The last country to grant women suffrage was Saudi Arabia, only in 2011; barely seven years ago.
In a world where women have bare minimum representation, a woman who rises to the top has overcome twice as many obstacles as a man.
Keeping this in mind, here is a list of those women who beat the odds and changed the world.
Writing in Urdu about homosexuality and liberation at a time when everything about it was taboo- and above all, writing as a women; Chughtai is quite possibly one of the most fearless writers of her time. She wrote as a woman well ahead of her times; garnering attention for her bold words about same-sex love and freedom and rights to women. Her works have been called to court for obscenity; but nothing scared her off.
She wrote about how women were treated during the British Raj; about strong, challenging female characters that inspire women to this day. Her best work is a short story titled Lihaaf, about homosexuality and repressed feelings. When asked to publicly apologize for writing such obscene, taboo topics; she refused firmly, and went on to write a number of pieces on the same topic.
Despite the dying culture of Urdu literature and writings, Ismat Chughtai remains to be one among the greatest female writers India has produced.
Viola Davis is one of the few performers to win an Academy, an Emmy, and a Tony award.
She was born on her grandmother’s plantation. Her father was a horse trainer, and her mother was a house-maid and a factory worker. In an interview with NPR West, she described how her childhood was that of poverty and struggle; the daughter of a fierce activist— she was jailed with her mother as a toddler. She lived alongside rats and cockroaches and hunger, and yet put on the biggest smile onstage.
She began acting in school, in plays and recitals, and her talent outshone everything else. Today, she is one of the most talented actresses in the world, with a number of brilliant performances under her belt, with movies like The Help, Doubt, Fences; and TV shows like How to Get Away with Murder.
She is strong, outspoken against misogyny, and against racism. Below is the speech she gave at the Women’s March; a speech for equality and human rights, a speech that should move you to tears.
The only known female ruler of China, Empress Wu Zetian ruled the vast kingdom unofficially but had possibly the most powerful impact during her reign. She was responsible for the expansion of the Chinese kingdom and stretching it out to Central Asia; she engaged in a series of wars with the Korean kingdom as well as numerous other smaller kingdoms.
She had a monumental impact on the arts, literature, and religious culture of the era. She was a devout Buddhist and believed strongly in education— having been education finely by her father; which was uncommon at the time.
Her rise to power, however, did not go without controversy. She was accused of being power-hungry, not caring for the love or lives of those around her. She was even accused of being responsible for the death of her first daughter— a claim that was never proved.
Despite all this, Empress Wu Zetian is undoubtedly one of the most powerful women to have ever lived.
No list about powerful women is complete without this legend. Her research and discoveries related to radioactivity have forever revolutionized medicine. She was the first woman to win a Nobel prize, the only person to have won it twice and in different fields.
She was the scientist to have conducted extensive research around radioactive elements; having coined the term radioactive. She is credited with having contributed majorly to the invention of the x-ray machine, and has provided mobile radiography units to the World War I battlefields.
Even her death was a noble one. She died of aplastic anaemia, a result of her extensive proximity to dangerous radioactive substances during her research, and has since been entombed in the Paris Pantheon; the first woman to have been bestowed the honour.
These are only a very few of the many, many women who have influenced the world; women who have overcome struggle and scarcity of resource, women who beat the odds and rose to power and fame and glory and will forever be remembered in the annals of history. Women who inspire young girls to this day, who make the rest of us believe that we can do anything.