Women Who Advocated for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Every year, March is designated Women’s History Month by presidential proclamation:  

“Throughout history, the vision and achievements of powerful women have strengthened our Nation and opened the doors of opportunity wider for all of us. Though their stories too often go untold, all of us stand on the shoulders of these sung and unsung trailblazers — from the women who took a stand as suffragists, abolitionists, and labor leaders to pioneering scientists and engineers, groundbreaking artists, proud public servants, and brave members of our Armed Forces.” 

The 2024 National Women’s History Month theme celebrates “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.” The theme recognizes women who understand that, for a positive future, we need to eliminate bias and discrimination entirely from our lives and institutions. 

Over the years, we’ve recognized several women throughout history as Communicators of the Month who advocated and fought for equity, diversity and inclusion. Here are some of the remarkable women we have featured in our calendar over the years (listed in alphabetical order). 

LORENA BORJAS

Original artwork honoring transgender rights reformer Lorena Borjas

Mexican-born Lorena Borjas was known as the mother of the transgender Latinx community in Queens, New York. She fought tirelessly for transgender women, undocumented immigrants, sex workers and those living with HIV/AIDS, despite facing numerous challenges and traumas in her personal life. Learn how she worried about her transgender family, specifically how they were going to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, right up until her death.

RUTH BADER GINSBURG

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a lawyer and jurist who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993 until her death in September 2020. She spent much of her legal career as a staunch advocate for gender equality and women’s rights. Learn how Ginsburg challenged traditional gender roles, fought for women’s rights and demonstrated perseverance in the face of difficulties throughout her life.

Original Artwork honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg

DOROTHY HEIGHT

Original Artwork for Dorothy Height

Dorothy Height is remembered as the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement.” She was a courageous and outspoken civil rights and women’s rights activist who advocated for social issues into her 80s. Height also played a vital role in the 1963 March on Washington, organizing thousands of female volunteers who mobilized a quarter-million people to rally on the National Mall. Learn more about Height’s legacy and work with the National Council of Negro Women.

ODETTA HOLMES

Odetta Holmes was an American folk singer, actress, and civil and human rights activist, often referred to as the “Voice of the Civil Rights Movement.” Holmes said her songs channeled “the fury and frustration that I had growing up” in segregated America. The many benefits she headlined helped underwrite the movement’s work. Learn more about her life, legacy and many accomplishments.

Original artwork for Odetta Holmes

EMMA LAZARUS

Original artwork showcasing Emma Lazarus

Poet Emma Lazarus embraced and shared her Jewish American heritage openly and used her writing to combat antisemitism. But she didn’t stop there. Her most famous piece of writing transcends any one racial or ethnic group, welcoming any and all immigrants to America’s shores. Today, her words live on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. Learn more about Lazarus, her career and how she embraced and shared her Jewish American heritage.

PATSY TAKEMOTO MINK

Patsy Takemoto Mink may be best known for her role in co-authoring and advocating for the groundbreaking Title IX Amendment that was passed in 1972. However, Mink broke numerous barriers throughout her career as a lawyer and public servant. She wasn’t afraid to speak openly about the racial and gender discrimination she faced as a woman and as a person of color. Learn more about the lasting impact that Mink had on our country and women’s rights during her time in Congress.

Original artwork honoring Patsy Takemoto Mink

DR. SUSAN MOORE

Unique graphic depicting two hands and a profile of a nondescript individuals face

After Dr. Susan Moore passed away due to complications from COVID-19, her story became a shocking example of the shortcomings of the U.S. health care system in response to the pandemic, particularly for communities of color. Learn more about Moore’s fierce fight for treatment every step of the way during her battle with COVID-19 and how her death sparked national outrage.

SYLVIA RIVERA

As one of the nation’s first transgender advocates, Sylvia Rivera gave gender nonconforming individuals a voice within the mainstream gay rights movement. She was honored for her work with a statue in New York City — one of the world’s first monuments for transgender people. Learn more about how her work fighting for equality and inclusion inspired action and resilience.

Original artwork depicting Sylvia Rivera

ZITKALA-ŠA

Original artwork for Zitkala-Sa

Throughout her life, Zitkala-Ša had to navigate the two worlds of her Native American heritage and the white-dominant society where she studied, worked and published her writing and music. Today she is remembered for how she honored her culture while advocating for Indigenous people to become voting American citizens. Learn more about her inspiring life and her tireless fight to improve the rights of Native Americans.

IDA B. WELLS

Ida B. Wells worked tirelessly to expose discrimination and violence toward African Americans in the South. After witnessing the political activism of her parents and experiencing her own discrimination, Wells knew that she needed to counter these injustices even in the face of danger. Learn how her investigative reporting uncovered the truth about the discrimination and violence African Americans experienced in the late 19th century.

Original artwork showcasing Ida Wells

For even more noteworthy women that Vanguard has featured throughout the years, check out our Women’s Equality Day roundup from 2020.