Sylvia Rivera was a trans woman whose role in the LGBTQ+ community was a catalyst to the forever evolving fight for equal civil rights of trans people. Not only was her determination and sacrifice when alive as a trans woman, street queen and sex worker crucial to the movement but also the legacy she left behind as reflected through the work of STAR, an organisation cofounded by Sylvia to help shelter LGBTQ+ homeless youth. To say the least Sylvia Rivera was an incredible woman who deserves more recognition.
An immigrant to London from India, Mrs Desai was a forced to be reckoned with. Born in Gujarat, she was passionate even at an early age, even campaigning for Indian independence before she then moved to Tanzania as an adult. However when Tanzania gained its independence, new governments adopted policies that discriminated against migrants. They were entitled to a settlement in the UK, therefore like many others, Mrs Desai made the trip to England.
Despite the diverse and disparate nature of the world itself, the world of Literature – or rather, the world of publicised, canonical literature – remains disappointingly homogenous. Audre Lorde sought to change this. A librarian by trade, Lorde was a writer, poet, feminist (and womanist) who largely focused on issues of and relating to: civil rights, feminism and the exploration of black female identity. Writing right up until her death in 1992, Lorde described herself both as a part of a “continuum of women” and a “concert of voices” within herself.
Whilst Mary Wollstonecraft is not particularly ‘unsung’ nowadays, in fact she is deemed one of the foremost feminist philosophers; she was widely criticised during her lifetime for both her radical writings and unconventional lifestyle. Born in 1757 to a financially unstable family, Wollstonecraft took up different occupations before making the revolutionary decision to become an author.
Helen Merrill, born on the 21st July 1930 to Croatian immigrant parents in New York City, is an internationally known jazz vocalist whose recording career has spanned six decades and is popular with fans of jazz all over the world, especially Japan and Italy, as well as her native, the United States. She began singing in jazz clubs in the Bronx at the incredibly young age of fourteen and by the time she was sixteen, Merrill had taken up music full time. Merrill combines jazz, pop and blues songs along with several traditional Croatian songs and has recorded and performed with some of the most notable figures in the American jazz scene including Chet Baker and Stan Getz.
Someone who marked a momentous milestone for women, yet is overlooked in public memory, is Shirley Chisholm, the first black women elected to Congress, and the first black woman to run for a presidential nomination.