Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Women’s History Month: A Celebration of Strong, Resilient Trailblazers Everywhere

For as long as there have been mountains to scale, there have been women who are trailblazers—resilient, innovative women who confronted challenges head-on and created a better world for everyone.  Sounds like a lot of Girl Scouts we know!  

This Women’s History Month, we celebrate the strong change-makers who came before us and those who continue to push for a more just, equitable society. Each Wednesday, we’ll highlight a few of the go-getting women who made and continue to make strides and bring about positive change. Read on for your weekly dose of inspiration—including, of course, stories about amazing Girl Scout alums! 

The Gamechangers 

Smashing records and expectations is how these trailblazers are leveling the playing field for the next generation of athletes! 

Naomi Osaka 

Haitian-Japanese tennis phenomenon Naomi Osaka first came into the spotlight at age 16 when she defeated the former U.S. Open champion in 2014. Since then, she has defeated Serena Williams at the U.S. Open, becoming the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title—but that wouldn’t be her last time taking that title. Winning again and again, she’s become the highest-earning female athlete of all time. Naomi uses her platform to bring attention to the issues she cares about, including Black Lives Matter. 

Alysia Montaño 

An Olympian and six-time USA Outdoor Track champion, Alysia Montaño made headlines in 2014 when she competed while 34 weeks pregnant. After battling with a former sponsor for maternity protections, Alysia wrote a New York Times op-ed that shined a light on the barriers professional athlete mothers face, which inspired other high-profile athletes to come forward with their own stories as part of the #DreamMaternity movement. In 2020, Alysia launched &Mother, a nonprofit that empowers athletes who are mothers and advocates for cultural and structural changes in professional sports. 

Tatyana McFadden 

Tatyana McFadden was born with spina bifida and spent the first six years of her life in a Russian orphanage. Once she was adopted by a family in the United States, Tatyana joined Girl Scouts and started playing sports, despite her disability. Her love of sports and focus on training helped her earn 17 Paralympic medals and 23 major marathon wins. She recently launched the Tatyana McFadden Foundation, which supports youth with disabilities, providing racing chairs so they can compete. 

The Creators 

Creating opportunities for themselves and for those who come after them, these women use their art for good. 

Victoria Santa Cruz cofounded the first Black theater company in Peru in 1958. The works she went on to write, choreograph, and stage illuminated the experience of enslaved people, explored nearly forgotten Black religious practices, and revived interest in traditional Afro-Peruvian dance. She and her troupe toured the globe, and were featured during the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City. Her creativity and insights enriched those able to study with her at Carnegie Mellon University, where she was a professor for most of the 1980s and ‘90s.

When she was just 21, Maya Lin catapulted into the art world when she submitted the winning design in a national competition for what would become an iconic and moving landmark—the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. She went on to design the Civil Rights Memorial in Alabama and the Museum for Chinese in America in New York. An environmentalist and activist, Maya uses her artwork to explore nature and increase awareness to habitat loss and biodiversity. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2009 and Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

Amanda Gorman 2021 was landmark year for poet Amanda Gorman. She became the youngest person in in U.S. history to read at an inauguration ceremony, captivating the world with her dynamic message of hope, unity, and growth. A few weeks later, she became the first poet to perform at the Super Bowl. This former National Youth Poet Laureate is also a big believer in giving back. Amanda founded a program providing writing classes to underserved youth and currently serves as a board member of 826 National, the largest youth writing network in the United States. 

The Inventors 

Inventing is all about developing something new, and these innovative leaders created a path for future generations to follow. 

Dr. Ellen Ochoa 

The first Latina astronaut to go to space, Dr. Ellen Ochoa is the veteran of four space flights and has logged nearly 1,000 hours in space. Her most well-known flight is the nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discovery to study the Earth's ozone layer. Today, she is the director of the NASA's Johnson Space Center and a true role model for young people everywhere. 

Rosalind Franklin 

Rosalind Franklin, a Jewish woman who grew up in wartime Europe, is an unsung pioneer in scientific research. Her work was pivotal in discovering the structure of DNA. Unfortunately, she was not initially given credit for her contributions, and the world did not learn about her groundbreaking efforts until after her death in 1958. 

Ynez Mexia 

Ynez was in her 50s and divorced when her therapist suggested she join the Sierra Club. As she discovered her passion for the natural world, she enrolled in science classes at U.C. Berkeley and joined local expeditions. Ynez collected as many plant specimens on her first solo expedition as Darwin had on his most famous trip. She continued her work in Latin American countries and Alaska, collecting more than 145,000 specimens and discovering more than 500 plants in the course of 13 years. More than 50 plant species are named after this little-known biodiversity scientist.

The Explorers 

It takes bravery and persistence to explore new territory and blaze new trails—literally or figuratively—and these women have it! 


A legendary figure in the American West, Sacagawea served as a guide and interpreter for Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition to explore the land of the Louisiana Purchase. Her knowledge and leadership helped the famed explorers survive harsh winters and hunger, among other challenges they faced on a rough journey. 

Junko Tabei 

Outdoor adventurer Junko Tabei was not only the first woman to climb Mount Everest, but was also the first woman to reach the highest peak on every continent. Later in life, she became a powerful advocate for the environment and was named director of the preservation organization Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan.  

Rue Mapp 

Outdoor Afro founder and CEO—and Girl Scout alum—Rue Mapp is one of the country’s most influential voices on the importance of Black leadership in the outdoors. In 2015, Mapp was appointed as one of nine voting commissioners of the California state parks and won the 2019 Heinz Award in the Environment category for developing and training a national network of Black American conservation leaders. 

The Advocates 

Speaking up for others and showing up when it matters most—as Girl Scouts’ founder Juliette Gordon Low knew, girls who discover the power of their voice can go on to change the world. Here are just a few more women who show us what it means to persevere and make a difference. 

Dolores Huerta 

This proud Girl Scout alum’s work to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers, immigrants, and women led to the founding of the United Farm Workers, through which Dolores fought for better working conditions and benefits to cover unemployment and healthcare. In 1993, Dolores was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. 

Malala Yousafzai 

The youngest Nobel laureate ever, Malala survived an attack by a Taliban gunman on her way to school in Pakistan when she was 11. She has since become a leading advocate for girls’ education, inspiring millions around the world. Her immense courage shines through in her philosophy: “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” 

Wilma Pearl Mankiller 

Proud of her Native American heritage and passionate about caring for the future generations of her community, Wilma Pearl Mankiller made history when she became the first woman elected as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Through her career, she was an agent for change and helped make drastic improvements to the health care and education systems within the Cherokee Nation, and helped raise visibility for its people as a whole. In 1998, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her leadership and activism to better the lives of Native Americans.