From the Foreword by Melanne Verveer, Executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security, from “Visionary Women” by Angella M. Nazarian (Assouline).
Some of the women are historical figures who captivated me as a child but whose triumphs and struggles resonate in a more profound way today. Helen Keller could neither hear nor see, yet she overcame profound physical limitations and did so with an optimism and determination (and an extraordinary bond with her teacher Annie Sullivan) that enabled her to make enormous contributions to society.
Madame Curie endured great personal adversity and challenges for a woman scientist in her time, yet she won not one but two Nobel Prizes in science for her trailblazing work in radioactivity.
Some of the women are more recent heroines—women I’ve come to know who make our world a better place. Leymah Gbowee was instrumental in catalyzing the women’s movement for peace in Liberia. The civil war had gone on for more than a decade, and the women understood nothing would change unless they organized for change. Leymah—with the women behind her—bravely stood up to the ruthless power of Charles Taylor, who was at the center of the conflict, and demanded that he negotiate an end to the violence. Women became thepeace-builders in Liberia and Leymah’s leadership was recognized with the Nobel Peace Prizein which she shared in 2011. As she said, “Even at your worst, you have the power in you todo something.”
Young Malala Yousafzai took a bullet for standing up for the right of girls to go to school. She was shot in the head and near death, but she rallied and today has become a powerful global voice for girls’ education, against the forces of violent extremism that abhor a girl with a book. Malala, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, has dedicated herself to supporting girls’ rights to go to school—from the victims of Boko Haram in Nigeria to the girls still struggling for their rights in her native Pakistan.
At the end of this wonderful collection, the author—through the depiction of Rosario Perez’s contributions as the leader of Pro Mujer—focuses on how women are working together to bring about a better world. For the last two decades, from my work with then–First Lady Hillary Clinton in the White House to serving as the first U.S. ambassador for global women’s issues, I have been privileged to walk among women who are on the frontlines of change everywhere, creating a better world for all.
I believe we have an obligation to pay our own good fortune forward and give voice to those who cannot raise their own voices. As another remarkable woman portrayed here, Maya Angelou, reminds us, “You’ve been paid for by people who never even saw your face. So it behooves you to prepare yourself so you can pay for someone else yet to come.” The inspirational lives portrayed in “Visionary Women” speak to our own journeys as well.