"If there are any little girls out there who stayed up late to watch, let me just say: I may become the first woman president, but one of you is next," Hillary Clinton told the Democratic National Convention audience via satellite Tuesday night.
This remark, said in a tone one might use to talk to babies, was the cherry on top of a slate of speakers who lauded Clinton’s landmark accomplishment as the country’s first female presidential nominee of a major party. The word “historic” was on everyone’s lips as Democrats claimed moral superiority for their support of a woman for president.
Never mind the fact that she is a serial liar embroiled in multiple scandals, or that behind closed doors she is insolent and disrespectful, or that she and her husband have gotten rich by blatant corruption and theft.
Yes, never mind all that. Young girls should still look up to Clinton as their hero who broke the glass ceiling.
When I was little, I wouldn’t have wanted Clinton as a role model. I was emboldened by women who were powerful and successful not because of their gender, but because of their rock-solid values and relentless hard work. Here are five women who are braver, stronger and more inspiring than the Democratic nominee.
They come with a bonus: you don’t have to shove their moral shortcomings under your mental rug when you tell your daughters about them.
1. Malala Yousafzai
A champion for girls’ education in Pakistan since she was a young teenager, Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban when she was 15 years old on her school bus. But she wasn’t silenced. She spoke at the United Nations on her 16th birthday, established the Malala Fund (which has poured millions of dollars into funding secondary education for girls in developing countries) and won the Nobel Peace Prize.
2. Ruby Bridges
Six-year-old Bridges was the first black student to attend a segregated all-white elementary school. Every day she walked to school escorted by federal marshals while racists screamed threats at Bridges and threw things at her. Teachers refused to teach her and parents took their children out of Bridges’ class, but she remained remarkably strong and never gave up the fight for integration.
3. St. Kateri Tekakwitha
The first Native American saint in the Catholic faith, Tekakwitha suffered from a bout of smallpox that killed her entire family. When she was 19 years old, she converted to Christianity as a young woman and refused marriage, facing ostracism in her Mohawk village. She fled her home and spent two months canoeing 200 miles through the wilderness to get to a Catholic mission. She died at age 24 from disease.
4. Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell
Blackwell was the first woman in the United States to earn a medical degree. She was admitted to the Geneva Medical School after male administrators jokingly voted to accept her. Defying all expectations, she graduated top of her class and spent her life treating poor children and women in Europe and America. She even opened her own practice and women’s medical college with her sister, who became a doctor as well. She became blind in one eye after catching a disease from a young patient, but continued to pave the way for women’s medical education her whole life.
5. Nelly Bly
Elizabeth Cochran, known by her pen name Nellie Bly, broke barriers and uncovered important stories as one of the country’s first investigative journalists. Angered by a local paper’s column that said women should only cook, clean and raise children, Cochran began writing pieces under the Bly name. When papers tried to assign Bly the women’s beat, she resisted. She soon gained national prominence for her groundbreaking stories about mental health institutions, prisons, poverty and more.
The list of female trailblazers more inspiring than Clinton could fill entire libraries. Don’t let commentators paint Clinton as the best woman to ever walk the earth; our young girls deserve better than her.