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Book Excerpt: Stories of Revolutionary Women Who Shaped History Around the World

Rad Women

In their new book "Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History," author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl invite you to travel across the world, and across time, to learn about 40 bold women who have changed the world in very different ways. After publishing an American version, this international collection was created to expand readers' understanding of the world while showcasing the incredible impact women have had on history. Below, read an excerpt, telling the stories of three "rad" women from different corners of the world. But remember this is only a small sample, as the authors remind us that "for every story you read, there are hundreds (thousands!) more to be hold."

Check out our interview with author Kate Schatz HERE.

Rad Women: Kasha Jacqueline Nagabasera
Rad Women: Kasha Jacqueline Nagabasera |  Miriam Klein Stahl

Kasha Jacqueline Nagabasera
April 12, 1980 (Kampala, Uganda)

“I’m full of rage, but I won’t get a gun and fight. I’ll use my words to break down the system of oppression.”

It was a teacher who first suggested that Kasha Jacqueline Nagabasera was a lesbian. Young Kasha Jacqueline didn’t even know what “gay” or “lesbian” was: she was just being herself. She liked to wear boy’s clothes and write love letters to girls. 

Wearing “boy’s clothes” doesn’t make a person gay, but in a culture with strict rules about what boys and girls should and shouldn’t wear, it did make Kasha Jacqueline stand out. And because homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, as it is in 38 other countries, this teacher informed the girl and her parents that she had to leave the school. 

This discrimination continued for her entire childhood: she was beaten, bullied, and expelled from schools. These experiences made her into the fearless leader she is today. The “Mother of the Gay Rights Movement” in Uganda began speaking out against homophobia in college. At age 23, she founded Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), one of Uganda’s main lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) organizations. 

In 2009, the Ugandan government proposed a law making punishments for people suspected of being homosexual much worse; being gay was even punishable by death in some cases. Violent homophobic attacks on LGBTI Ugandans increased, and popular newspapers exposed people who were gay or suspected of being gay. When a paper published pictures of Kasha Jacqueline and her friends, taken without permission, they fought back by suing the newspaper—and won. It was a significant victory, but one of Kasha Jacqueline’s close friends, activist David Kato, was killed soon after. 

Kasha Jacqueline knew that continuing her fight meant risking her own life, but she had to carry on. She kept working with FARUG, and founded Bombastic, an online LGBTI magazine that was downloaded more than two million times in one year. She has testified before the United Nations and appeared on TV and radio, and continues to challenge unjust laws in Ugandan courts. She’s been arrested, attacked, and harassed, and moves from house to house, living in secret with friends and supporters. 

Kasha Jacqueline is one of the last prominent LGBTI activists living in Uganda; most others have fled the country or been killed. “If we give up now,” Kasha Jacqueline asks, “what will happen to the future?” 

Kasha Jacqueline has received human rights awards, and in 2015, she was featured on the cover of Time magazine’s European edition. She traveled to New York City to be the grand marshal of the world’s biggest gay pride parade. She loved celebrating there, but she wants the same freedom to love in her own country. And she will not stop fighting for it.

Rad Women: Quintreman Sisters
Rad Women: Quintreman Sisters |  Miriam Klein Stahl

Quintreman Sisters
Nicolasa: December 4, 1939 – December 24, 2013 (Alto Bio Bio, Chile)
Berta: 1930s (Alto Bio Bio, Chile)

“The land is our mother, and she is alive. We will defend and fight for her until the end.”
Nicolasa Quintreman

Berta and Nicolasa Quintreman belong to the Mapuche people, Chile’s largest indigenous group. The Mapuche have lived in the foothills of Chile’s Andes Mountains for more than 500 years. The two sisters lived peacefully in their village until the construction of a massive dam threatened their entire existence. Faced with having to leave their sacred land, the elderly sisters resisted. Their quiet fight for dignity launched a new environmental movement. 

During the 1980s a big corporation called Endesa wanted to build a 155-foot dam on the Bio Bio, a powerful river that is the ancestral home and economic heart of the Mapuche. Dams are massive structures that block rivers. Not every dam is harmful, but by blocking the flows of rivers, dams can destroy ecosystems. And when large areas of land are intentionally flooded, river-dwelling people are forced to move. 

Endesa’s dam could be built only if Berta, Nicolasa, and 93 other families in their Mapuche village agreed to leave their land. Endesa promised them new homes, jobs, and money if they did. Some families agreed to the deal, but Nicolasa and Berta refused, even when Endesa offered them over $1 million. The elderly sisters quickly became leaders in the movement and worked to convince other families to stand their ground. 

Their resistance was fierce but peaceful. They led marches and testified before congress. Dressed in their traditional colorful Mapuche clothing, Nicolasa and Berta confronted the leaders of Endesa directly. They cited Chilean laws intended to protect the land rights of indigenous people. The demonstrations gained worldwide attention, and the Chilean president and Endesa were embarrassed and angry. No one expected the Mapuche to resist like this—and it went on for over 10 years. 

But Endesa continued to pressure them. Police raided the homes of the Quintreman sisters and their neighbors, throwing countless people in jail for defending their land. As the years went by, more families agreed to leave, and the Quintreman sisters felt alone in their struggle. They were growing older, and Nicolasa went blind. In the end, Nicolasa struck a deal with Endesa: she would sell her land in exchange for the release of those being held as political prisoners for their protests. 

Although the Quintreman sisters’ resistance didn’t stop the dam, their efforts had a major impact. Chile’s congress strengthened the nation’s environmental protections, and the sisters inspired many other indigenous leaders and activists, who have successfully blocked 20 more environmentally damaging energy projects. These two elderly women from an isolated culture leave a legacy of dignity, showing us what it looks like to take a stand for your community and your planet.

Rad Women: Dame Katerina Te Heikōkō Mataira
Rad Women: Dame Katerina Te Heikōkō Mataira  |  Dame Katerina Te Heikōkō Mataira

Dame Katerina Te Heikōkō Mataira
November 13, 1932 – July 16, 2011 (Tokomaru Bay, New Zealand)

“Ko taku reo taku ohooho, ko taku reo taku māpihi mauria.”“My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul.”
Māori proverb

It takes only a single generation to lose a language, so if one generation of children grows up without learning and speaking a language, it can be lost forever. Around 6,000 languages are spoken in the world, and linguists (people who study language) believe that within the next century, nearly half will become extinct. When a language disappears, not just words are lost: histories, lullabies, prayers, and jokes vanish too. Thanks to Dame Katerina Te Heikoˉkoˉ Mataira and her devoted colleagues, we have not said haere ra (good-bye) to te reo Maˉ ori: the Maˉori language. 

The Maˉori people have lived on the islands of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean for hundreds of years. The 19th century brought many new settlers to New Zealand, and by 1840 it was a British colony. One hundred years later, there were a million Paˉkehaˉ, or non-Maˉori people, living there. At first, many settlers learned the Maˉori language so they could trade and negotiate. But eventually, the Paˉkehaˉ became the dominant population, and English became the primary language. Maˉori children were discouraged from speaking their own language in school and in public. Speaking English became necessary for survival. 

In 1971 a researcher’s report confirmed that only 5 percent of the Maˉori population spoke their mother tongue. The language was dying. Katerina Mataira decided it was time for the Maˉori people to take matters into their own hands. Katerina was born in Tokomaru Bay as part of the Ngaˉti Porou tribe. As a teacher and mother she knew education was the key to saving the Maˉori language and culture. She decided the Maˉori must set up their own learning institutions, and she dedicated her life to making that happen. 

Katerina and her friend Ngoi Peˉwhairangi developed a system for teaching te reo Maˉ ori. They traveled the country recruiting native Maˉori speakers to become tutors. Soon a network of tutors were teaching the disappearing language to young people and adults. This became a nationwide movement, and Katerina helped found Maˉori-language immersion schools called Kura Kaupapa Maˉori. She became known as the mother of the “Kura Kaupapa Movement,” and hundreds of these schools are still thriving today. Maˉori was made an official language of New Zealand in 1987, and a 2013 census reported that 21 percent of native Maˉori now speak it. 

Katerina was also an award-winning children’s book writer and the only person to write novels in Maˉori. In 2011, she received one of New Zealand’s highest honors when she was knighted and made a Dame for her service to the Maˉori language. She died later that year, leaving behind eight children, more than 50 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, a great-great-grandchild, and an enormous legacy.

Reprinted with permission from "Rad Women Worldwide," written by Kate Schatz and illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl, copyright (c) 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.

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