The Women Who Inspire Us
To celebrate Women's History Month, PSOT staff will be sharing the women who have, and still are, making history. These are women who inspire us, women who have paved the way and women who are contributing to global efforts for positive change.
The Madres de Plaza de Mayo
During Argentina’s military junta (1977-1983) about 30,000 people (some as young as 13) were kidnapped; disappearing without reason. Many were also pregnant women, who's children were given to military personnel at birth. The country was in a constant state of fear. Anyone could be taken at any moment, just for speaking out against the government. On April 30th, 1977 a group of 14 mothers - who had met in the waiting rooms of police stations looking for answers - organized the first of a continuing series of demonstrations in front of the Presidential Palace on the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. From then on, every Thursday afternoon at the plaza they demanded information about the conditions and whereabouts of their children and the missing persons. The risks these women and mothers took was tremendous -- illustrated by the fact that some of them, including their first president Azucena de Villaflor, disappeared. In spite of this, the group soon counted some 150 members and grew to comprise several thousands in 1982-83.
These women were underestimated by military officials because they were seen as harmless, grieving mothers, yet they gave a powerful voice to those who were too afraid to share their public concerns. They gave a powerful voice to the atrocities that were happening in Argentina, both nationally and internationally.
“We lived torn between fear and the need to find our children."
I got into this work because of my personal history with the Desaparecidos. I wanted to work in the field of human rights because of the impact that these women had on me. They really exemplify the perseverance and strength of women both then and now. –Nicole Attar Operations and Development Manager
In Dr. Angela Davis' lifetime of activism, she has advocated for all those oppressed as a scholar, professor, Black Panther Party member, feminist, author and philosopher. She is a voice for people incarcerated in the United States, women, the LGBTQ community and more. A radical educator to students and the American public for decades, her activism shows no bounds.
Davis' philosophy harnesses the power of our one struggle. From black rights, LGBTQ rights, women's rights, disability rights, to prison and immigration rights and reform, she reminds us these issues are all interconnected. It's together, against the common foe called oppression, where our true power lies.
Angela Davis shows me how beautiful and surprising life can be when lived with and for others. - Alex, Clinical Coordinator & Operations Assistant
Svetlana Gannushkina is a prominent Russian activist and human rights defender. She founded and runs Citizens’ Assistance, one of the only NGOs supporting legal rights of migrants in Russia, including refugees, asylum-seekers, immigrants, temporary workers, survivors of human trafficking and internally displaced persons.
Most recently, the organization is supporting the people displaced by the conflict Russia is waging in Ukraine. Since 2015, Gannushkina’s NGO has been dubbed a foreign agent by the Russian government, which effectively calls out the organization and its members as spies.
“The amount of work this small organization is able to do in psychosocial support and legal aid is unparalleled...Ms. Gannushkina’s has an old Soviet brand of morality and charisma that immediately draws you in, and a clarity of purpose, mission and capacity that permeates everything she does. I believe she’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize multiple times - maybe she’ll get the next one!” - Maria, LMSW
Dr. May Edward Chinn
Dr. May Edward Chinn was the first African American woman to graduate from Bellevue Hospital Medical School (now NYU Langone Health). She faced many obstacles upon graduation, as no hospital would allow her to practice due to her race - yet she persisted. She went on to be the first African American woman to Intern at Harlem Hospital, received her masters in Public Health from Columbia University, and went on to conduct important cancer research for 29 years.
“This history gives me shivers and a smile filled with pride. What an incredible woman! I know that my path as a Teachers College alumnus and a Bellevue Hospital Psychologist are in part due to her bravery and groundbreaking efforts. Thanks, Dr. Chinn!" - Dr. Hawthorne Smith, PhD
Malala Yousafzai, now just 20 years old, has been the face of an international movement in the advocacy for human rights for the majority of her adolescence, and now into her young adult life. She is especially known for speaking up about the education of women and children in her native home of northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had banned girls from attending school.
These brave actions lead to an assassination attempt in 2012, where Malala and two other women were shot multiple times by Taliban gunman. She has persisted to become an influential international activist, and symbol of hope for young women across the globe. In a world run by men, Malala has answered her own question: “If one man can destroy everything, why can't one girl change it?”
“Malala’s story and perseverance in the face of immense adversity and danger has given me the confidence to take charge of my life. Her advocacy and strength reminds me there is power in speaking up, power in learning and power in being a woman.” - Sammie, AmeriCorps VISTA