8 Rad Women Who Have Changed History

by Emma Bredthauer

Rad Women Worldwide, written by Kate Schatz and featuring powerful black-and-white illustrations by Miriam Klein Stahl, is a celebration of bad-ass ladies whose life work has changed the world for the better. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite images from the book!

1. Malala Yousafzai


Malala Yousafzai was the subject of international attention when she was shot by the Taliban in retaliation for her work promoting the education of girls in her native Pakistan. Following that harrowing ordeal, she wrote the best-selling memoir I Am Malala and has gone on to become the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. We are in perpetual awe of this young woman’s selfless courage and her commitment to speak truth to power.

2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


The world became familiar with Adichie’s powerful writing after Beyonce included a passage from her essay We Should All Be Feminists in “Flawless”, a move that has been widely celebrated for inspiring young women to embrace feminism. As the daughter of Nigerian academics, Adichie grew up reading books with exclusively white protagonists, recalling that: “As a child, you’re not brave enough to change things,” she says, “until something makes you realize you can write your own story.” That insight translated to a commitment to depict black Africans in her novels, stories that explore themes of identity and belonging. Her works remind us of the danger of “a single story,” and to appreciate the complexity of life.

3. Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Today, Frida Kahlo is regarded as a visionary artist, but that wasn’t always the case — it was not until after her death that her work began to receive the attention it deserves. Her blending of Surrealism and Mexican folk art elements in her work, as well as her assertion that the inner self is a worthy artistic subject, were boundary breaking innovations, a fact not acknowledged until Latina and feminist artists began to celebrate her work in the 1980s. 

4. Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker was many things in her lifetime: entertainer, spy, fashion icon, and cheetah owner — to name a few. But most importantly she was a humanitarian, committed to promoting the fair treatment of black people within a racist society, refusing to perform at segregated venues, and speaking alongside Dr. Martin Luther King at the March on Washington. We’re always inspired by her outfits, her attitude, and her politics.

5. Poly Styrene

Poly Styrene

Poly Styrene, the stage name of British musician Marianne Joan Elliott-Said, was a boundary-breaking punk rocker famous for her role as lead singer of London-based band X-Ray Spex. Her presence as a woman of color in the extremely male, extremely white late-70s punk scene was radical. She wasn’t afraid to bring big topics like oppressive beauty standards, sexism, and consumerism to the fore, and she looked super rad while doing it (who else could make a mouth full of braces seem like the ultimate punk fashion accessory?) 

6. Birute Mary Galdikas

Birute Mary Galdikas

Birute Mary Galdikas is considered a founding mother of primatology, earning the title for her groundbreaking research on orangutan behavior. In 1969 she founded Camp Leakey in Borneo, which is now the world’s top orangutan research and rehabilitation center. In addition to her study of orangutan behavior, Birute has been committed to defending the species’ habitat from encroachments by the palm oil industry, demonstrating an impressive dedication to understanding and protecting one of nature’s most fascinating (and most vulnerable) creatures.

7. Venus and Serena Williams

Williams Sisters

The Williams sisters have made it their mission not only to win titles (both sisters have been ranked #1 worldwide) but to make professional tennis a more equitable sport. Venus’s successful campaign to persuade the French Open and Wimbledon to award female champions the same amount of prize money as male champions were applauded worldwide, and the sisters are an important presence as black women in a sport that has had very few champions of color. We’ll always cheer these ladies on!

8. Dame Katerina Te Heikōkō Mataira

Dame Katerina Te Heikoko Mataira

Dame Katerina Te Heikōkō Mataira, a Maori New Zealander, has dedicated her life to saving her people’s language from extinction. She established a nationwide network of Maori-speaking tutors in the 1970s to encourage a revitalization of the language in areas where it had disappearing, which grew into a national movement celebrating Maori identity and culture. In 2011, she was knighted by New Zealand for her important service to her people.


Book Cover Rad Women Worldwide

Check out the Rad Women Worldwide site for more information about the book and where to buy!

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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