In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, here’s a tribute to five badass women in history whose giving spirits changed the world.
“Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman had spent her life as a slave. She didn’t have any donations to give to the Salvation Army or United Way. Instead, she believed every person deserved freedom. With great personal strength, Tubman stood up against social expectations — and even her own husband — and escaped. Then, with nothing in her pocket, she risked her new freedom, and her life, to help run the Underground Railroad and free thousands of slaves. That’s incredible. Sometimes I bail on a service project for a bad head cold.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – Mother Teresa
Everytime I complain about how small my paycheck is, I think about Mother Teresa. Forget a 40-hour week; this woman put in a 40-hour day — for free! She lived an impoverished life for the sake of those around her. While she received millions in donations, she put it back into the streets of Calcutta, never keeping it for herself. And did Mother Teresa take a sick day? No. She aided the impoverished and the ill of India even until old age took her away.
“If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.” – Sojourner Truth
During a time when slaves had no rights and women had even fewer, Sojourner Truth bared her breasts to a crowd to make a statement for equality. Fortunately, most volunteer projects today don’t require such drastic measures. Still, Ms. Truth wanted to be heard. A loud voice in the abolitionist movement, she stood against a society that believed she was unequal in every way, but by being a brilliant orator and bold woman, she kept on proving them wrong until society saw things her way and changed.
“I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.” – Clara Barton
Before founding the modern-day multi-million dollar nonprofit called the Red Cross, Clara Barton stood around in the battlefields providing medical aid to wounded soldiers. I won’t lie. One time I seriously decided not to volunteer at an *indoor project* because it was cold and raining. But Clara Barton knocked at my door and kicked my face in (then nursed me back to health) and told me how hard life was back in her day. Then she went back to starting wildly successful organizations.
“Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life – a kind of destiny. Whoever is in distress can call on me. I will come running wherever they are.” – Princess Diana
If I were helping sort donations or pass out soup and some one told me I might get blown up, I think I’d probably go home. But even the threat of exploding didn’t stop Princess Di from touring an Angolan minefield to raise awareness about the children and others injured by landmines long after wars end. The Princess’s charitable works are well documented, and over the course of her lifetime, she led or participated in not just a few – but over 100 – different charities. Though she’s no longer with us, her legacy of do-gooding continues with her royal sons William and Harry.
I guess idealism and strongly held dreams for a better world can stand up against any obstacle — even landmines, controversy, or my desire to sleep in on a Saturday. Seriously, I’m surprised I even got this article done. There’s a new episode of Parks and Recreation on my TiVo. Man, Leslie Knope makes me feel like I should get up and change the world.
Feeling inspired? There’s lots of good that needs doing right here in the Triangle. Check out ways to get started on your own volunteer legacy at Activate Good.