5 American Women Who Changed Women’s Health Forever

lady-libertyI know I’m biased because I am an American woman, but we’re rad as fuck. We still have a long way to go before we achieve equality, but there’s no chance we’re giving up this fight anytime soon. We love voting and choices and bodily autonomy and working!

Here are five American women who made major strides for all of us in terms of health and bad-assery:

Betty Ford:  Time named her Woman of the Year 1975, I name her the raddest FLOTUS ever. Everybody should be obsessed with her. Founder of the Betty Ford Center, openly pro-choice, pro-psychiatric treatment, pro-sex, pro-woman, professional bad-ass…it’s honestly difficult to boil Betty Ford down to a teeny blurb. By being so open and honest about her addictions and the mastectomy she underwent in 1974, Ford raised awareness and visibility and saved a lot of lives. She was open about everything, actually. I saw this on her wikipedia page: In 1975, in an interview with McCall’s, Ford said that she was asked just about everything, except for how often she and the president had sex. “And if they’d asked me that I would have told them,” she said, adding that her response would be, “As often as possible.”

Esther Rome: One of the brilliant co-authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves. She also wrote a pamphlet about menstruation and printed it in red ink like a bad bitch would. She is also a big reason why tampon boxes warn women against Toxic Shock Syndrome(TSS). Read more about her here.

Jane Fonda: Barbarella is quite the feminist and bad-ass. During the late 60s and early 70s, she was a major activist who supported civil rights and opposed the war. In 2001, she founded the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health. But mostly, she’s on this list because she got a lot of people to recognize the importance of exercise and her videos are fucking rad.

Alice Hamilton: As a pioneer in the fields of toxicology and occupational health, Hamilton had to navigate a lot of boy’s clubs with finesse and brilliance. For one, she was Harvard’s first femal faculty member and from the year 1924 to1930 she was the only woman member of the League of Nations Health Committee.Also she weirdly was on the list of Men in Science in 1944.

Nellie Bly: This cool lady-writer is famous for feigning mental illness and going under cover to expose the brutal and horrifying conditions in insane asylums. Bly’s famous expose, Ten Days in a Mad-House, lead to investigations of asylum conditions and a $850,000 budget increase for the Department of Public Charities and Corrections. Bly’s piece covering the Woman’s Suffrage Parade of 1913 had the coolest headline ever: “Suffragists Are Men’s Superiors.” She also went around the world in seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds to prove a point and break a record. Plus, she was fucking gorgeous.

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    • guest aunty

      Margaret Sanger, we must not forget to include Margaret Sanger
      Margaret Sanger introduced birth control to American women. While the women in the civilized areas of Europe & Asia were free to practice birth control, U.S. federal law prohibited distribution of birth contraceptive information or devices through the mail. Due to Margaret Sanger’s leadership in the birth control movement, women today have easy access to sex education & contraception. Mortality rates of mothers & infants declined in the 20th century. Furthermore, choices over their personal health & sexuality allowed women to achieve more equal footing in society & live longer, healthier lives.
      Margaret Sanger’s work changed history for women. The emancipation of women was the defining movement of the 20th century, as contraception & control of their wombs became acceptable worldwide. She was scorned & exiled, she was persecuted & convicted, she was despised & pilloried; she fought relentlessly for what she believed. We must not forget Margaret Sanger’s sacrifices; lest we lose ground in the wake of the 21st century attacks on women’s choices over our wombs & our sexuality.
      Does it make sense for employers to object to contraception for women but they do not object to the ‘little blue pills’ for men?

      • Joanna Rafael

        Margaret Sanger was obviously amazing and historical. Wish I had the time and energy to honor all of the rad women through the ages.

    • Julia Sonenshein

      I wrote a really embarrassing essay (love letter) about Nellie Bly when I was appropriately-aged to do so (tenth grade, less than appropriate). It ended with “Nellie Bly is a hero and I hope to one day follow in her footsteps by studying journalism at Northwestern.” Now I write about celebrity sex lives and pie for a living, so I’d say my essay was fairly prophetic.

      • Joanna Rafael

        It’s always appropriate to write love letters to her ghost.