Compassion in Action - Women of Compassion

Women of Compassion

Throughout history, many women have sacrificed much and given their all to help make this world a better place. During Compassion in Action, we are highlighting real women who, through their compassion, have contributed in great ways to our world. Whether they changed lives through political advocacy for equal rights, inspired others with their art, or saved lives in the medical profession, it is our hope that their lives can serve as an inspiration for us all. Through the CIA website, table tents in the dining hall, and posters around campus, we will be profiling these amazing Women of Compassion.

Mother Catherine McAuley1.  Mother Catherine McAuley (1778-1841) – Foundress of the Sisters of Mercy and lifelong advocate for women and children. Starting in Dublin, Ireland, she opened a large house for religious, educational, and social services for women and children. In order to further her mission, Catherine founded the Sisters of Mercy, dedicated to service to the poor, and in her lifetime opened multiple houses across Ireland and England.


Clara Barton2.  Clara Barton (1821-1912) – Foundress of the American Red Cross. During the Civil War, Clara served as a field nurse, assisting surgeons, and providing food and medical supplies to soldiers in the field. After the war, she coordinated a national effort to find soldiers missing in action. Inspired by her later work in Europe and the world of the International Red Cross, Clara became the founder and first president of the American Red Cross.


Mary Breckinridge3.  Mary Breckinridge (1881-1965) – Foundress of the Frontier Nursing Service and foremost pioneer in the development of American midwifery. After losing both her children and husband, Mary dedicated her life to improving the health and quality of life for children in rural areas. Through the Frontier Nursing Service, a project that was initially funded entirely through her own personal funds, she trained hundreds of nurse-midwives and served thousands of families in rural Kentucky.


Antoinette Blackwell4.  Antoinette Blackwell (1825-1921) – First woman minister of a recognized denomination, and leader in the women’s rights movement for suffrage. Antoinette worked throughout her life to validate women's public role by challenging traditional barriers that restricted them. She studied theology in college, and despite being denied a preacher’s license because she was a woman, went on to serve as a pastor, serving as a role model for young women seeking a life in ministry.


Gertrude Belle Elion5.  Gertrude Belle Elion (1918-1999) – Nobel Prize winner. Gertrude was one of the nation’s most distinguished research scientists for her work to combat diseases. She has created drugs to combat leukemia, gout, malaria, herpes, and autoimmune disorders. She helped create a system that led to the development of the AIDS drug, AZT, and created drugs to cause remissions in childhood leukemia, and immunosuppressant agents to assist in successful organ transplants.


Aung Sun Suu Kyi6.  Aung Sun Suu Kyi (1945-present) – Winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. After returning to Burma, she witnessed the brutal rule of the military leadership. Her passion for human rights led her to begin a campaign of nonviolent struggle for human rights and democracy. She was elected Prime Minister in 1990, however, was placed under house-arrest before taking office by the military regime. She was awarded numerous awards, including the Nobel Peace price for unrelenting work for peace, despite being under house arrest for 14 of the last 20 years.


Harriet Tubman7.  Harriet Tubman (1820-1913) – “Conductor” and organizer of the Underground Railroad credited with helping as many as 300 slaves to freedom. She created a system of spies with freed slaves to assist in getting other slaves across union lines. After the war, she devoted herself to caring for orphaned and invalid Blacks, and worked to promote the establishment of freedmen's schools in the South.


Alice Paul8.  Alice Paul (1885-1977) – Leader in the movement for Women’s Suffrage and co-author of the Lucretia Mott Amendment, later known as the Equal Rights Amendment. She obtained several college degrees, including three law degrees. Alice dedicated her life to the single cause of securing equal rights for women, including organizing a march up Pennsylvania Avenue for women’s suffrage, and getting imprisoned several times for protesting, where she protested her confinement with hunger strikes and had to be forcibly fed by her captors.


Eleanor Roosevelt9.  Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) – First Lady, U.S. Delegate to the United Nations. Eleanor threw off the confines of traditional gender roles and the restrictions placed on her by her privileged upbringing in favor of service, political, and reform work. She energized and expanded the role of First Lady, advocating within the party and nationally for civil and human rights issues. After her husband’s death, she continued to be active in politics, serving as a delegate to the U.N., and was largely responsible for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948.


Virginia Apgar10.  Virginia Apgar (1909-1974) – One of the few women admitted to Columbia University of Physicians and Surgeons in 1930 and creator of the Apgar test for newborns. With this test, physicians are now able to easily and quickly identify the critical health needs of a newborn. Later, she became a senior executive with the National March of Dimes Foundation, and spent her time working to generate public support and funds for research on birth defects.


Emily Blackwell Elizabeth Blackwell11.  Emily (1826-1910) and Elizabeth (1821-1910) Blackwell – The Blackwell sisters became the first two British-American physicians, despite pressure and lack of acceptance from medical schools at that time. They later went on to open the first hospital for and staffed entirely by women, and then a women’s medical college that trained more than 350 physicians in its 31 years. Their hospital still remains as Beth Israel Medical Center.


Maya Ying Lin12.  Maya Ying Lin (1959-present) – Architect most famous for her design of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial at the age of 21. Among her other works include the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama; the Langston Hughes Library in Clinton, Tennessee; the Museum for African Art in New York City; and The Women’s Table at Yale University.



Gloria Yerkovich13.  Gloria Yerkovich (1942-present) – Creator of CHILDFIND, a national registry of missing children, which became the prototype for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. This registry was developed during her own search when Gloria’s own child was abducted, when she realized that a missing piece was a way for abducted children to find help. The awareness she brought to the issue led to the development of the 1982 Omnibus Victims Protection Act and the Missing Children’s Act.


Dr. Mary Walker14.  Dr. Mary Walker (1832-1919) – First woman to receive the Medal of Honor for her work as physician and Civil War field surgeon, and women’s rights advocate. She lectured throughout the U.S. and abroad on women's rights, dress reform, health and temperance issues, and sexual and political equality. Because of her unconventional work, her Medal of Honor was revoked, but later reinstated posthumously in 1977 by the Army Board who recognized that Dr. Mary Walker was the victim of sex discrimination.


Susette La Flesche15. Susette La Flesche (1854-1903) – Daughter of the Chief of the Omaha Native American Tribe, Susette campaigned tirelessly for Native American rights, and became the first Native lecturer and published artist and writer. Her advocacy led to the passage of legislation aimed at improving the position of Native Americans.



Rosa Parks16. Rosa Parks (1913-1995) – Known as “the mother of the civil rights movement” for her leadership in organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Following the boycott, Parks worked for many years for Congressman John Conyers and later founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development to offer guidance to young African-Americans in preparation for leadership and careers.


Annie Dodge Wauneka17. Annie Dodge Wauneka (1910-1997) – Tribal leader of the Navajo Nation, first Native American recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work as a public health activist. She was the second woman elected to the tribal council, and in her three terms in office, advocated for and increased awareness of medical concerns, housing and sanitation within her tribe.


Dorthea Dix18. Dorthea Dix (1802-1887) – Mental Health advocate who lobbied for compassionate treatment of the mentally ill, and changed the way the country viewed mental illness. After seeing the conditions of the mentally ill in jails, she lobbied for separate housing and humane treatment for the mentally impaired. Her work spread throughout the country and into Europe.


Annie Oakley19. Annie Oakley (1860-1926) – Wild West frontierswoman, professional marksman, and advocate for equal opportunities and the right to defend ones safety for women. She believed in fairness, justice, equal opportunities for women and the right to defend oneself against threat in home or street. She gave freely of her time money and talents, and used the gifts she was given to a higher purpose.


Florence Wald20. Florence Wald (1917 - 2008) – Foundress of the Hospice Movement in America, and former Dean of Nursing at New York University. She championed the role, importance and value of nursing with regard to end of life patient care. This care, like compassion itself, extended to the family of the dying patient. She established the first palliative care unit in 1971.

21. Dolores Huerta (1930-present) – Cofounder and first vice president of the United Farm Workers, Dolores is the most prominent Chicana labor leader in the United States. As the legislative advocate, she helped to pass historic legislation fulfilling the rights of the millions of farm workers. Similarly, as negotiator for the United Farm Workers, she obtained many “firsts” pertaining to job rights, benefits, and safety for farm workers.


Septima Poinsette Clark22. Septima Poinsette Clark (1898–1987) – Advocate for African Americans in the Civil Rights movement through the creation of education programs geared towards literacy and voting rights; She viewed literacy as the key to change, and dedicated her life to education and advocacy. For this, she received the Living Legacy Award in 1979.



Jane Addams23. Jane Addams (1860-1935) – Foundress of the U.S. Settlement House movement and 2nd woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her pacifist efforts in ending World War I. She championed the protection of immigrants, child labor laws and recreation facilities for children, industrial safety, juvenile courts, recognition of labor unions, woman suffrage, and world peace.


Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini24. Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917) – Founded the Roman Catholic Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, famous as the “the saint of the immigrants” during 3 decades of service in the U.S. She  founded schools, hospitals, and orphanages and saw them flourish in the aid of Italian immigrants and children. She was the first American citizen canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.


Bertha Holt25. Bertha Holt (1904 – 2000) – Pioneer in international adoption, co-founder of Holt International Children’s Service, and famous for her advocacy work in adoption and children’s welfare. She developed principles for the temporary care of children which are still used today as models, and frequently served as a national advisor in adoption and child welfare policy development.

Elisabeth Kubler Ross26.  Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) – Swiss-born American psychiatrist who pioneered the concept of providing psychological counseling to the dying. Her teachings and publications revolutionized the treatment of those nearing death, and her work on the stages of grief has been translated to treat loss of all kinds.

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