She was warned.
She was given an explanation.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
Without even realizing it, one U.S. Senator took words meant to be condescendingly sexist and dismissively racist, and produced an apt and concise definition of feminism for the entire country to see.
Far be it from us, particularly in this month honoring Black History in America, not to honor those who — both on the page and in the real world — stood up, took warning, suffered explanation, and yet STILL persisted.
Not an exhaustive list by any means, we present 10 women who have torn up the landscape inside comic panels — as well as 10 real life women who have been super-heroes for all of America over the past 250 years.
1. Amanda Waller
After the murders of her son, daughter, and husband in the Cabrini-Green housing projects of Chicago, Amanda Waller clawed her way out of poverty, earned a doctorate in political science, and ended up standing before the President of the United States. There, she proposed the institution of the Task Force X project for the protection of the citizens and American government as a whole, and the Suicide Squad was born.
Appearing in: Suicide Squad (DC Comics)
2. Harriet Tubman
Born into slavery in America, Harriet Tubman would bravely escape her own servitude, only to turn around and complete 19 rescue missions back into the slave-holding South to return with over 300 freed men and women, never losing a single passenger in the Underground Railroad.
Born: 1822 Died: 1913
3. Misty Knight
A former NYPD police officer who lost her arm in a bomb attack, Misty Knight has since gone on to partner with martial artist Colleen Wing as a private investigator, occasionally teaming up with other urban super-heroes in the Marvel Universe like Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones.
Appearing in: Black Panther: The Crew (Marvel)
4. Marian Anderson
The first African-American singer to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, Marian Anderson was crucial in kicking off the Civil Rights movement in the United States. One of her finest moments was, after denied by the DAR, being invited by Eleanor Roosevelt to perform in front of a crowd of 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939.
Born: 1897 Died: 1993
5. Penny Rolle
One of thousands of non-compliant women imprisoned on the near-future Bitch Planet, Penny Rolle was arrested for assault, but also charged multiple times for aesthetic offenses, capillary disfigurement, and obesity. The catch? She isn’t sorry. Not for any of it.
Appearing in: Bitch Planet (Image Comics)
6. Fanny Lou Hamer
An American civil and voting rights activist, Fanny Lou Hamer stood with the Freedom Democrats in Mississippi in 1964. She achieved such attention and acclaim that President Lyndon Johnson needed to call an emergency press conference to drown out her testimony on voting rights for Black Americans.
Born: 1917 Died: 1977
7. Monica Rambeau
First known as Captain Marvel during a period directly after Captain Mar-Vell’s death, Monica Rambeau has ping-ponged from name to name and team to team. Photon, Pulsar, Spectrum. The Avengers, NextWave, the Ultimates. Despite all the life changes — and generally overlooked by most of the hero community, Rambeau remains a true hero for the Marvel Universe.
Appearing in: Ultimates 2 (Marvel)
8. Marsha P. Johnson
One of the first instigators to set off the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969, Marsha Johnson helped protect LGBT citizens against police abuse for the first notable time in history. Johnson then went on to join ACT-UP in the early 1980s and fought hard for AIDS recognition and treatment in America.
Born: 1945 Died: 1992
A refugee from the African nation of Zambesi after the murders of both her mother and father, Mari Jiwe McCabe blossomed in the United States. Launching a modeling career, a fashion line, and several other brilliantly successful businesses, Vixen now serves her adopted country as the core of the new JLA.
Appearing in: Justice League of America (DC Comics)
10. Angela Davis
Prominent counter-culture activist and leader of the American Communist Party in the 1960s, Angela Davis worked closely with the Black Panther Party and eventually made the FBI’s most wanted list. Today, she argues that the prison system in the United States more closely resembles a new form of slavery than a criminal justice system.
21st century hero who rose out of the poverty of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green in its final years, Martha Washington joined the PAX Peace Force and fought valiantly in what would become known as the second American Civil War. Fighting all the way until her 100th birthday, Washington used her tech prowess and decades of experience to fight for liberty.
Appearing in: The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century (Dark Horse)
12. Rosa Parks
Not simply some lady who wanted a seat on the bus, Rosa Parks was an experienced activist when she made that act of defiance that led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956. Later called by the US Congress “the first lady of civil rights,” Park never stopped fighting for political prisoners, civil rights, education, women’s health, and the Black Power movement.
Born: 1913 Died: 2005
Poor resident of Dakota in the Milestone Universe, Raquel Ervin encountered hidden alien hero Icon during an attempted robbery. Raquel then partnered with Icon as a hero herself, eventually taking time off to give birth to her son Amistad. The lure of heroism wouldn’t leave Rocket alone, however, and she joined the Shadow Cabinet and returned to Icon’s side.
Appearing in: Milestone Comics – upcoming (DC Comics)
14. Sojourner Truth
Born a slave in the early years of the newly formed United States of America, Sojourner Truth escaped with her infant daughter in 1826 and became an outspoken abolitionist. Her famous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?”, was delivered off the cuff at the 1951 Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, and she kept a focus not just on liberating Black people, but making sure women would become as free as men, post-slavery.
Born: 1797 Died: 1883
15. Ayo and Aneka
Members of the Dora Milaje, the secret service/personal bodyguards of the king of Wakanda, Ayo and Aneka have, for good or ill, left behind that life to defend their homeland in a more direct manner. Now an independent strike-force known as the Midnight Angels, Ayo and Aneka spend their days defending the women of Wakanda and in each other’s arms.
Appearing in: Black Panther: World of Wakanda (Marvel)
16. bell hooks
Prominent writer and theorist on all things intersectional, bell hooks has tackled almost every topic you can imagine in over 30 published books: race, class, and gender in education, art, history, sexuality, mass media, and feminism. She is considered one of the most prominent thinkers in America today, having founded the bell hooks Institute in Berea, Kentucky.
17. Princess Adrienne
One of seven daughters of the king and queen, all of whom get locked into a tower on their 16th birthday, Adrienne is meant to sit and wait for a heroic prince to come along and save her. Nuts to that. Princess Adrienne saves herself, then and in many adventures across the land, near and far, with sword in hand and a full suit of armor.
Appearing in: Princeless (Action Lab Entertainment)
18. Shirley Chisholm
The first African-American woman elected to Congress, Shirley Chisholm served as one of New York’s congresswomen for seven terms (1969-1983). She was the first Black woman to ever make a pitch for the Democratic nomination for President and worked zealously on issues surrounding minimum wage, care of Haitian refugees, child care services, and expansion of the food stamp program.
Born: 1924 Died: 2005
Wife to the queen of the Amazons and general of the army of Themyscira, Philippus was one of the original women blessed by the Greek Gods with immortality and a charge to better the world. She’s had a tumultuous career and life, facing death and taking responsibility for training her stepdaughter, the hero Wonder Woman. And yet, no matter what, she stands next to Hippolyta in love and honor, forever.
Appearing in: Wonder Woman (DC Comics)
20. Coretta Scott King
A mighty civil rights activist in her own right, Coretta Scott King survived her husband Martin Luther King, Jr. by many decades, carrying on his and her own work in the African-American community, the Woman’s Movement, and the LGBT community.
Her commitment to working for lasting peace has touched all parts of the world, most notably South Africa, whose struggles with aparteid she was very outspoken about, and regarding the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Her legacy continues to be spoken aloud this very week — and may it be so for weeks, months, and years to come.
Born: 1927 Died: 2006
Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.