10 Women Who #BreakTheBias.
March 8, 2022.
Here are 10 extraordinary women Huge thinks you should know.
For this International Women’s Day we’re celebrating lesser known but remarkable women who #BrokeTheBias, pushed against discrimination and paved the way for more women to follow. We asked our colleagues across Huge who they wanted to celebrate. Extraordinary women are all around us every day: she’s an athlete, an astronaut, a teacher, a mother and a boss. Her name is on a roadway because she broke a glass ceiling or fought oppression. For International Women’s Day, we celebrate notable women who do groundbreaking work and break the bias. Here are 10 women Huge thinks you should know.
Alba Reyes: Written by Ivonne Castillo (Bogotá)
Alba Reyes is a mother who in memory of her son fights for the rights of the LGBTQ+ population in Colombia. Reyes created the Sergio Urrego Foundation a year after the suicide of her son in 2014, who at the age of 16 decided to take his own life due to the persecution and discrimination he suffered from the directors of his school. Since then, Alba began an intricate legal process and an arduous fight for the LGBTQ+ population. She not only worried about achieving justice in her son's case, but also works to prevent discrimination and suicide among young people through her social work at the Sergio Urrego Foundation. Reyes is now an activist for the rights of children, working to improve mental health in both rural and urban areas of Colombia.
Barbara Jordan: Written by Jacque Jordan (Brooklyn)
Until I moved from New York to Austin, Texas, I had never heard of Barbara Jordan. Then I noticed the main terminal of Austin's airport is named after her. So is a major roadway. Barbara Jordan was a lawyer, politician and leader in the Civil Rights Movement. She was the first African American woman elected to the Texas Senate and US House of Representatives. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and is also known for her incredible opening statement during the impeachment of Richard Nixon. Although Barbara Jordan never publicly came out, the US National Archives describes her as the first LGBTQ+ woman in Congress. Jordan died in 1996 and was the first African American woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.
Débora Arango: Written by Diana Chaves (Bogotá)
Débora Arango was born in Medellín, Colombia in 1907. As a rebellious kid, she dressed as a man and rode horses, daring to do what was “for men only.” She studied at the Institute of Fine arts, learning watercolor portraiture. She got bored of the method, and sought creative freedom.
When Débora became a painter in her own right, she was considered scandalous for her nude paintings. She was willing to depict the reality of human nature, including nudity, hunger and violence. She focused on producing murals that express reality, not socially or politically imposed versions of life. Through her example and legacy as an artist, she encourages other women to follow their interests and challenge institutions. No bias was a limit for her.
Elsa Dorfman: Written by Meg Douglass (Washington DC)
Dorfman was 28 before she ever picked up a camera. But her artistry started way earlier than that. She had applied to a secretarial position at Grove Press, which was printing all the beat poets of the day—Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg. But she couldn't type! She just wanted to be 'in the action' and became a pseudo-manager and trusted friend to the crew, most notably Ginsberg. The great poet became one of Dorfman’s most frequent photo subjects, which in the 1960s and ‘70s grew to include such notables as Bob Dylan, Anais Nin, Jorge Luis Borges, Steven Tyler and Joni Mitchell. In the 1980s, she embraced her most famous piece of equipment: the giant, stationary Polaroid 20×24 camera. Using the Polaroid, she took thousands of oversized color portraits, shooting famous artists, herself, AIDS victims, breast cancer survivors and ordinary families. Errol Morris, a longtime friend, captures her perfectly in his documentary called "B-Sides" that is worth a watch. But when I met her in 2001, I didn't know any of this. I only knew my boyfriend's mom was the most interesting, empowering, artistic person I'd ever met. And I'd found a personal and professional hero.
Ketanji Brown Jackson: Written by Kasia Karolak (Brooklyn)
Ketanji Brown Jackson is an American attorney and federal judge who was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Biden last month. If confirmed, she will be the first black woman and first public defender to sit on America’s highest court.
Throughout her childhood, Ketanji excelled in school as a debate star and student body president. Despite her school counselor warning her not to set her sights so high, she went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard University, cum laude from Harvard Law School and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Ketanji went on to clerk for Justice Steven Breyer, who she is now expected to replace on the Court. She practiced privately before serving as a public defender in Washington D.C., notably representing a detainee of Guantanamo Bay. She went on to serve on the U.S. District Court and the Court of Appeals. One of her best known rulings was against former President Trump and his claim of executive privilege, writing “the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings.”
Mae C Jemison: Written by Emily Wengert (Brooklyn)
We all know Sally Ride, but let's not forget the path-blasting power of Mae C Jemison. The first black woman to travel into space, Jemison served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992. She also appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation (the first real astronaut to appear on the show at the invitation of Levar Burton). This supernova of a woman has substance behind her style. In addition to being an astronaut, she is both a medical doctor and an engineer — and speaks fluent Russian, Japanese and Swahili. Nothing low key about that. She continues to change the world, leading work on the 100 Year Starship project aimed at enabling interstellar travel within a 100-year timeframe, and appearing recently on Sesame Street to inspire the next generation.
Nubia Muñoz: Written by Liliana Moreno (Bogotá)
Nubia Muñoz is a Colombian Scientist and epidemiologist. It was her work that proved HPV (human papillomavirus) infection to be one of the strongest risk factors for cervical cancer ever found. Her discoveries made it possible to focus on preventive measures, including the development and testing of highly effective vaccines against HPVs. In 2008, Nubia was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering the cause of cervical cancer. In addition to this, her research has contributed to medical knowledge about liver and stomach cancer.
Patsy Takemoto Mink: Written by Kasia Karolak (Brooklyn)
Patsy Takemoto Mink was the first Asian-American woman and first woman of color to be elected to the United States Congress. She represented Hawaii in the House of Representatives for six consecutive terms in the 1960s and 1970s, championing gender equality, civil rights, and education. Patsy faced discrimination throughout her life, including being turned down by 10 different medical schools because she was a woman (she ended up going to law school). As a graduate, law firms did not hire her because she was a woman and in an interracial marriage. Eventually, she opened her own law practice.
My favorite story about Patsy is her involvement in persuading the Senate to reject President Richard Nixon’s nomination of Judge George Carswell to the Supreme Court. Carswell’s reputation of denying equal rights to women and people of color was “an affront to the women of America,” according to Patsy’s testimony. Instead, the Senate appointed Judge Harry Blackmun to the court, who three years later wrote the majority opinion extending abortion rights in Roe v. Wade.
Renée Richards: Written by Tom Littrell (Oakland)
Renée Richards, born 19 August 1934, is an American ophthalmologist and former tennis player who competed on the professional circuit in the 1970s. She became widely known when she fought to compete as a woman in the 1976 US Open following gender affirming surgery. The United States Tennis Association began that year requiring genetic screening for female players. She challenged that policy, and the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor—a landmark case in transgender rights. As one of the first professional athletes to identify as transgender, she became a spokesperson for trans people in sports. After retiring as a player, she coached Czechoslovakian-American tennis player Martina Navratilova to win two Wimbledon titles.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: Written by Maria Kundacina (Toronto)
Like all people from Belarus, I was truly shaken by the events of 2020. The current president has been in power for 26 years, and many believe that only the first of his elections was legitimate. Our ‘normal’ election cycle includes arrests of opposition candidates. So in 2020, nobody expected that a wife of one of the candidates would sign up for the presidential race and (spoiler alert) win it with a whopping 80% majority once her husband got detained. Her name is Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. This is no fairy tale: she had to flee the country. But in the year and a half that passed since, she did not give up and is leading a movement aimed to free an entire country. She met with world leaders, addressed parliament, and has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize twice. She is a true inspiration and a person who definitely breaks the bias.