Virginia Woolf (1882-1928) was an English writer and journalist, widely considered one of the most distinguished writers of the 20th century. An early feminist, she attacked the double standards of the day in her writing, and her voice, still admired nearly a century later, is still strong. Her influential, stream of consciouness-styled work has been translated into fifty different languages. Some of her most famous books are: Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and Orlando. She was known also as a biting critic and journalist, widely respected in amongst the London literary circles of her day.
Astronaut Sally Ride (1951-2012) became the first American woman sent into outer space and and the youngest person ever to be sent into orbit when she flew on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983. She made two shuttle flights and committed her life to educating young people and encouraging them to explore careers in science. “We have to make science cool again,” she said. And indeed she did, as she became a role model for young people, especially girls, so often left out of the sciences, for the next generations.
Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) was an American poet. One of the first successful Jewish American authors, Lazarus was part of the late nineteenth century New York literary elite, but also became a passionate advocate for Jewish immigrants and refugees. Among other things, she helped establish the Hebrew Technical Institute in New York, which provided vocational training so that the destitute could learn to support themselves. She is most remembered for her poem “The New Colossus,” which is inscribed on the pedestal of the statue of liberty, welcoming incoming immigrants as they arrived in New York Harbor with these powerful words, which have become a lasting, iconic part of the American fabric: “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”