Straw hats were kind of a big deal in the late 1700s, and Metcalf played a huge role in that. In 1798, a time when the hats were imported from England and prohibitively expensive, Metcalf figured out how to braid the straw herself for DIY bonnets. Her design became so popular that she taught other women to make them so they could work and make their own money. The straw hat making boom that followed not only became a multi-million dollar industry and set a major fashion trend, but the breathable hats also provided necessary headwear for enslaved people working in the relentless sun.
Sacajawea is an invaluable figure in American history who received basically nothing in return for her work. She joined Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their journey west in 1805 with her husband Toussaint Charbonneau, to whom she'd been sold as a slave when she was 12. Sacajawea, who was fluent in both Shoshone and Hidatsa, was a crucial translator for the multilingual crew, helped navigate the terrain she was deeply familiar with, and acted as a diplomat when they encountered new Native American tribes. Clark himself called her his "pilot," and may not have made it to his destination without her ability to procure horses for everyone. At the end of the excursion that she helped make so successful, Charbonneau was given $500.33 and 320 acres of land, while Sacajawea received nothing.
You may curse your bra every time you wear it, but it's thanks to Crosby's invention that you don't have to wear a whalebone corset as an undergarment. Determined to find a better way to support her chest while getting ready for a debutante ball in 1910, Crosby used two silk handkerchiefs, a cord, pink ribbon, a needle, and thread to whip up a bra prototype that ended up getting lots of attention. She patented her design four years later, and started the Fashion Form Brassiere Company to manufacture her newfangled brassieres. There, she hired only women and created wireless bras that were especially necessary in WWI, when the U.S. War Industries Board needed that metal for building battleships. Crosby eventually closed her company and sold her patent, but her legacy lives on around the world — and many ribcages.
In the 1910s, many teenagers and young women worked as dial painters, using luminescent — and, unbeknownst to them, lethal — radium to paint clock dials. The so-called "Radium Girls" unknowingly put the toxic radium in their mouths and on their faces, which eventually caused tumors, missing teeth, and in some cases, entire jaws falling off. As their bodies were slowly and painfully being destroyed, they fought to hold their employer accountable for their health. The women decided to fight back against their employers, even as some were on their death beds, and their efforts ultimately led to the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Before OSHA was set up, 14,000 people died on the job every year; today, it is just over 4,500.
Frank received her diary just before she and her family went into hiding in Amsterdam in 1942. In it, she wrote about the dangers of hiding from the Nazis, as well as anything a teenager would think about: crushes on boys, fights with her sister, and her dream of being a journalist. After her father Otto, the only survivor among eight Jews hiding in the house, published her diary — which has since been translated into 70 languages — her candor and insights opened people's eyes to the Holocaust and how persecution and genocide affect everyday people. Otto also started the Anne Frank Foundation in his daughter's name, which fights antisemitism and racism around the world.
These fearless Soviet teens were not here for it when they saw Nazi tanks rolling into Stalingrad in 1942. Some of them had no combat training, and yet, they managed to wipe out 83 tanks and shoot down 14 aircrafts, among other things. In doing so, they held off oncoming troops for a few days. The best part? The Germans didn't realize they'd been fighting young women until they sadly overcame the regiment during the battle.
Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls were ready to start high school at Little Rock Central High School in September 1957, three years after Brown v. Board of Education. The group of teenagers put their lives on the line for equal education, receiving counseling on what to do if the situation turned hostile, which it eventually did. Rifle-toting Arkansas National Guardsmen blocked the students from entering, and a three-week standoff ensued, which was only ended when President Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort them in. Still, the teens faced abuse: Eckford was spat on, Patillo had acid thrown in her eyes, and all were taunted. Brown was even expelled for trying to fight back against the torment she faced. Even amidst a school shutdown and continued intimidation, all eventually graduated from high school against the odds. The entire group received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1998 to honor their "selfless heroism."
When Yousafzai was just 11, the Taliban began attacking her school in Pakistan. This inspired her to make a speech, "How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?" which led to a regular anonymous column in the BBC. Despite death threats, she continued to attend school — until she was shot by the Taliban on the way home from school in 2012. After recovering, she only increased her advocacy for human rights and education. She founded the non-profit Malala Fund, which works to secure girls' right to a minimum of 12 years of quality education, wrote a book, I Am Malala, and became the youngest Nobel laureate at 17.