Anna Walentynowicz

Mother of Polish independence

Poland’s escape from Soviet rule began with Solidarity, a movement for the rights of workers that Anna Walentynowicz, a welder and crane operator, helped create in 1980. In retaliation for her activism, she was fired that year from the Lenin Shipyard. Her colleagues went on strike to get her job back, sparking a mass resistance that culminated in the Gdansk Agreement, which allowed the first free-trade union in communist Eastern Europe. Within a year, the Solidarity union had nearly 10 million members, with Walentynowicz as one of its leaders. The triumph in Gdansk precipitated the fall of communism, a decade later. It also led generations of Poles to see Walentynowicz as the mother of their independence.


Nawal El Saadawi

For a more equal Egypt

For Egyptian psychiatrist, feminist and novelist Nawal El Saadawi, prison was a rebirth. The 1972 publication of her fundamental work of feminist criticism, had cemented her reputation as a fearless commentator on women’s rights in Egypt. In 1981, she was jailed for “crimes against the state” for her outspoken views, including her criticism of female circumcision. For El Saadawi, the sentence was a clear demonstration of the link between political power and patriarchy. With eyebrow pencil and a roll of toilet paper, she wrote of her experience: published in 1983, became the basis of a continued body of work that has shaped the discourse on

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