Remember the Women Who Came Before Us

Three female friends enjoying themselves. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on

Women like Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou and Harriet Tubman are familiar to us. We know these women’s names and stories, but what about all the other women left out of the narrative? 

Powerful women of color built this country, yet we can only name a handful. Schools teach us about the men who built the patriarchal society we live in today in school. 

Powerful women are put on the backburner in our classrooms. It is up to us to educate ourselves on these incredible women. 

I’m sure you have heard of HeLa cells. These “immortal” cells have single-handedly changed the face of modern science. Scientists use these cells to further unprecedented scientific research. 

Without her consent, doctors took these HeLa cells from a cervical cancer patient, Henrietta Lacks. Neither Lacks nor her family has  ever received any reparations or financial compensation for a doctor stealing her DNA and using it without her knowledge. 

Martha P. Johnson was a black transgender woman living in New York in the 1960s. At this time in history, it was illegal for people of the same sex even to dance together or wear clothing that didn’t match one’s biological gender. So basically, it was illegal to be gay or trans in public. 

Johnson was tired of being harassed by police for simply being who she was. She was a massive force in the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and helped start the first big wave of LGBTQ+ activism.

Due to people like Martha P. Johnson that the LGBTQ+ community has made such huge strides, Martha P. Johnson walked the Black-Queer community could run.

Another incredible woman you might not know about is Rosalind Franklin. Franklin discovered the double helix. This groundbreaking genetic discovery was made mainly due to her extensive data research. Yet, all credit for the discovery went to her three male counterparts. 

Still, it gets worse.

After she died of cancer at 38 years old, one of the three male scientists published a book about “his” discovery of the double helix, in which he made many personal insults about Franklin. 

Countless powerful women have been taken advantage of and completely forgotten in our country’s history. These three are just a few examples.

Women have been taught to be quiet and submissive. We’ve been taught that our accomplishments don’t mean as much as a man’s.

No more.

We must do everything we can to remember these women and amplify their stories. We must use our voices to shout the praises of the women that came before us.

I will end with the words of Audre Lorde, a Black, LGBTQ+,  feminist, author and poet.

“I write for those women who do not speak, those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.”