20 Fearless Women From History You Need to Know

These women risked life, limb, and liberty to achieve great things in the last century. More importantly, they’ve taught us that incredible change can come from the power of one.

1. Anne Frank

Source: Flickr user Juan Cabanillas

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Before the start of World War Two and the horrors that would come with it for Jews across German-occupied Europe, Annelies Marie Frank was born on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt Germany. Anne and her family (father Otto, mother Edith and older sister Margot) moved to Amsterdam a year after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933.

It was only a few years later German forces took control of the city, in May, 1940. In 1942 the family was forced into hiding, and Anne began keeping a journal chronicling both the horrors and the hopes that became everyday life for the Frank family.

The Diary of Anne Frank, detailing her life during the Holocaust, has been read by millions since its publication in 1947 and translation into English in 1953.

The Franks lived in a hidden room behind the second floor office belonging to the family business, which Anne refers to as the Secret Annex. It is here they were discovered by the Gestapo on August 4, 1944. Anne was arrested and taken to Auschwitz (and for the Frank sisters, later Bergen-Belsen). Anne and Margot Frank passed away from typhus within days of each other in March, 1945.

Anne’s diary has become a major work of literature for the rest of the world to understand life under Nazi occupation. To this day, it remains a window into the lives of the persecuted.

2. Rosa Parks

rosa parks 15 fearless women
Source: Wikimedia

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

Refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in an era of rampant racism, from December 1, 1955, forward Rosa Parks’ name has been synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement.

Parks was not the first to refuse to bow to the laws and unwritten social codes that made up the foundation for racial segregation in America, but this only made her act all the more fearless—she had seen what happened to the vast majority of people who took a stand, and she forged ahead anyway.

Rosa Parks has taught us that courage isn’t just about being the one who lights the torch, but the one who carries it in the face of overbearing odds.