07 March 2018

For International Women's Day 2018

Rather than pontificate, I thought I would share the names of women active in causes for women or humankind in general whom I most admire.

The text comes mostly from my piece for the podcast of Left Ungagged, with some additions.

These are some of my favorite female heroes throughout history, or at least history since the mid-16th century.

Grainne Ui Mhaille, or Grace O’Malley, chief of the O’Malleys, pirate queen of West Connacht, most powerful ruler of all Connacht, and leader of a formidable band of Viking Highlander pirates from the mid-16th century through the beginning of the 17th century.  Some of my ancestors in Connemara probably sailed and fought with her.  Read her bio on the website Badass of the Week; it’s not only accurate, it’s hilarious.

Constance Markievizc, suffragette, socialist, labor activist, revolutionary, and first woman in the world to hold a cabinet position, in the Irish Republic from 1919-1922.  She fought with the Irish Citizen Army in the Easter Rising, then throughout the Anglo-Irish War.

Emma Goldman, leading anarchist and labor of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who significantly  anarchist ideology and in her sixties went to Spain during its Civil War to support the Republican cause.  A feminist who eschewed “mainstream” feminism, she initially supported the Russian Revolution then turned away when the Bolsheviks dropped their mask.

Helen Keller, the deaf and blind activist who helped form the Socialist Party of America, and its intellectual wing, the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, and was highly influential in the early stages of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Ida B. Wells, the suffragette, sociologist, feminist, and co-founder of the Natioanl Association for the Advancement of Colored People along with W.E.B. Dubois.  One of the great lights of Afro-American history from the early 20th century.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the “Rebel Girl” and organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World who helped found the American Civil Liberties Union and later joined the Communist Party USA, ultimately becoming its national chairperson.

Rosa Luxemburg, the premier Marxist theorist of her day, more so even than Kautsky or Lenin or Trotsky, feminist, antiwar activist, economist, and revolutionary socialist who helped found the Communist Party of Germany.  Her history of the Russian Revolution is a must read.

Amy Licht, the CPUSA activist who led the Chattanooga local in the early 1930s, who, in addition to all she did for the unemployed, the working poor, and Afro-Americans in the area is the person who spearheaded the defense of the Scottsboro Boys until the lawyers took over and then continued to lead the public fight outside the courts.  Comrade Licht is why I am a communist, though not of CPUSA.

Claudette Colvin, at age 15 the first Afro-American in Montgomery, Alabama, to refuse to give up a bus seat to a white person and move to the back of the bus in 1954, nine months before Rosa Parks did the same.  The decision was Claudette’s and Claudette’s alone.

Rosa Parks, whose arrest for following Claudette’s example initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott and who besides being a staunch advocate of desegregation was a fierce warrior for women’s rights, especially the rights of Afro-American women, often against the preferences of her male colleagues in the NAACP.  Years before initiating the boycott in Montgomery, she fought to have white men who raped Afro-American women prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Though none were ever convicted, many victims at least saw their cases in court.

Annie Mae Aquash, the Mikmaq activist with the American Indian Movement in the late 1960’s and early 1970s who was a victim of the FBI’s CONINTELPRO.  She took part in the seizure of the Mayflower II in 1970, the Trail of Broken Treaties and the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C., the occupations of Wounded Knee, Anicinabe Park in Ontario, and the Alexian Brothers abbey in Wisconsin.

Tina Manning, Paiute-Shoshone activist of the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and wife of American Indian Movement leader John Trudell, who was assassinated for her political activities on behalf of her people, mainly in the area of water rights.  Arsonists burned down the home she shared with John and their children; she, their four children, and her mother died, while her father survived but with serious injuries.

The Dixie Chicks, for their stand against the Iraq War and the consequences which they suffered because of it.

Rosie Kane, Scottish Socialist Party leader and former MSP who took the oath of loyalty to the queen with “my oath is to the people” written on her hand.  No longer in the Holyrood parliament, she is still with SSP and is an activist in many causes.

Tulsi Gabbard, the Congressperson from Hawaii who stepped down from being deputy chairperson of the Democratic National Committee because of its myopic cheating against Bernie Sanders during the 2016 campaign and one of the foremost and solid leaders of the DP’s progressive wing.

Mhairi Black, the MP to Westminster from the Scottish Nationalist Party whose speeches on the floor always give me goosebumps.

Kshama Sawant, the Occupy activist and Socialist Alternative member who won and still holds a seat on the City Council of Seattle and is taking a prominent role in the formation of an actual national people’s party.

Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, who has fought for the rights and dignity of not just Afro-Americans but all victims of police and legal misconduct, for trans and non-gender specific people, domestic workers, and students, and who can give one hell of a great speech.

Winona Laduke of the White Earth Ojibwe, environmentalist, defender of tribal land claims and reservations, and former candidate for Vice President of the United States from the Green Party USA.

Malala Yousafzai, and if you don’t know her and why I include her you are more deaf and blind than Helen Keller.

Ahed Tamimi, the teenaged Palestinian anti-occupation activist jailed by the Zionist State of Israel on charges of terrorism for slapping an Israeli Occupation Forces soldier—once—in defense of her cousin.

Lorde, aka Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor, who after learning for herself the truth of the situation for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories cancelled a schedule concert in Israel and stuck to her guns in the face of a tsunami of official and online troll abuse.

Harriet Tubman, who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin as well as countless polemics against Afro-American slavery, ran a large section of the Underground Railroad, conducted escaped slaves along it, not only took up arms in the War of the Rebellion but led troops regular and otherwise in battle.

The women of Pussy Riot, some of the bravest and most principled in the world today.

The group of students from UTC whom I have marched with several times the past year and a half who have given me the nickname “Protest Dad”.

All of the women of all ages in or from Iran whom I’ve gotten to know since the beginning of the Green Movement in Iran.

My females colleagues in the Left Ungagged project.

Maxine Cousin, my friend and comrade who died recently who fought tirelessly against racism and police brutality since the 1980s, founded Concerned Citizens for Justice along with Lorenzo Irvine, and who with Lorenzo and others led the fight to change Chattanooga’s racist elected at-large city commission in the late 1980s.  She died 4 February 2018 and is buried in Chattanooga National Cemetery, where her father, Wadie Suttles, is also buried, interned after beign beaten to death by guards in the former Chattanooga City Jail.

To this list, in 2019, I'd like to add Ilhan Omar, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Pramila Jayapal.

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