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5 Women in Badassery You Should Know: The Activists

I didn’t start “Women in Badassery” as a project: it started as a coping mechanism.

It was the day after the U.S. presidential election, Duterte had just won his. I thought there was no way this could stand, so I was angry. The thing is, “getting angry” doesn’t do very much.

So I decided to respond with something constructive: I started collecting stories.

I’ve complied dozens of stories of women all over the world; from all walks of life who have become the giants on whose shoulders we stand. This is part of a series because, let’s face it, there are way too many women in history to talk about.

So I’m going to start with The Activists.


Minerva Mirabal

Minerva Mirabal was propositioned by none other than the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo.  And, as one does when propositioned by the most powerful man in her country, she slapped him in the face – literally.

women in badassery the activists
Art courtesy of Aeron Emm

Her rejection caused Trujillo to ruin her life and imprison her entire family; which he thought would drag her down and keep her quiet. Instead, it spawned a legacy of activism that lead to his demise.

Minerva learned early on that she did not have to give in to a sexual predator, and she did not have to defer to power.

She and her sisters used to make homemade bombs out of firecrackers. So the next time someone tells you a woman’s place is in the kitchen, tell them: “Hell yes, it is. If that is where she damn well wants to be”. And then slap that f*cker in the face.


Edith Margaret Garrud

In 1910, English women marched to Parliament determined to have the vote. They were beaten back by a brutal police force and male vigilantes who wanted to forcibly remind women that they were the weaker sex. To this, Edith Margaret Garrud cried bullshit.

Badass Activist: Edith Garrund
Art courtesy of Dana Martinez

She fought back. And was so vicious she has been depicted in editorial cartoons showing the police just how “weak” their sex was. Mrs. Garrud was 4’11 (150cm.)

Edith was an opinionated activist and a jiu-jitsu teacher who advocated self-defense. She and her husband tag-teamed The Man; teaching the suffragettes ways to defend themselves, because their nay-sayers were also cat-calling, heckling, and molesting peaceful protesters.

It really is hard to believe that it has only been a little over a hundred years ago that women felt the need to go out onto the streets and protest the treatment that they are – oh, wait. Nevermind.


Yuri Kochiyama

Yuri was raised in a middle-class neighborhood in San Pedro, California. She taught Sunday school at her Presbyterian Church – this girl was basically brought up as a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant).

women in badassery the activists
Art courtesy of Jobo Nacpil

And then the USA decided that the Japanese posed a threat to national security. Which meant that Yuri and her family were moved to a concentration camp. So like most healthy, well-adjusted kids who are suddenly put in concentration camps, Yuri decided it was time to start some sh*t.

She became an activist and a speaker. She was very good friends with Malcolm X and was active in the Black Power movement, because solidarity, sister! Yuri also spoke out to power as much as she could; reminding people that there are two sides to every story and what might look like “spreading democracy” may actually be American Imperialism. And that was not acceptable.

Yuri was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She spoke up for every group facing discrimination, not just her own.


Sister Mary John Mananzan

Meet Sister Mary John, a proponent of the RH Law and an outspoken advocate against sexism in the Church. She directs the Institute of Women’s Studies at St. Scholastica’s College. She is also a boss bitch of the highest f*cking order.

women in badassery the activists
Art courtesy of Lee Flores

Throughout her career, Sister Mary John has fought the idea that women are fragile.

Most Filipinas grow up in Catholic households and are taught from birth that they shouldn’t speak up. That they should obey people who know better; always focusing on being the vessel of goodness in their family.

They should be like Mary; the woman who violated every norm of propriety in her time. Like Mary when the wedding at Cana ran out of wine, they should be the woman who sees something worth doing and f*cking gets it done.

Feminism is not at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church. It’s at odds with the Catholic Church, and it’s starting to show, thanks to women like Sister Mary John Mananzan.


Leymah Gbowee

Leymah was in her late teens when the Liberian Civil War started. She became a trauma counselor and witnessed firsthand the effects of war on the population.

women in badassery the activists

So she took a stand and organized her fellow women into a strike force – a sexy strike force. Gbowee and her coalition decided that no one would be grabbing any pussy until the fighting stopped. And the fighting f*cking stopped.

Leymah also used the “taboo” subject of sex as part of her platform – not just as the factor that ended the civil war; but also to start conversations about rape and the wrongness of it. Her efforts paved the way for the first female African Head of State: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.


These are just five of the many, many women who have spoken out against tyranny, war, and prejudice.

These aren’t even the most unbelievable stories – they are five of many. It took three edits to get me to Five Female Activists, because so many of us just will not shut up. And because I stand on their shoulders, I won’t either.

Sab is writing a series on Women in Badassery and we’re excited! Stay tuned for more!

Let us know if you’ve got any questions, or if there’s anything you’d like to see in the future. Also, follow Women in Badassery on Facebook!

Sabrina Schnabel
Sabrina Schnabel is a weirdo who is prone to long, inelegant rants about historical misrepresentation; and sunburn. She writes eloquently about all things except herself.

Sabrina Schnabel is not a lady.

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