Bates was the President of the NAACP Arkansas branch and used her position as a public leader to guide what would be national known as the “Little Rock Nine”. The Little Rock Nine was a group of nine African American students that Bates helped enroll at Little Rock Central High School in the face of mobs, violence, and hatred.
One of Bates’ greatest inspirations and supporters was her adoptive father, Orlee Smith. Before Smith passed he gave her some lasting advice:
“You’re filled with hatred. Hate can destroy you, Daisy. Don’t hate white people just because they’re white. If you hate, make it count for something. Hate the humiliations we are living under in the South. Hate the discrimination that eats away at the South. Hate the discrimination that eats away at the soul of every black man and woman. Hate the insults hurled at us by white scum—and then try to do something about it, or your hate won’t spell a thing.” – Orlee Smith
Marie Curie was a Polish physicist and chemist who later became a naturalized-French citizen. She was the pioneering scientist on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and the first person, and only woman, to win it two times. She is also the only human to have won the Nobel prize in two different sciences. And if this wasn’t enough, she was also the first female professor at the University of Paris.
Despite being an academic badass in secondary school, she was denied access to the University of Warsaw solely because she was a woman. So instead, she adapted to be even more of a badass and continued her education at an informal, underground secret set of classes.
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” – Marie Curie
Curie’s road through education wasn’t easy. She suffered through poverty, xenophobia, and criticism for being an atheist in France. She often survived solely off bread and tea in order to make rent. She went to Sorbonne in Paris where she changed her name from Maria to Marie in order to assimilate more into French culture and although her health suffered greatly from her living conditions, she still graduated first in her class.
During World War I, Curie developed what came to be called petites Curies (or “Little Curies”). These were mobile radiography machines designed to assist surgeons on the battlefield. Estimates show that her x-ray units treated over a million soldiers and later on she trained other women to use them as well.
“I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.” – Marie Curie
Curie donated the profits of every award and scholarship she received to the community to further scientific discoveries. She gave tirelessly to the French field of science even though she was met with constant resistance and received little to no recognition.
I have two little girls in my life, soon to be young women. Just as I owe much of my relentless drive and my passion for justice to the women before me, I also owe the characteristics that define me to my sweet little loves CD and LD. Although they are “only” 10 and 12 years old, they are a source of constant motivation for me. Whether it is discussions about politics and women’s rights over NPR on the drive home from swim practice, chats in confidence about what it means to be a “woman,” or laughter over Snapchat filters, these two girls empower me.
They inspire me to fight for what is right because I want them to grow up in a world that is better than the one I grew up in. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Daisy Bates, and Marie Curie fought for me to have a voice in the courtroom and a right to attend any school I want. And so too will I fight for the these young girls to never be ashamed of what it means to be a woman, to dismantle patriarchy, and to raise up the voices of those who have not been heard.
Daisy Bates’ adoptive father warned her about being fueled by hatred. So I ask, “What fuels you to be bold and to fight for change?” Are you fueled by anger, by love, by optimism, by hope for fairness? There is a real place for anger (read Audre Lorde The Uses of Anger) just as there is a place for passion and love. My fuel is my passion for social justice AND my anger towards our patriarchal society.
When I run for office it is because I am filled with fervor, fury, AND hope. I will run in honor of the women before me and I will run as a model for the young girls who will run behind me. Today is International Women’s Day. It is a day of celebration, a day of recognition, and most of all it is a catalyst for the women here today and for the women yet to come.
Speaking of catalysts, have you saved your seat at the wildly inspirational Emerging Women Live? Join Elizabeth Gilbert, Tara Mohr, Dominique Christina, Sera Beak, Esther Perel and so many more. Register before March 31st for deep discounts: