Coretta Scott King – Living in the shadow of her husband, Coretta Scott King still carried the name synonymous with the civil rights movement. After meeting Martin Luther King at college they married and moved to Montgomery, Alabama. Her husband became embroiled in the civil rights movement after another astounding woman, Rosa Parks, refused to yield her seat to a white passenger on a bus, leading to the Montgomery bus boycott.
After MLK was assassinated, Coretta Scott King continued her civil rights work, contributing towards women’s rights and LGBT rights in her pathway. As well as her civil rights work, Coretta was an accomplished musician, having plied her trade at the New England Conservatory of Music.
Margaret Thatcher – Very few figures, it can be argued, divide opinion like the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Hailed by many as a hero of the British economy, her policies bred a vast new middle class across the length of Britain. Her policies of privatising Britain’s industrialisation resulted in the mass decline of Scottish steel, leading her to be one of the great loathsome figures in Scotland and the north of England.
Her death in 2013 sparked both widespread mourning and jubilation, and she remains, as Historian Stanislao Pugliese puts it, “one of the major figures of 20th-century history”.
Rachel Atherton – Cycling is a sporting landscape often dominated by three things: the Olympics, the Tour de France, and men. Although there are great women out there on the track, tucked away in the corner of cycle sport is downhill-mountain biking, and the Queen of the corner is Rachel Atherton.
Undoubtedly the most dominant downhiller in the entire history of the sport, currently on an unbeaten streak of World Cup races, amounting to a mind-boggling 15 races, picking up two World Championship jerseys in the process and doubling her tally to four in total.
Malala Yousafzai – At a time in the Middle East where it is most dangerous for young women, Malala Yousafzai is an inspiration to women and people the world over. Malala fought for the right to education for women in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, where she lived. The Taliban had occupied and banned girls from attending school. She wrote a blog undercover for BBC Urdu, talking about life under Taliban occupation.
In 2013, she survived an assassination attempt after taking a bullet to the head from a Taliban gunman. She recovered and was moved to where she now resides in Birmingham. In 2014, Malala became the youngest person, at age 17, to be awarded a Nobel Prize in any field because of her humanitarian efforts, when she was a co-recipient alongside Kailash Satyarthi for their efforts in the push for the right of education for all.
Slavenka Drakulić – Although a widely unknown name in European history, Slavenka Drakulić has done her fair share of political work to merit a place on this list. Born in Croatia, Slavenka is an accomplished essayist, novelist and journalist, whose work surrounds the issues of communism, post-communism and feminism.
A lot of her work concerns the Yugoslav Wars, with emphasis on the Bosnian War, and a variety of other issues surrounding the former Yugoslavia. She is best known for her collection of essays, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, which has been translated into numerous languages. She is still active and has written for a number of publications, including the Guardian and the New York Times.