Presented below, and organized by alphabetical order, are thirty-eight activists and advocates who had no children.
Jane Addams (1860-1935) was a reformer and social worker who campaigned for women’s suffrage in the United States and co-founded Chicago’s Hull House, one of America’s most famous settlement houses, providing extensive social services to poor and immigrant families.
Mary Anderson (1872-1964) was a labor activist and an advocate for women in the workplace. She rose from factory worker to Director of the Women’s Bureau in the United States Department of Labor.
ANTHONY, Susan B.
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) was an American social reformer and women’s rights activist who played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement.
Ella Baker (1903-1986) was a civil rights activist who worked alongside some of the most noted civil rights leaders of the 20th century, including W. E. B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King Jr. She also mentored many emerging activists, such as Diane Nash and Stokely Carmichael.
María de las Mercedes Barbudo (1773-1849) was a Puerto Rican political activist and the first woman independentista (independance activist) on the island.
MaVynee Betsch (1935-2005), was an American environmentalist and an activist known as The Beach Lady. She spent the better part of her adult life educating the public on the Black history and environmental importance of American Beach, in Florida.
Sophonisba Breckinridge (1866-1948) was an activist and social reformer. The first woman to receive a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago, she helped define the profession of social work, worked closely with Jane Addams at Hull House, and advocated for many social issues.
Manuela Cañizares (1769-1814) was an Ecuadorian salonist and heroine of independence.
Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was an American marine biologist, writer, and conservationist whose influential book Silent Spring (1962) and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.
Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) was an American politician and the first Black woman to be elected to the United States Congress. She advocated for the spending of resources on “people and peace, not profits and war” and supported women’s rights, including the legalization of abortion.
Nancy Cunard (1896-1965) was a writer and political activist. Born into the British upper class, she devoted much of her life to fighting racism and fascism.
DICKINSON, Anna Elizabeth
Anna Elizabeth Dickinson (1842-1932) was an American orator and lecturer. An advocate for the abolition of slavery and for women’s rights, Dickinson was the first woman to give a political address before the United States Congress.
DULEEP SINGH, Sophia
Sophia Duleep Singh (1876-1948), the daughter of the exiled Maharaja Duleep Singh, was a prominent defender of women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom in the early 20th century.
Ruth C. Ellis (1899-2000) was a lifelong advocate for the LGBT community, African Americans, and senior citizens. The first woman to have a print shop in the state of Michigan, she devoted her life to helping her own community, especially African American gays and lesbians.
As the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood in New Haven, Estelle Griswold (1900-1981) fought for the elimination of Connecticut’s anti-birth control statute. She became known for her role as defendant in the Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut, in which contraception for married couples was legalized in Connecticut, setting the precedent of the right to privacy.
Dorothy Irene Height (1912-2010) was a leading figure of the civil rights movement. She specifically focused on the issues of African American women, including unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness.
Lida Heymann (1868-1943) was a German feminist, pacifist, and women’s rights activist. She was involved in the women’s suffrage movement, established a women’s center which offered food, childcare and counseling, and co-founded professional associations for women in the workforce.
Shere Hite (1942-2020) was a sex educator and feminist whose pioneer research challenged myths on female sexuality, including sexual pleasure.
Emily Hobhouse (1860-1926) was a British welfare campaigner, anti-war activist, and pacifist who brought awareness to the deprived conditions inside the British concentration camps in South Africa built to incarcerate Boer and African civilians during the Second Boer War.
Jovita Idar (1885-1946) was a journalist, teacher, political activist, and civil rights advocate who championed the cause of Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants.
JOHNSON, Kathryn M.
Kathryn Magnolia Johnson (1878-1954) was a teacher and civil rights activist. An early member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), she later focused on fighting against racial oppression through literacy and the promotion of Black literature.
Aoua Kéita (1912-1980) was a Malian midwife, anti-colonial activist, and politician. When Mali gained its independence in 1960, she was the only woman elected to the new National Assembly and the only woman within the party leadership. She was also essential in the drafting and enacting of the Marriage and Guardianship Code, which granted new rights to Malian women.
Helen Keller (1880-1968) was an American author, disability rights advocate, political activist and lecturer. She joined the Socialist Party of America and was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Maggie Kuhn (1905-1995) was an American activist known for founding the Gray Panthers, a movement focused on fighting ageism and inclusive of other social and economic issues.
LEE, Mabel Ping-Hua
Mabel Ping-Hua Lee (1896-1966) was a women’s rights activist, a community advocate for the Chinese population, especially immigrants, in New York, and the first Chinese woman in the United States to earn a doctorate in economics.
Una Marson (1905-1965) was a Jamaican writer and activist whose interests spanned from feminism to Pan-Africanism and cultural nationalism. As a writer, she recognized the importance of literary culture as a tool for change. Her biographer Delia Jarrett-Macauley described her as the first “Black British feminist to speak out against racism and sexism in Britain.”
Sheila Babs Michaels (1939-2017) was an American feminist and civil rights activist credited with popularizing “Ms.” as a default form of address for women regardless of their marital status.
Inez Milholland (1886-1916) was an American suffragist and labor lawyer who made a dramatic impression in 1913 when she led the Woman Suffrage Procession on horseback in advance of President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.
Nabawiyya Musa (1886-1951) was an Egyptian nationalist and a prominent feminist of the 20th century in Egypt who perceived women’s education as a major tool for positive change.
Ani Pachen (1933-2002) was a Tibetan freedom fighter and a Buddhist nun known as Tibet’s “warrior nun.”
Antonia Pantoja (1922-2002) was a Puerto Rican educator, social worker, feminist, and civil rights leader. In 1996, she was the first Puerto Rican woman to receive the American Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Rosa Parks (1913-2005) was a leading figure of the civil rights movement who is best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott. She has been honored by the United States Congress as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement.”
Madeleine Pelletier (1874-1939) was a French psychiatrist, feminist, and political activist. She advocated for women’s rights (including contraception and abortion) and was affiliated throughout her life with socialist, anarchist, and communist groups.
Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973) was an American congresswoman who championed a multitude of diverse causes throughout a career that spanned more than six decades. She was an especially fierce advocate for women’s rights, pacifism, and civil rights.
Sarah Parker Remond (1826-1894) was an American lecturer and abolitionist campaigner who became known as an international activist for human rights and women’s suffrage.
Ernestine Louise Rose (1810-1892) was an influential American suffragist, abolitionist, and social reformer of the 19th century. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996.
Cornelia Sorabji (1866-1954) was an Indian lawyer and social reformer. She is especially remembered for her advocacy on behalf of the purdahnashins, women who were forbidden to communicate with the outside male world.
Maria W. Stewart (1803-1879) was a free-born African American who became a teacher, journalist, lecturer, abolitionist, and women’s rights activist. She was one of the first women of any race to speak in public in the United States and is best known for her anti-slavery speeches.