As we look back on 2012 from the perspective of women, some may choose to define it as the year of the “war on women” due to the political debate and statements that swirled during a heated election year. However, framing the year around political rhetoric means we overlook the achievements of talented, passionate, and driven women who accomplished much this year. All of these women gave of themselves to reach their goals, fight for a better world, and achieve success, and some even gave their lives in their final effort of living out their passion.
One such heroine is Malala Yousafzai, a fifteen year old Pakistani who has made it her life’s work to promote educational opportunities denied to her and her female peers by the Taliban. Her father ran one of the last schools for girls to defy the Taliban’s rules. she chronicled her educational experiences as an anonymous blogger for the BBC. In October, Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban. Her injuries were life threatening and required her to be flown to England for treatment. Thankfully, she has since begun making a strong, but slow recovery. Yousafzai is deserving of any accolades given to her, yet she remains humble and focused on her passion for the education of girls. Earlier this month, she urged Pakistan to reverse the decision that would name a Pakistani college after her, as she felt that such a name would endanger the students. Yousafzai was “runner up” for Time magazine’s “Person of the Year”.
The horrific and ineffably saddening shooting of twenty-six individuals as Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Connecticut earlier this month revealed several heroines–heroines who risked their lives, and some who gave their lives, protecting their young students.Kaitlin Roig saved the lives of her fifteen students by having them hide in the closet before she pulled a bookshelf across the door before locking it, allowing her and her students to survive. Music teacher, Maryrose Kristopik saved the lives of 20 students by locking herself and her students in a closet, protecting them all from the gunman. Four teachers made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives to protect their students. Special Education teacher, Anne Marie Murphy was found dead by first responders shielding her students from the gunfire. First grade teacher,Victoria Soto began ushering her students into the closet when she heard the gunfire begin and gave her life shielding her students from the cowardly killer.Another teacher, Lauren Rousseau, was also killed on that horrible morning. School psychologist Mary Sherlach and principal Dawn Hochsprung died trying to confront the gunmen.Reading consultant, Becky Virgalla said the heroic efforts and quick thinking of those two women saved her life.
In the midst of a presidential election, senatorial elections helped yield a historic high of female heroic senators with twenty women now serving their respective states. All six incumbent females won their races for re-election while five women won their first terms in the Senate. These women join six currently serving women who were not up for re-election in 2012. With this exciting landmark, there are now triple the number of women in the Senate as there were in 1993. In an interview with Diane Sawyer earlier this month, these women said had they been in charge, the much discussed “fiscal cliff” would have already been solved.
In the year that included the 40th anniversary of Title IX, female Olympians represented America well at the summer Games. The 2012 games was the first time in the events storied history when more women than men participated in the Games on behalf of America and every country had at least one female athlete participating. American women cleaned up at the podium as well by winning more medals than their male counterparts for the first time in history. American women won twenty-nine gold medals and fifty-eight medals overall, compared to seventeen and forty-five respectively won by male athletes. Among a slew of other medals, the American women won team gold in gymnastics, soccer, beach volleyball, and basketball. Seventeen year old swimmer Missy Franklin won five medals and broke two world records, yet remained humbled, returning to swim with her high school team and later attend college rather than going pro after the Olympics. Gymnast Gabby Douglas, who won the gold in the all around, was also recently named the Associated Press’s female athlete of the year.
Another heroine is Marissa Mayer, the first female engineer to be hired at Google where she oversaw the launch of Gmail and other Google products, who was name CEO of Yahoo this past July. When she was asked earlier this year (prior to being named Yahoo CEO) about being a woman in a male dominated field, Mayer said:
“I’m not a woman at Google, I’m a geek at Google,” she told CNN in April. “If you can find something that you’re really passionate about, whether you’re a man or a woman comes a lot less into play. Passion is a gender-neutralizing force.”
The day that she was announced as Yahoo’s new chief, Mayer also announced she was pregnant. She gave birth on September 30th and returned to the office just two weeks later. As of late November, Yahoo’s stock had increased 19% since she took over during the summer.
These are just a few of the heroines of this past year. There are many throughout our nation and our world. Some are famous and receive national and international accolades. Some are quiet heroines who receive the admiration of only those around them. They are moms, sisters, daughters, friends, wives, girlfriends, athletes, politicians, businesswomen, and everything in between– all women with passion. Thanks for making us proud, heroines, and here’s to even more accomplished women in 2013!