It is easy to see history’s leaders and activists for social justice as saints and devils fighting a holy war. We know that Hitler was evil and Martin Luther King Jr. was a champion. We know the tyrants and the fearless leaders. We remember our cultural sins with the clarity of hindsight, and we always assume that had we been there, we would have been with the good guys.
But for those we remember, the world was not so black and white, and the victory never certain. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsen wrote, “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts.” Those who have successfully stood up against social injustice are marked by a spirit of conviction, not just about the wrongness of the world around them, but about their own propensity for evil. They are willing to fight the good fight in their own soul first, and then in the world.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we want to remember three fearless women who particularly exemplify this spirit, and have changed the world for the better.
Hannah More was an evangelical English writer in the 19th century. Her plays and poetry were widely read and she was popular with some of the greatest writers and actors of her time. She risked her reputation and popularity to advocate for the abolition of the slave trade – dedicating all her talents and energy towards that end. She was a member of the famous abolitionist community, the Clapham Circle, and she eagerly supported her friends’ work. She was also a strong advocate for the education of women, a highly controversial subject in England at that time. Hannah’s testimony is inspiring to anyone who faces social opposition, or risks career success for the sake of what they believe.
Corrie ten Boom lived in the Netherlands during the Holocaust. When the Nazi’s invaded, her family, all Christians, turned their house into a safe haven for Jews, hiding them from authorities. The ten Booms paid a high price for this civil disobedience — they were arrested, and she and her sister were taken to a concentration camp. There they continued to care for their broken sisters in the camp, reading the Bible to them and praying together. Her sister, Betsy, died in the camp, but Corrie lived to see the end of World War II. She lived to forgive the very same Nazi soldier who had been stationed at her camp. Corrie fought injustice and paid dearly for it. She is a truly amazing picture of love in the midst of tremendous tragedy.
There are many women today living without fear because of the women who have gone before them. One in particular that stands out is Gianna Jessen. Gianna is an abortion survivor. She was born after a failed abortion, weighing two pounds and with cerebral palsy as a result of the attempt. The doctor who tried to kill her ended up signing her birth certificate. She went into the foster care system and was adopted at the age of four. Doctors thought she wouldn’t even be able to lift her head – she now runs marathons. Gianna has been an overcomer her whole life. She has spent her adult life speaking out against abortion and advocating for disability all over the world. Despite the many obstacles she has faced, and the opposition she faces now for her views, she is not angry. She continues to denounce abortion and faithfully tell her story, believing it can make a difference.
These are just a few of the fearless women we remember today. There are many unsung women in all of our lives and throughout history that we also want to remember. And we can remember them by learning from them – by recognizing and fighting the evil in our own hearts, and seeking to emulate the spirit of conviction each of them possess. We want to thank them for standing steadfastly against the injustices of their age.