Noteworthy Women

Encouraging and Empowering Remarkable Women

Anne Hathaway on Paid Family Leave

On March 8, 2017, Anne Hathaway, UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador, gave a remarkable speech calling to action for paid family leave at the UN Observance of International Women’s Day 2017.

Hathaway begins her speech by recalling childhood memories of her father asking her to point out which direction was North, as a symbol of how her father helped develop her sense of direction at an early age, and now she trusts her ability to “navigate space.” The reason why Hathaway includes this story is to highlight the importance fathers have on their children’s lives. She continues by speaking about her new role as a mother and explains her concerns with balancing her career and being a parent. She adds, “American women are currently entitled to 12 weeks unpaid leave. American men are entitled to nothing.” This presents a problem not only because mothers are expected to go back to their normal lives after 3 months of having a child, it also sets up an expectation for women to be the main caregivers of the household.

“If the practical reality of pregnancy is another mouth to feed in your home, and America is a country where most people are living paycheck to paycheck, how does 12 weeks unpaid leave economically work?”

Hathaway makes an important point here, and adds that for most families, it does not work. She explains that 25% of American women go back to work 2 weeks after giving birth because they can’t afford to take any more time than that. And those that can take the full 12 weeks often don’t because it can mean incurring a “motherhood penalty,” which means they will be perceived as less dedicated to their job and will hurt their ability to earn promotions. She then addresses that that in order to liberate women, we have to liberate men.

She highlights that the stereotype for women to take care of the home and family not only discriminates against women, but also undermines men’s ability to connect with the family and society. We know that when parents do not spend enough time with their children, it has significant effect on the children and the family’s life. It’s not about taking time off work, it’s about parents being able to choose their roles and establishing “new positive cycles of behavior.”

Hathaway’s opinion and call to action on paid parental leave is likely one that many Americans share, but don’t feel like they have a voice that is significant enough to make a difference. Luckily, we have leaders like Hathaway to speak on behalf of women and encourage positive changes to be made.

Many know Hathaway as an award-winning actress, but her role as a UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador has transformed her into an empowering female who advocates for positive change. Her speech focuses on the importance of lightening the burden of mothers and making role parents have in the household more equal and less based on stereotypes. It is important for everyone to share this passion that Hathaway has in order to establish closer bonds within families and eliminate guilt women feel for taking time off work to be a mother. It is also necessary to eliminate the stubborn stereotype that women should be the primary caretaker of the home and allow men to embrace the beauty of fatherhood.

Backlash on Emma Watson’s Vanity Fair Shoot: Feminism or Hypocrisy?

This week, BuzzFeed posted on its Snapchat story👻 an article about Emma Watson’s Vanity Fair shoot. While the article focuses on Watson who opens up about her metamorphosis from child star to leading woman, critics were more focused on her breasts and disputed on how a feminist could do such a thing. Was it hypocritical of Watson to reveal herself in such a way? BuzzFeed comments, “Since then, several articled have been published objectifying Watson. The Sun published an article with the headline “Beauty and the breasts.”

The Telegraph writes about Daily Mail columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer who tweeted a picture of the page, writing: “Feminism, feminism… gender wage gap… why oh why am I not taken seriously… feminism… oh, and here are my tits!” According to CNN She later defended her tweet, saying Watson “complains that women are sexualised and then sexualises herself in her own work. Hypocrisy.”

Emma Watson, as featured in the March 2017 issue of Vanity Fair

Talking about how important her role is in the upcoming film Beauty and the Beast, Watson emphasized how important the approval of her mother Jacqueline and Gloria Steinem’s is.

“I couldn’t care less if I won an Oscar or not if the movie didn’t say something that I felt was important for people to hear.”

Emma Watson

As we all know about how Watson feels about empowering young girls, the type of backlash she received on her picture featured in the magazine was a bit surprising to the Beauty and the Beast star. Watson later comments to CNN saying, “The more I have spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. … For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” On a lighter note, although she received a lot of criticism for her picture, she gained a lot of support as well.

In an interview with Reuters, Watson, responded to the controversy by clarifying the definition of feminism to critics:9

“It just always reveals to me how many misconceptions and what a misunderstanding there is about what feminism is,” she said. “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality. I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it.”

So what does Gloria Steinem, arguably the most high-profile feminist, think about this controversy? According to CNN once more,

Steinem laughed at the notion that Watson was a “bad feminist” because she appeared in a revealing photo.

“Feminists can wear anything they f****** want,” Steinem told TMZ. “They should be able to walk down the street nude and be safe.”

Traveling the Entire Globe in Less Than 2 Years

Who hasn’t dreamed of traveling the world? Experiencing new places and cultures,  backpacking through tremendous mountains or enjoying the beauty of white sand beaches. There’s an endless amount of opportunities when it comes to the adventures of being a traveler.

At the age of 27, Cassie De Pecol has become the youngest person to travel to all the countries in the world. De Pecol spent a little over 18 months traveling the globe, visiting country after country.  She is the first woman to achieve this amazing task. Aside from being a woman, she is also American, born in the state of Connecticut.

Her travels began in her college years when she studied abroad to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It was in 2010 when she and her brother decided to begin to see more of the world. It was a sum of  $2,000  that enabled her to begin her travels. She traveled to countries in Europe and later Turkey. Aside from the money she initially saved she was able to continue to travel through working jobs at eco B&B’s and resorts. At the end of this two year trip, De Pecol visited around 25 countries. De Pecol titled her entire travel story “Expedition 196” and was able to share her story at The World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon.

A lot of readers who have come across her story are curious as to how a journey as large as Expedition 196 was able to happen financially. De Pecol worked in many of the countries she visited throughout the 18 months of travel. The majority of funding came from sponsors that believed her passion and story should be shared with the rest of the world.

Nothing is impossible, and De Pecol is a living example of this. With lots of effort and self-motivation, she was able to fulfill her dream of getting to know more of the world we live in. It is spectacular women like herself that remind us that there is always a way to achieve your goals. Not only did she live out her dream, but she became an inspiration to everyone who reads her story.

Noteworthy Women encourages everyone, both men and women to take the stories of remarkable women such as Cassie De Pecol and use them as motivational reminders that we should always search for more: more knowledge, more meaningful experiences, and more growth. We congratulate Cassie on her amazing achievement and can’t wait to hear what’s next on her agenda!

You can follow Cassie’s Instagram to take a look at some of her travel pictures! You an also check out her Twitter!

Female Students Stand Up Against Campus Sexual Assault

When people think of college they think of care-free students having the time of their lives, meeting people, partying and taking classes somewhere in the midst of all that. Few people associate college with the risk of being sexually assaulted. However, that is changing as victims of sexual assault take a stand and fight to change the stigma attached to reporting cases of sexual assault.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center:

  •  One in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college
  •  More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault
  • 63.3% of men at one university who self-reported acts qualifying as rape or attempted rape admitted to committing repeat rapes

In most cases, victims of sexual assault often bury their secret for fear of shame, embarrassment and being labelled. But all this does is leave perpetrators free to continue committing sexual assault and having countless others fall victim to their behavior.

The 2015-documentary, The Hunting Ground, serves as a monumental exposé of rape culture on college campuses. The film encompasses personal stories of sexual assault victims who speak of the initial attack, the horrifying days and months that followed and the countless attempts to find justice.

The film brings to life the mission of two rape survivors who were determined to stand up against sexual assault. Annie Clark,  who was sexually assaulted before her classes even began at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Andrea Pino, who was also raped at the UNC- Chapel Hill campus during her second year, were brought together following their shared experiences of sexual assault as well as the lack of support and the mistreatment that came from university administration following report of the crimes.

Andrea Pino and Annie Clark

The film narrows in on universities reactions to reports of sexual assault, that their concern isn’t the student victim but the institution’s reputation. If cases of sexual assault are exposed then this increases the risk of detracting potential applicants from the university. And often, these universities are the biggest and most reputable ones in the nation. This results in university administration downplaying cases and often blaming victims as the cause of the problem.

After countless failed attempts to seek justice through the school and see attackers expelled, Andrea and Annie focused on researching everything to do with sexual assault. It was then they became familiar with Title IX. They started building a network of young women committed to raising awareness about rape on college campuses. After they filed their own Title IX complaint against UNC-Chapel Hill, this prompted a series of federal investigations into the college’s policy towards reports of sexual assault. This has resulted in much change within their college and began a ripple effect at other universities as they shared with other women and rape victims how to file their own Title IX complaints against their universities.

Together, Andrea and Annie have founded End Rape on Campus, which provides support and education to survivors and their communities. They have also released a book, We Believe in You, that features stories from 36 people of different backgrounds who experienced sexual assault on campus.

“Survivors have many different faces — they are men, they are women, they are folks in between — and they are people after their experiences” – Pino.

“The keys to ending sexual violence are early education and creating a culture that doesn’t blame the victim. This is the only crime in which the victim is the one that’s questioned, is the one that is not believed when they come forward” – Clark

Follow Andrea and Annie on Twitter to keep up-to-date with their latest projects and continued fight for an end to campus sexual assault.


Showtime Sunday: Hidden Figures

For our second Showtime Sunday feature, we are highlighting the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures. Released on January 6, 2017, the film was number one at the box office during its first two weekends of release and has now grossed over $140 million. The film is based on a true story of three incredibly intelligent African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1950s. These women are Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe).

There is a reason why this film has been nominated for three Oscars, two Golden Globes, and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Additionally, the film still has an approval rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 222 reviews. It is applauded for its intriguing story and phenomenal performances from actresses who bring the tensions of racism to light that have been unknown or forgotten for too long.

In this not-to-be-missed film, Katherine Johnson becomes the first African-American woman in the team to assist the Space Task Group of Al Harrison, surrounded by colleagues who are not particularly thrilled about her arrival. Not to mention, the building she works at has no bathrooms for people of color. After some time, Katherine becomes more acquainted with her colleagues and Harrison decides to abolish bathroom segregation after getting upset with Katherine that she is not at her desk since she has to walk to another building to use the bathroom. Despite this bathroom segregation abolishment, Katherine still faces segregation when she is forced to remove her name from reports that include the equation she creates to solve a complex mathematical equation, leading the space capsule to a safe re-entry.

Meanwhile, Dorothy is dealing with her rejection to be promoted to supervisor by Mrs. Mitchell. Dorothy is particularly upset about this because she has the work and responsibility of a supervisor without the pay and respect of one. Later, when Dorothy finds out that there is an installation of an electronic computer that could replace her co-workers, she goes to the machine and starts it. Nonetheless, she is rebuked by a librarian when she is later found in the white-only section of the library. It is not until Dorothy’s success finding the book FORTRAN that Mrs. Mitchell finally shows some respect for her by addressing her as Mrs. Vaughan.

While Katherine and Dorothy are standing up for their rights, Mary is doing the same by convincing a judge at court to allow her to attend the night classes in an all-white school in order to obtain her engineering degree.

“I plan on being an engineer at NASA, but I can’t do that without taking them classes at that all-white high school, and I can’t change the color of my skin. So I have no choice, but to be the first, which I can’t do without you, sir. Your honor, out of all the cases you gon hear today, which one is gon matter hundred years from now? Which one is gon make you the first?” – Mary Jackson

And these are just some examples of how Katherine, Dorothy and Mary, also known as the “human computers,” used their brilliance, confidence, and poise to cross the lines of gender and race to accomplish something extraordinary for the human race. It is for these reasons that they are known as American heroes.

The only drawback to this film is that we had to wait until 2017 to see it. The story of these real remarkable women and their contribution to NASA was widely unknown, or even forgotten, until this film was released. And we can’t forget about all the other women who have made exceptional contributions to U.S. history and NASA.


Follow these wonderful actresses on Twitter:  Taraji P. Henson |  Octavia Spencer | Janelle Monáe

Read about Hidden Figures on IMdB


Feature Friday: Malala Yousafzai

As one of the most famous and influential Pakistani activists for female education, Malala Yousafzai, has changed the game in feminism. In 2009, Malala wrote an anonymous blog that described the lifestyle under the Taliban. Later that year, she was discovered as the one behind the blog posts that became a documentary. This also put a target on Malala by the Taliban and she’s still targeted today.

Malala attended a school that her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, had founded. After the Taliban began attacking girls’ schools, she gave a speech in September 2008 titled, “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” According to BBC’s article, Malala was only 11 years old when her anonymous diary captivated audiences. She wrote under a pseudonym – Gul Makai, the name of a heroine from a Pashtun folk tale. Malala was able to document the chaos that her and her friends underwent while they saw students from their class dropping those classes due to the fear of being targeted by the militants. Malala and her family were then forced to flee the valley when a government military operation attempted to clear the region of militancy. Seen as a passionate campaigner, Malala consistently received support and encouragement in her activism from her parents. Her father was even the one who had the idea of starting a blog.

“For my brothers it was easy to think about the future,” Malala tells me when we meet in Birmingham. “They can be anything they want. But for me it was hard and for that reason I wanted to become educated and empower myself with knowledge.”

Once targeted by the Taliban, Malala was shot in the head in 2012, but survived and went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at age 18! BBC writes, “The bullet hit Malala’s left brow and instead of penetrating her skull it travelled underneath the skin, the length of the side of her head and into her shoulder”.

Malala’s diary: 3 January 2009:

“I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat.

My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taliban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools

Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taliban’s edict. My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict.”

“I didn’t want my future to be imprisoned in my four walls and just cooking and giving birth” – Malala

In 2009, a documentary was produced about Malala.  The Guardian reviews this film as, “No squeamish cultural relativism: women’s education is a must in Muslim countries, non-Muslim countries, everywhere, non-negotiable. Guggenheim’s film is inspiring.”

A fund has been set up in her name to help children in education around the world.

“She is an extraordinary young woman, wise beyond her years, sensible, sensitive and focused. She has experienced the worst of humanity, and the best of humanity – both from the medics who cared for her and the messages from many thousands of well-wishers.”

Showtime Sunday: Pray the Devil Back to Hell

Showtime Sunday will be made up of Noteworthy Women’s selection of films that include strong female roles either on camera or behind the scenes, and in this particular case, this film has both. Released in 2008, Pray the Devil Back to Hell is a documentary that focuses on the struggles and issues that occurred in Liberia through the course of the Second Liberian Civil War (1999-2003). One of the reasons why this film is so extraordinary is because of the inspirational women that made this film a possibility. Not only was the film directed and produced by women, the story itself highlights the efforts of the “Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace”.

The director of this eye-opening film is Gini Reticker.   Much of her career involved making films that have a focus on women and their involvement in efforts for social justice and human rights. You can read a quick description of her previous work and recognition here.

The producer of the film is Abigail E. Disney, she is a filmmaker who is also quite familiar with making films that focus on the same category of social justice issues.  Abigail is not only a recognized producer and director she has the honor of being an alumna of Yale, Stanford, and Colombia.

Together these women are the co-founders of Fork Films ” a New York-based production company that seeks to shed light, evoke compassion, stir action and build peace. She is the President and CEO, and Reticker is the Chief Creative Officer.” (Fork Films About Page)

As stated before, the film revolves around the social justice group Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. This group was organized under the leadership of many influential African women, among them is Leymah Gbowee, a recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Under her leadership, women in Liberia gathered in a sequence of peaceful protests that aimed to end the civil war. One of the most meaningful aspects of this movement was that the women that gathered came from different religions, something that in other cases would have made the cause more difficult to achieve. These women became a part of something that wanted peace as an end. Thousands of both Muslim and Christian women would go out and risk their lives by protesting and organizing sit-ins outside the Presidential Palace. While their country was being overrun by violence and fear, these women were able to support and encourage each other in a manner that lifted their voices higher than the noises of the war. They were able to fight violence with peace and ultimately created the beginning to a Liberia more empowered by women. Their efforts went so far that Liberia is currently under the Presidency of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, their first female President.

Noteworthy Women encourages our readers to go out and look for pieces such as Pray the Devil Back to Hell in order to be more aware of the struggles and accomplishments of spectacular women around the world! If you would like to know a little more about the film you can access a quick trailer or visit the official film website to find out where you can stream the entire film.



A Mother to Trees

The capacity for a woman to bring human life into this world is often thought of as her most significant and powerful role. However, not all women are born with the gift of fertility. For Saalumarada Thimmakka, being barren in Southern India was followed by scrutiny and ostracism. While Thimmakka could have let people’s damaging words affect her, she instead invested her energy into a life-long project that has since propelled her as a role model to the entire world.

 Saalumarada Thimmakka was born in a small town of rural India to a very poor family. Never having the opportunity to attend school, Thimmakka was running household chores at an early age and reared her family’s cattle and sheep. She met and married her husband, Sri Bikkala Chikkayya, who was also from poverty. It was not long into their marriage that the pair realized Thimmakka was infertile. The couple suffered from discrimination, stigma and ostracism, as having children in developing countries is considered the most significant role of a woman; the inability to fulfill this role classifies women as “worthless.”

 Thimmakka and her husband decided to plant trees as their children. Together, the couple planted hundreds of trees and cared and nurtured them the same way they would have biological children. What began as a way to deal with the grief of infertility, led to Thimmakka planting as many trees as possible with the encouragement of her husband. The couple, who are avid environmentalists, saw this act of tree planting as a way to serve the environment, country and humanity. And while this commitment to watering and guarding each and every tree did not help them escape the ruins of poverty, it instead led them to become role models to the whole community. Thimmakka’s woodland has almost 300 trees and stretches on both sides of the road for 4km from her village to the next, which is remarkable considering the area’s arid conditions. The couple would  have to lug water for several kilometers to ensure all trees were receiving ample amounts. Chikkayya has since passed but Thimmakka continues nurturing the trees and has no intentions of stopping.

The couple was recognized for their service throughout India and caught the attention of a then 14-year-old boy by the name of Sri Umesh. Umesh possessed the same love for nature and preservation. He requested adoption from his biological parents and has been following in Thimmakka’s footsteps ever since.

Now 105 years old, Thimmakka continues to dedicate her life to nature. The “Saalumarada Thimmakka International Foundation” trust was founded in 2014 as a means to continue Thimmakka’s missions of environmental preservation and selfless service. Her efforts have also led to her receiving multiple awards. She was also featured on BBC’s 100 Women in December 2016.


“How we planted and took care of the trees, everyone from children to the elderly should plant and grow trees. It will be beneficial for all of us.” – Thimmakka



“Openness is our greatest human resource.” 

What is openness, anyway? According to Rebecca Walker, speaker, writer, blogger and activist, openness is the ability to let go of one’s preexisting ideologies in order to see the world in a new and different light. In her TEDx talk, she says it is about accepting a new reality that is different from the ideas you were raised with. She features this quote on her website and it is apparent that she lives by it every day.

Rebecca Walker, Photo David Fenton, 2003

If anyone knows about openness, it is Rebecca Walker. She identifies herself as Black White and Jewish, which is also the name of her autobiography that was published in 2000. When she was born, she took her father Mel Levanthal’s last name, but decided to change it to her mother’s when she was 15. Her mother, Alice Walker, is an African-American author and her father is a Jewish American lawyer. Her parents divorced when she was a young child, so she spent time alternating between her father’s home in the Bronx in New York City and her mother’s home in San Francisco, California. Every two years, Walker switched between living in a largely Jewish environment to a largely African-American environment, which she describes as being extremely difficult but she also must have learned a lot about accepting different people and their cultures.

Walker learned about feminism at a young age from her mother, a world renowned author who campaigned for women’s rights and set up organizations to aid women. Ironically however, Walker describes she often felt abandoned by own her feminist mother because her priorities were her own work and self-fulfillment. In her Daily Mail article, Walker says, “A good mother is attentive, sets boundaries and makes the world safe for her child. But my mother did none of those things.” Walker’s mother even believed that children enslave their mothers and was not happy when her daughter told her she would have a son.

When Walker got accepted into Yale University, her mother asked why she would want to be educated at a “male bastion.” Luckily, Walker did not let her mother’s opinions stop her from speaking out about her beliefs and fighting for what she knew was right. Her openness and passion for empowering women inspired her to co-found the Third Wave Foundation, a non-profit organization that encourages young women to get involved in activism and leadership roles. Her organization developed a campaign that registered over 20,000 new voters in the U.S. in its first year of existence.

In 1994, Walker was named one of the 50 future leaders in America. And last year, she was chosen as one of BBC’s 100 Women. Walker has written seven books, the most recent being Adé: A Love Story in 2013. She continues to speak about gender roles, identity politics, and stereotypes surrounding feminist beliefs. Her insights are particularly intriguing because she had to formulate her own view of feminism that was different than what her mother taught her as a child. Her ability to take a challenging life experience and turn it into an opportunity to inspire others is one reason why she is being recognized as a noteworthy woman.

Read more about Rebecca Walker’s story in this article she wrote on Daily Mail. All quotes are sourced from this article.  

Watch her TEDx video. 

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

A sister event to the Women’s March on Washington took place here in Austin, TX on Saturday, January 21, 2017. This March to the Capitol of Texas was to show the strength, power and courage and demonstrate the disapproval of the new president and his values in a peaceful march. An estimated 40,000 people were in attendance for this march. From daughters to granddaughters, welcomed as well as like-minded men, sons, grandsons. Letting the world know we women stand with all women! No woman is free unless all women are free.

A New York based chef names Breanne Butler was one of the women that helped organized the march which became to be known as the “Women’s March on Washington”. After Donald Trump’s inauguration, Butler’s friend, Bob Bland, posted on Facebook about organizing a march. Eager to help, Butler organized the groups and gained a large following of a couple thousand people. However, by the end of the weekend, the number went up to six figures. On the Washington march’s website, there’s a platform outlining its purpose. “Women’s rights are human rights” it reads, welcoming anyone to come along.

The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, and threatened many of us: immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, and survivors of sexual assault. This march was intended to send a bold message to the new administration on their first day in office, and to the world, that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us. We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all. HEAR OUR VOICE.

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