13 Iconic Women Who Nevertheless Persisted

And made the world a better place for doing so.
Angela Davis speaks at a press conference after being released on bail after her 1970 arrest.
Angela Davis speaks at a press conference after being released on bail after her 1970 arrest.
Bettmann via Getty Images

On Tuesday night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cut off Senator Elizabeth Warren from speaking on the Senate Floor as she attempted to read a 1986 letter written by Coretta Scott King about Senator Jeff Sessions, who was nominated by President Trump to serve as Attorney General.

McConnell invoked Rule XIX: “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” The Huffington Post reported that Senator Steve Daines of Montana agreed with McConnell, and found Warren in violation of the rule.

McConnell later said, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

In so doing, he inadvertently gave women a whole new rallying cry, and before the night was over, the hashtag #ShePersisted was trending on Twitter.

In honor of women’s enduring persistence, we’ve rounded up a group of women whose refusal to be silenced has made this country a better place. And while this is obviously by no means an exhaustive list of every woman in history who has persevered, it’s an important reminder that so many influential women were only so influential simply because they persisted.

Ilhan Omar
STEPHEN MATUREN via Getty Images
Omar is a Somali-American former refugee who was elected to the House of Representatives from Minnesota in the 2016 election. One month after being elected, a Washington D.C. cab driver threatened to rip off her hijab after calling her "ISIS." In October, she told The Huffington Post that “Our democracy is great, but it’s fragile. It’s come through a lot of progress, and we need to continue that progress to make it actually ‘justice for all.’"
Tammy Duckworth
Tom Williams via Getty Images
Senator Tammy Duckworth is the second Asian-American female senator, and is the first woman senator to have been in combat. She's a decorated Army Veteran who won a seat in the Illinois Senate in the 2016 election, but not before being on the receiving end of a racist comment about her Thai heritage from her GOP opponent.
Michelle Obama
JEWEL SAMAD via Getty Images
Michelle Obama was the first black first lady, whose time in the White House was mired by racism from members of the GOP and public. At the DNC in July 2016, she famously said, "When they go low, we go high."
Cecile Richards
Tom Williams via Getty Images
After the Center for Medical Progress released heavily-edited and misleading videos about Planned Parenthood's health care practices in 2015, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards was questioned by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where she stood her ground against anti-abortion lawmakers on behalf of the health care organization that millions of Americans rely on every year for treatment.
Rosa Parks
Underwood Archives via Getty Images
Rosa Parks became a face of the Civil Rights Movement when she was arrested in 1955 for refusing to move to the back of a Montgomery, Al. public city bus. Her refusal to give her seat up to a white passenger sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Winona LaDuke
Stephen Maturen via Getty Images
Native American activist Winona LaDuke actively protested against the Sandpiper pipeline in 2016, as well as the Dakota Access pipeline. She was Ralph Nader's running mate in his 1996 and 2000 presidential elections, and continues to be an environmental justice activist through her organization, Honor the Earth.
Laverne Cox
Rob Kim via Getty Images
Laverne Cox survived both excessive childhood bullying and a suicide attempt when she was in the sixth grade. She has since become an outspoken advocate for the trans community and an award-winning actress.
Ruby Bridges
Bettmann via Getty Images
Ruby Bridges was the first black child to attend an all-white school in Louisiana in 1960. She passed a mob of protesting whites to get through the doors of William Frantz Elementary School and has since been active in civil rights.
Lilly Ledbetter
Mark Wilson via Getty Images
Lilly Ledbetter championed equal pay rights for women by suing her employer for paying her 40 percent less than what her male colleagues were earning. In his first act as president, Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in January 2009.
Malala Yousafzai
ODD ANDERSEN via Getty Images
Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 in her home country of Pakistan for being outspoken about girls' rights to education. She survived the shooting and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 at the age of 17 -- the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history.
Susan B. Anthony
Historical via Getty Images
Abolitionist and suffragist Susan B. Anthony was arrested in 1872 for casting her vote for president. She refused to pay the $100 fine, and became instrumental in the fight for women's suffrage. She died in 1906, 14 years before the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was ratified in 1920.
Angela Davis
Bettmann via Getty Images
Activist Angela Davis was arrested in 1970 on murder and kidnapping charges. She was cleared of all charges by an all-white jury in San Jose, Ca. and went on to become one of the most influential activists of our time. She recently gave a speech at the Women's March on Washington in January.
Sylvia Rivera
Sylvia Rivera was instrumental in the inclusion of trans people in the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Then-17-year-old Rivera later became an outspoken voice in the LBTGQ liberation movement.

Before You Go

10 Women On Why Feminism Still Matters