DocHouse Picks: 5 Female Political Leaders History Forgot

Tuesday 28 November, 2017

To mark the release of Peter Bratt’s award winning new documentary about civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, we spotlight four other female political leaders that deserve greater recognition.

Dolores opens on Friday 1 December, book your tickets here.

Dolores Huerta (1930 - Present)

Dolores Huerta is among the most important, yet least known activists in American history. An equal partner in co-founding the first farm workers unions with Cesar Chavez, her enormous contributions have gone largely unrecognized. Dolores tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice alongside Chavez, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the twentieth century—and she continues the fight to this day, at 87. 

Book tickets to see Dolores here.

SoJOURNER TRUTH (1797 – 1883)

A former slave, Sojourner Truth became an outspoken advocate for abolition, temperance, and civil and women’s rights in the nineteenth century.

Born into slavery, Truth escaped with her infant daughter in 1826 and in 1828 recovered her son after becoming the first black woman to win such a case against a white man in court. In 1851, Truth began a lecture tour that included a women’s rights conference in Akron, Ohio, where she delivered her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech.

Huda Shaarawi (1879–1947)

An incredible force in promoting womens rights, Huda Shaarawi was an Egyptian feminist who influenced not only women in Egypt but throughout the Arab world. She was a pioneer in feminism, and brought to light the restrictive world of upper-class women in her influential book The Harem Years, published in 1987.

Shaarawi had a hand in many “firsts” for women in Egyptian society, founding the first philanthropic society run by Egyptian women and the Egyptian Feminist Union. In 1923, after returning from a conference in Europe, she famously removed her veil in public. Initially shocked, the crowd of onlookers soon broke out into cheers and applause. Within a decade of her act of defiance, few women still chose to wear the veil.

Rigoberta Menchu Tum (1959 - present)

Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum is a Mayan k’iche’ activist who at just 21 was forced into exile, escaping a brutal and bloody civil war against the Mayan people in Guatemala.

In 1983 she published I, Rigoberta Menchú and catapulted the civil war into global headlines. Menchu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.

Rigoberta ran for President of Guatemala in 2007 and 2011 under the banner of WINAQ, the first indigenous-led political party, founded by herself. She continues to seek justice for all Mayan people impacted by the genocide.

Winnie Mandela (1936 - present)

One of the most misunderstood, controversial and intriguingly powerful contemporary female political figures, Winnie Mandela is a South African activist and politician who has held several government positions and headed the African National Congress Women's League. She was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, including 27 years during which he was imprisoned.  

As her husband Nelson Mandela served out his sentence in prison, Winnie took centre stage before the world as the face of the African National Congress. She became an icon for an adoring but fickle public that first cast her as the Mother of the Nation, and then cast her down as a sinner.