Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947), was a Sudanese-born former slave who became a Roman Catholic Canossian nun in Italy, living and working there for 45 years. In 2000, she was declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. For many years, Josephine Bakhita was a slave but her spirit was always free and eventually that spirit prevailed.
Rachel Corrie (1979-2003) was a 23-year-old American peace activist from Olympia, Washington, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on March 16th 2003, while undertaking nonviolent direct action to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition.
Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951) was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cancer cells, taken without her knowledge, became one of the most important tools in medicine, with damaging consequences for her family who today can’t afford access to the health care advances their mother’s cells helped make possible.
In 2002, Pakistani Mukhtar Mai (1972-) was gang raped on the orders of a village council to avenge her brother’s supposed misconduct. She has since become an international figure, praised worldwide for her courage to talk against the crime and her legal struggle to bring the culprits to justice.
Hannah Szenes (or Chana or Hannah Senesh) (1921-1944) was born in Budapest, Hungary, to an assimilated Jewish family, the daughter of an accomplished playwright and journalist. Executed in her native land at the age of 23, she became a symbol of idealism and self-sacrifice. Her poetry, made famous in part because of her unfortunate death, reveals a woman imbued with hope, even in the face of adverse circumstances. She was a symbol of courage in one of the darkest times of modern history.
Michi Nishiura Weglyn (1926-1999) wrote the landmark 1976 book, Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps. A former costume designer for the popular Perry Como Show in the 1950s, she was herself incarcerated at age 16 in a camp at Gila River, Arizona, a fact that lent authority and emotional power to this highly regarded work. After the book was published, she became a well known activist in the Japanese American community.