Human Rights Activists
Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. Roosevelt fought for human rights in many ways and through many capacities, serving as the Chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (1946-1951), the United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly (1946-1952), and the Chairperson of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women (1961-1962). She was an ardent supporter of the Civil Rights Movement and a co-founder of Freedom House. Harry Truman called her the “First Lady of the World” due to her achievements for human rights.
Mother Theresa was a Roman Catholic nun of Albanian ethnicity and Indian citizenship. She founded the Missionaries of Charity, and worked for over 45 years creating hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and leprosy. She also established soup kitchens, children’s and family counseling programs, orphanages, and schools. Among the numerous awards and recognitions that Mother Theresa received are the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and Bharat Ratna, the Republic of India’s highest civilian award.
Kasturba Gandhi worked closely with her husband, Mohandas Gandhi. When her husband became involved in the movement to improve working conditions for Indians in South Africa, Kasturba Gandhi joined the struggle, eventually being arrested and spending three months in a hard-labor prison. Gandhi spoke on her husband’s behalf when he was imprisoned, and was closely associated with the struggle in India, often giving encouragement to female volunteers.
Martha Minow is the Dean of the Faculty of Law and the Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Minow has written extensively about human rights, with a focus on racial and religious minorities, as well as women, children, and persons with disabilities. She has done work to help stabilize countries in transition, participated in government programs to increase access to curriculum for students with disabilities, and worked on the Divided Cities initiative to build an alliance of global cities in dealing with ethnic, religious, or political divisions. Minow was nominated in 2009 by President Obama to serve on the board of Legal Services Corporation, a government-sponsored organization providing civil legal assistance to low-income Americans.
Urvashi Vaid is a community organizer, writer, and attorney, who has been a leader in the LGBT social justice movement for nearly three decades. Vaid is the Director of the Engaging Tradition Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Gill Foundation, which works to achieve equal opportunity for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. For more than 10 years Vaid has worked in various capacities at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and has also worked as staff attorney at the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, where she initiated the organization’s work on HIV/AIDS in prisons. In 2009, She was named by Out magazine as one of the 50 most influential people in America.