5 Women Who Changed the Game

Trigger/Young Audience Warning: This post briefly addresses topics such as human trafficking, infanticide, and sexual abuse. Parental discretion is advised, and if these topics are triggering, be kind to yourself, sweet friend, and I’ll catch up with you in my April blog. Much love.

Friends, Women’s History Month is upon us…and y’know what that means…*cracks knuckles* …I’m gonna write about inspiring women are until I can’t talk words.

Little Women, 2019

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A side note to my brother-readers: you are welcome here, and you will not be hated on. Stay a while, and hear your sisters’ stories.

Time would fail me to speak of Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen who brought the female experience to the pages of literature; of Corrie Ten Boom and Etta Shiber and Maria Ziefle, who defiantly faced the Nazis; of Sojourner Truth and Harriett Tubman, who escaped slavery and spent the remainder of their lives fighting for abolition and women’s suffrage.

So today, I will simply introduce you to five women, who changed the game in realms of creativity, mission, leadership, justice, and courage.

Oh, and this is the first of maaaaany such blogs, so please! Leave your inspiring lists of game-changing women in the comments below.

Phillis Wheatley

“From star to star
the mental optics rove,
Measure the skies,
and range the realms above.
There in one view
we grasp the mighty whole,
Or with new worlds
amaze th’ unbounded soul.”

― Phillis Wheatley, On Imagination, 1773

I was eight-years-old, when I found Phillis Wheatley’s picture in my history book. As a young writer myself, I was instantly obsessed.

Phillis Wheatley was trafficked from her native Senegal/Gambia at the age of seven and sold into slavery in Boston, MA in 1760. Even from a young age, it was clear that this girl was brilliant.

Phillis’ poems were snapshots of the War for Independence, the First Great Awakening, and her own experience as an enslaved person in a nation who claimed to be hell-bent on freedom. Wheatley’s poetry uniquely observes the ability of God to repurpose suffering for her good and glory, while not giving slavery an inch:

“…for in every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance; and by the Leave of our modern Egyptians I will assert that the same Principle lives in us.”

Letter to Samuel Occom, 1774

Phillis became a free woman in 1775, but died in illness and poverty just nine years later, at the age of 31. Having suffered the effects of racism and injustice in her life and her death, Phillis’s voice haunts and guides American history, as one of its earliest artists.

Amy Carmichael

“Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is.”

― Amy Carmichael

On the edge of my 20th birthday, I walked in the footsteps of this saint without knowing it. While doing mission work in Scotland I attended the Keswick convention in England’s Lake district. 141 years before me, Amy Carmichael attended the Keswick Convention in 1875, and it was where her journey began.

If you’re new to Amy Carmichael, her biography reads something like this…

Amy Carmichael heard God say go. She tried to go, but everyone in charge said, “You can’t go, Amy. You’re a woman with chronic health issues, and it’s 1890.” Amy went anyway.

Once Amy set foot in India, she never left. Surrounded by suffering of all kinds, Amy soon found her passion grounded in one goal: saving young girls from cult prostitution. Opening an orphanage for girls (later for both girls and boys) Amy rescued children from the broad-daylight trafficking industry.

In her lifetime, the orphanage at Dohnavur cared for over 2,000 children. Writing over 40 books, Amy shaped the missiology (the theology of mission) of the church, writing from her experiences, devotions, and close communion with Jesus.

Reverend Li Tim-Oi

“God, would you like to send me?”

― Rev. Florence Li Tim Oi, 1931

There were many emotions surrounding the birth of girls in 1907 China (ranging from disappointment to infanticide). But when Li Tim-Oi was born, her father called her “Much Beloved.”

Li Tim-Oi enrolled to study theology in Canton and was ordained as a deacon in 1941. With China in the throes of World War II, Tim-Oi was trapped in occupied territory. Here, there was no priest to pastor the congregations. For 3 years, Li Tim-Oi lead the people without the title. January 25, 1944, her bishop, R O Hall, asked her to meet him in Free China, where he ordained her, “a priest in the church of God.”

In 1946, following the war, controversy arose surrounding Li Tim-Oi’s ministry and title. Uninterested in religious politics, she surrendered her priest license and got back to work. She served in persecuted Maoist China for 30 years, praying in secret. One of her fondest projects was a maternity home where she ensured that newborn girls would receive a chance at life.

In 1984, 40 years after her bishop recognized her calling, Li Tim-Oi was officially recognized as a priest in the Anglican denomination. Li Tim-Oi challenged the ideas of female calling, spiritual gifts, and priesthood simply by being obedient to Jesus. Today, the Li Tim-Oi foundation continues to train women in theology and practical ministry throughout the world.

Coretta Scott King Justice

“I must remind you that starving a child is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical need is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence.”

― Coretta Scott King

God gave Coretta Scott a voice. Her teachers, who heard her sing at Lincoln Normal School noticed, then her professors at Antioch, then a passionate young pastor in Boston as she studied at the New England Conservatory of Music. She married that young pastor, and the two went back to Alabama.

There, Coretta’s “Freedom Concerts” raised money and awareness for the Civil Rights movement, but they also told the storythrough poetry, art, and music. She later wrote:

“…I had a growing sense that I was involved in something so much greater than myself, something of profound historic importance. I came to the realization that we had been thrust into the forefront of a movement to liberate oppressed people, not only in Montgomery, but also throughout our country, and this movement had worldwide implications.”

Coretta Scott King (Source: The People’s World)

Coretta worked to reform and redeem the dark places of the America alongside her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., until his murder. Just two months after his death, she founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center, committed to nonviolent social change. She went on to continue this work for 38 years.

While she is widely remembered as Dr. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King was an advocate of Biblical justice in her own right. She took her husband’s name, partnered in his ministry, and preserved his legacy (she’s the reason we have an MLK Day). But Coretta had a voice of her own, a voice given to her by God, and to His glory, she used it.

Maya Angelou

“The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.”

― Maya Angelou, “Caged Bird”

WARING: Maya Angelou’s work is stunning and centered on suffering. It is both vivid and graphic, and I do not recommend it for young audiences or those who might be triggered by themes of sexual oppression and abuse.

All true storytelling takes guts. But publishing a story of racial oppression, sexual trauma, and the experiences of a black woman in 1969 takes courage. Maya Angelou displayed that level of courage throughout her lifetime.

She was an artist, activist, singer, actress, and–as many of us knew her first–a poet. Maya Angelou’s words have challenged, changed, rocked many boats, and comforted many suffering hearts.

One would expect the voice of such a woman to be weighed down with sorrow, but Maya Angelou is known best for her ability to hold light and dark in tension. Her writing is characterized by a lack of hatred and an abundance of joy.

Maya Angelou was an active and passionate believer in Jesus, but was hesitant to call herself a Christian, saying…

“I’m always amazed when people walk up to me and say, ‘I’m a Christian.’ I think, ‘Already? You already got it?’ I’m working at it, which means that I try to be as kind and fair and generous and respectful and courteous to every human being.”

― Maya Angelou (Source: Salt Project)

A woman of boldness and courage, Maya Angelou could still be brought to tears at the mere mention of God’s love at the end of her life. Her road was hard, her voice was strong, but her heart was soft to the end.

So who’d I miss? 😉 What women have shaped your life and changed the game for you? Inspire me in the comments below!


Poetry Foundation
People’s World
Boston University
The Li Tim-Oi Foundation
The King Center
Encyclopedia Brittanica: Coretta Scott King
Encyclopedia Brittanica: Maya Angelou
Poetry Foundation: Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou’s Website


One response to “5 Women Who Changed the Game”

  1. […] Happy Women’s History Month! To celebrate, let’s check out Hannah Duggan’s post, “5 Women Who Changed The Game.” I’ve been using her book, Just Us Girls: A Bible Study on Being God’s Girl in Middle […]


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