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August 18 marks the anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. What’s the big deal with the Nineteenth Amendment? It gives American women the right to vote! To celebrate this victory we here at Quirk Books would like to introduce you to some kick-ass women throughout history whose legacy lives on long after they passed away.

 

Queen Margaret I of Denmark (1353–1412).

Queen Margaret I was born in Denmark in 1353, the youngest daughter of the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag (1320–1375). In 1363 she married Haakon VI of Norway (1340–1380). Widowed at the age of 27, she deftly avoided the pressure of remarrying and became the de facto ruler of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. She declared war on an unpopular Swedish king and seized power in his place. She used pirates in the Baltic as leverage to manipulate the Teutonic Knights. In 1397, she created a union out of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden that was to last in various constellations until 1814 and whose political impact still resonates in Scandinavia and the Baltic today.

 

Aphra Behn (1640–1689).

Not much is known about Aphra Behn and much of what we do know might be part of the persona she created. An irrefutable fact, though, is that Aphra Behn is the first woman in the West who is known to have made her living as a writer. Yes, there were women who wrote and published before her, but their writing was not their main source of income. In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf writes that all women who make a living as a writer owe a debt of gratitude to Aphra Behn because she led the way.

 

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797).

Mary Wollstonecraft was a philosopher, writer, and women’s rights activist. Her most famous work is A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published in 1792. There, Wollstonecraft argues that women are not inferior to men by nature but are perceived as being inferior because of lack of education. After her death in 1797, her memoirs were published. Because of her unconventional way of life she became a woman of ill repute with a tarnished reputation. Not until the early 20th century when the emerging feminist movement discovered her did she become the important philosopher we consider her to be today.

 

Ida B. Wells (1862–1931).

Ida B. Wells was a journalist, women’s rights activist, and civil rights activist. It should be noted, that even though the Nineteenth Amendment gave American women the right to vote after decades of struggle, this addition to the Constitution was achieved through the exclusion of African-American women, who were forced to fight their own fight in the suffrage movement. One of the women at the forefront of this fight was Ida B. Wells. And not only did she fight for African-American women’s suffrage, her investigative journalism helped expose the truth behind lynchings in the South. Also, she was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or the NAACP.

 

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