14 Of The Most Badass Women In History

Twenty-Something Tuesday

Happy Women’s History Month, Darlings! This month we celebrate the inspiring lives and achievements of badass women everywhere, from those who have left their marks on the ledger to those who are still etching theirs. In the ongoing march of time, their legacies of courage, initiative, intelligence, willpower and all around badassery will not be forgotten. Here are a few of Literally, Darling’s favorite women of history.

Simone De Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir

Simone De Beauvoir was a French writer who had a significant influence on feminist theory; her book, “The Second Sex,” is a brilliant analysis of female oppression and thus a foundational text for contemporary feminism. She also travelled extensively and wrote glorious travel diaries about her time in the U.S. and China. NO discussion of inspirational women is complete without her!

To emancipate woman is to refuse to confine her to the relations she bears to man, not to deny them to her; let her have her independent existence and she will continue nonetheless to exist for him also: mutually recognising each other as subject, each will yet remain for the other an other. The reciprocity of their relations will not do away with the miracles—desire, possession, love, dream, adventure—worked by the division of human beings into two separate categories; and the words that move us—giving, conquering, uniting—will not lose their meaning. On the contrary, when we abolish the slavery of half of humanity, together with the whole system of hypocrisy that it implies, then the ‘division’ of humanity will reveal its genuine significance and the human couple will find its true form.

Emma Watson


Emma Watson’s amazing He for She campaign alone would put her on this list, but her achievements extend around, and beyond, it. Her stunning acting as the iconic Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies and as Sam in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” will forever stand out in our minds as some of the best acting EVER. And her quirky personality, fashion sense, and unabashed support of feminism make her one of Literally, Darling’s top choices for being the voice of our generation.

Kay Redfield Jamison


Kay Redfield Jamison is best known for her poignant and jarring memoir of her journey with bipolar 1 disorder, “An Unquiet Mind.” Past the publishing of her book, she has continued to be a staunch advocate for mental health treatment, is basically amazing. Some awesome quotes from the lady herself:

“I am tired of hiding, tired of misspent and knotted energies, tired of the hypocrisy, and tired of acting as though I have something to hide.”

“Love has, at its best, made the inherent sadness of life bearable, and its beauty manifest.”

Maria Telkes

telkes 11

This Hungarian-American with a doctorate in physical chemistry was a forerunner when it came to harnessing solar energy, something that we need a lot of as we try to wean ourselves off of oil. She is best known for inventing the first ever 100-percent solar-heated house, which she helped build with the architect Elanor Raymond in 1948. Perhaps her greatest invention was a solar distiller, which she developed while stationed at the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II. This vaporized seawater, and condensed it down to make it drinkable.

“Sunlight will be used as a source of energy sooner or later…” “Why wait?”

Tamora Pierce


Men don’t think differently from women—they just make more noise about being able to.”

We have adored Tamora Pierce’s books since we were wee darlings, and as we have aged, our love for her as only grown. She always has amazing, strong, fabulous women in her books—often accompanied by equally awesome animal companions. Plus, she subtly shows her young adult readers that all people, regardless of gender and sexual preferences, are flawless and worthy of equal treatment. Bad. Ass.

“Inside I am a beautiful woman,” Okha said, fiddling with a perfect curl. “The Trickster tapped me in my mother’s womb and placed me in this man’s shell.” I’d heard of many tricks done by the gods, but surely this was nearabout the cruelest. “I’m sorry,” I whispered. —Bloodhound

Laverne Cox


Laverne Cox, currently known for her role as trans hairdresser Sophia Burset on “Orange is the New Black,” is pioneer for trans visibility on- and off-screen. She overcame vicious bullying and gender dysphoria in her youth to become the powerhouse we know and love: an actress, dancer, producer and active advocate for LGBT* rights. In 2010, she became the first African American trans woman to produce and star in her own show with “TRANSform Me,” and was the first openly trans person to grace the cover of TIME in 2014. Laverne is our hero because she uses her platform in the entertainment sphere to spread the gospel on trans* and queer issues, always decked out like the goddess she is in amazing fashion.

Ruan Lingyu


Ruan Lingyu, a Chinese silent film actress born in 1910, was the Mary Pickford of Chinese Cinema. Many of her roles included her portraying a prostitute, as that was one of the two options given to women in their lives: prostitution or raising children. Her most well-known role, and a staple in Chinese cinema, is the film “The Goddess” where Lingyu portrayed a prostitute who during the day raised her son, and at night raised their money. Her characters questioned the female role in society and the harsh criticism that followed their paths. Due to her husband’s abuse, and the uproar of public scrutiny over her characters, life became too much and Lingyu took her life at the age of 24. Lingyu made a large impact with her art, so much so that three women committed suicide during her funeral procession that was reportedly three miles long.

Alma Reville


Alma Reville, the wife of Alfred Hitchcock and sometimes known as Lady Hitchcock, was an English film director, editor, and screenwriter. Reville’s career began in the 1920s and continued into the 1960s. It’s said that a large part of Hitchcock’s success is due to Reville’s attention to detail and ability to spot a good adaptation. Reville’s work behind the scenes is what makes her such a significant character in the world of film proving that women could do more than just act. Indeed, there were a great deal of women in the industry when cinema emerged, but few maintained their status and success. Two movies were made about the world Hitchcock in 2012: Reville was played by Imelda Staunton in “The Girl” and Helen Mirren in “Hitchcock.”

Roxane Gay


Roxane Gay is a writer, editor, professor, and all around feminist all-star. Her essay collection, “Bad Feminist,” tackles what it means to be a human, a woman, and a feminist all at the same time. She writes fiction, plays competitive Scrabble, and pens some fantastic media criticism. And she live tweets episodes of the “Barefoot Contessa.”

Aphra Behn


Aphra Behn was a major writer during the Restoration era—both a dramatist and one of the first female novelists. Like all great women of history, Behn’s work sparked controversy as she explored quite scandalous subjects (love affairs, incest, and the like) for her time (“Love Letters Between a Nobleman to His Sister” and “The Lucky Chance” are evidence enough of that). Although her work was often censored from early readers, it merits appreciation by more than just English Majors. Behn encouraged women to explore their sexuality and place their own sensibility—that is, pleasure—above that of the patriarchy. You go girl.

The Night Witches


During WWII, the 80 ladies of the Soviet Air Forces’ 588th Night Bomber Squadron wreaked havoc and terror upon the Nazis, who viewed them as relentless harpies with mystical powers of stealth and weaponry and gave them maybe the coolest name ever (in German: Nachthexen). As one of three all-female squadrons in the Soviet forces, these badass witches were among the first women of modern warfare to step beyond support duties into the world of combat directives. They were stuck with ancient, loud planes that offered no stealth whatsoever and broke down constantly, often midair. Their solution? Casually and silently (without power) swoop down on the Nazis, bomb their asses, then climb out onto the wing (what!) to restart the engine and geeeet the f*ck out. Basically, they dominated. Said one German commander: “We simply couldn’t grasp that the Soviet airmen that caused us the greatest trouble were in fact women… these women feared nothing.” Witches get stuff done.

Dr. Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Perhaps no woman alive can live up to the title Maya Angelou created and owned: Phenomenal Woman. She dominated the arts, as a prolific poet, writer, dancer, singer and director. In her lifetime, she was nominated for both an Emmy and a Tony, and won three Grammys. In addition to the material accolades and her masterpiece, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” Maya is the author of this fabulous quote: “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” Preach, Maya.

Laura Mulvey 

Tageskarte 01.08.13/ Kino/ Riddle of the Sphinx

A famed British film theorist, Laura Mulvey is best known for her theorization of the “male gaze” in cinema in her pioneering 1973 essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Her contributions to film and media theory raised new analyses of women onscreen, and represent the first intersection between feminism, psychoanalysis and film theory—to be used (in her own words) as a “political weapon.” Laura taught the world how to look at how the camera looks, reproducing social power structures for our entertainment.

“The scopophilic instinct (pleasure in looking at another person as an erotic object), and, in contradistinction, ego libido (forming identification processes) act as formations, mechanisms, which this cinema has played on. The image of woman as a (passive) raw material for the (active) gaze of the man takes the argument a step further into the structure of representation, adding a further layer demanded by the ideology of the patriarchal order as it is worked out in its favourite cinematic form—illusionistic narrative film.”

Parisa Tabriz


As Google’s lead Security Princess (and yes, that is her official title—it’s on her business card), Polish-Iranian-American professional hacker Parisa Tabriz leads the Google Chrome Security team, identifying weaknesses in the system before they can be exploited by the malicious ne’er-do-wells of the cyber world. Forbes identified her in 2012 as one of their “30 Tech Pioneers Under 30.” Her work is remarkable on its own, but she is especially incredible as a woman in the male-dominated tech sphere, where she reigns over a majority male team in protecting over one billion Chrome users from rude ass hackers worldwide.

What are some of your favorite women, historically or currently? Tweet us @litdarling and let us know!

Scroll To Top