16 Girls Who Changed The World
Proof you’re never too young to make an impact.
By Caroline Bologna
Proof you’re never too young to make an impact.
By Caroline Bologna
Women’s History Month is a great time to look back on the achievements of women who have made waves over the years.
Just in the last few weeks, we’ve witnessed impressive teen activism following the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida ― an important reminder that you’re never too young to make a difference.
Below is a list of women who changed the world when they were young girls and teens. From promoting girls’ education to raising money for meaningful causes to marching for civil rights, their accomplishments are impressive and inspiring.
1 Ruby Bridges
2 Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani human rights advocate known for her activism in promoting education for girls. In 2012, when she was just 15 years old, a Taliban gunman shot her in an assassination attempt in retaliation for her work. At the age of 17, she received the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the youngest Nobel laureate.
3 Anne Frank
A German-born Jewish girl who moved to the Netherlands during the Nazi regime, Anne Frank rose to fame following the publication of the diary she kept while hiding from the Gestapo. After her family was discovered and arrested, Frank died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 at the age of 15. Her father Otto — the only surviving family member — was moved reading her diary after the war and published it posthumously. It has been translated into more than 60 languages.
4 Alexandra Scott
Alexandra Scott was diagnosed with a form of pediatric cancer called neuroblastoma shortly before her first birthday. When she was just 4 years old, she set up her first lemonade stand in her front yard to raise money for childhood cancer research. Inspired by her story, people around the world set up their own lemonade stands to raise money for her cause. By the time she died in 2004, she had raised $1 million. Her family continues her legacy through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
5 Claudette Colvin
Nine months before Rosa Parks’ famous arrest, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin stood up against segregation in Alabama by refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery. She was arrested, and a year later was one of the original plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, a case that led the U.S. Supreme Court to declare bus segregation laws in Alabama and Montgomery unconstitutional.
6 Bana Alabed
A Syrian girl named Bana Alabed grabbed the world’s attention with her series of heartbreaking tweets from inside the besieged city of Aleppo starting in 2016. Now 8 years old, Alabed continues to advocate for the people of Syria and draw attention to conditions in the war-torn country.
7 Jazz Jennings
Jazz Jennings was just 6 years old when she gave an interview to Barbara Walters for a television special about transgender children. Since that time, she’s continued to educate the world about what it means to be transgender. The LGBTQ activist and YouTube star has a TLC show called “I Am Jazz” and co-wrote a children’s book by the same name. Now 17, she regularly speaks out about issues affecting the trans community.
8 Audrey Faye Hendricks
In 1963, 9-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks joined thousands of fellow kids and teens in the Children’s Crusade, a nonviolent demonstration in Birmingham to stand against segregation. Hendricks was among the hundreds of students arrested and spent about a week in jail for her activism. Images from the Children’s Crusade — which highlighted the violent response from local authorities — caused outrage around the world.
9 Capri Everitt
At the age of 11, a Canadian girl named Capri Everitt set out to raise money for orphaned and abandoned children. She achieved this by traveling with her family to 80 countries, where she sang each national anthem in the national language. Proceeds from her fundraiser went to SOS Children’s Villages.
10 Mary Shelley
English author Mary Shelley was just 18 years old when she wrote Frankenstein, which many credit as the origin of science fiction. Thus, Shelley has been called “the teenage girl who invented science fiction.”
11 Yusra Mardini
At the age of 18, Yusra Mardini made history as one of the members of the first Olympic refugee team in Rio de Janeiro. While fleeing Syria the previous summer, she helped save the lives of fellow refugees after the overloaded dinghy taking them to Greece started to sink. She jumped into the Aegean Sea and helped push their vessel to safety.
12 Margaret E. Knight
When she was 12 years old, Margaret Knight witnessed a horrific accident involving a mechanical loom at a cotton mill. To prevent harm from befalling other mill workers, she invented a safety device for the machine, which many other mills adopted.
13 Amariyanna Copeny
When she was 8 years old, Amariyanna aka “Mari” Copeny of Flint, Michigan, wrote a powerful letter to President Barack Obama asking him to meet with her and others from the city during their visit to D.C. for the congressional hearings on the water crisis. Obama responded by saying he would be going straight to Flint to learn more about the public health crisis and see what could be done. Over the past years, “Little Miss Flint” has become a well-known activist working to better her community. “Letters from kids like you are what make me so optimistic for the future,” Obama wrote in their correspondence.
14 Yuan Yuan Tan
Chinese ballet dancer Yuan Yuan Tan started representing her country in international competitions as a young teen. At 17, she became the the youngest ever principal dancer at the San Francisco Ballet, as well as the first Chinese dancer to earn that title in a major Western company. She gives talks around the world, inspiring young dancers to follow their artistic dreams.
15 Sylvia Mendez
At 8 years old, Sylvia Mendez was instrumental in a landmark 1946 desegregation case, which helped pave the way for the civil rights movement and future integration. Mendez v. Westminster challenged the policy that Latino students like Mendez, who was of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, couldn’t attend “whites-only schools” and had to go to so-called “Mexican schools.” Following the success of the case, Mendez became one of the first Latino children to attend a previously all-white school and grew up to become an acclaimed civil rights activist.
16 Bindi Irwin
Bindi Irwin carried on her father Steve Irwin’s conservation legacy following his death in 2006. When she was 8 years old, she launched “Bindi the Jungle Girl” to encourage more kids to get interested in animals and wildlife conservation. She has continued to make TV appearances, published books and furthered her father’s causes.