. Also, thanks to her love for music, drama and poetry, she encouraged artists and writers to pursue their passion - Allowing some of England's greatest writers including William Shakespeare, who she greatly admired, to blossom.
Anne Frank did not break world records or rule over people. Yet, this 15-year old who wrote a poignant account of what life was like for Jewish families that were in hiding to escape the tyrannies of German dictator Adolf Hitler, has touched the lives of millions of people all around the world.
One of two girls, Anne grew up in a well-to-do happy family. Like most young girls she aspired to be an actress and writer when she grew up. However, when a dictator by the name of Adolf Hitler took over Germany, life as she knew it, took a turn for the worse. Though anti-Semitism or hostility toward Jewish people was not new, Hitler took it to a new level - By attempting to decimate the entire race.
Realizing the danger his family could be in, Anne's father Otto Frank, moved them first to Switzerland, and then in 1934, to Amsterdam. Not really knowing the dangers her family could have faced, four-year-old Anne quickly settled into her new life. However, in 1940, Hitler invaded and conquered Amsterdam and soon began his systematic persecution of Jewish families - First, by taking away their rights and segregating them from society similar to how African Americans were treated in the United States and then slowly, but surely, shipping them to the camps in Germany.
By 1942, 13-year old Anne and her family were forced into hiding into a small two-story attic inside an office building, that the young girl called the 'Secret Annex'. Among the few possessions that Anne was able to take with her, was a small plaid-covered diary that she had received for her 13th birthday.
This is where the young girl wrote about her frustrations, aspirations, and the day-to-day fears and struggles the family faced as they hid in that tiny house, which they shared with other Jewish refugees, for almost two years.
On August 4th, 1944, just as the war was drawing to an end, the event the family had been dreading happened - Someone had betrayed the residents of the Secret Annex and sent Nazi soldiers to their home.
Anne and her sister were separated from their parents and shipped off to a camp in Berlin, Germany where they died in March 1945, after suffering from a dreadful disease called Typhus. The irony is that had they survived one more month, British soldiers would have rescued them and Anne would have seen her dream of becoming a wildly successful author come true. That's because her diary morphed into a book entitled Anne Frank: Diary of a young girl, has been published in 67 languages, and is still read by people all over the world.
Resources: who was Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Elizabeth, Amelia Earhart, Anne Frank