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Five female icons to celebrate during Women's History Month

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Women's History Month is a worldwide celebration that highlights the contributions of women in history and society and shows appreciation for women who have made their mark on the world. It's celebrated in March in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia and in October in Canada.

Here are five women who made an impact on our society:

Harriet Tubman

Born in Maryland around 1820, Harriet Tubman lived a hard life as a slave. In 1849, she escaped her master and used the Underground Railroad to make it north to Philadelphia and safety. During the next 11 years, she helped at least 300 other slaves to safety.

Tubman was well known and respected during her life, but after her death, she became an American icon. Often called the "Moses of her people," she was an inspiration to future generations of civil rights activists.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt is the longest serving First Lady in history, but she is known as much for her charitable involvement and activism as for that role. At a time when other first ladies were primarily hostesses, Roosevelt was revolutionary.

She held her own press conferences, was a prominent public speaker, had her own radio show and wrote newspaper and magazine columns. She sometimes stood in for her disabled husband at public appearances and influenced him to lobby for legislation on things like child welfare, housing reform and equal rights for minorities and women.

She continued her work after her husband died in 1945. In 1946, she was named a delegate to the newly-founded United Nations, and in 1947, she became the first chairman of the UN Commission on Human Rights, where she was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Roosevelt, who died in 1962, not only forever changed the role of First Lady but also forever changed the world with her activism. In 1968, she posthumously received the UN Human Rights Prize.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa may have appeared small and frail, but her legacy is big and strong. Born in Macedonia in 1910, she became a missionary at age 18. She went on to work in India, where she taught at the Loreto convent school in Calcutta.

On Sept. 10, 1946, she felt a calling from God to not just work with the poorest people in India, but to live among them. By 1950, she had established the Missionaries of Charity; it began with only 12 members but has grown to more than 4,500 who run dozens of orphanages, AIDS hospices and other charity centers throughout the world.

In 1979, she won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work, which made her name synonymous with compassion and charity. Even after her death in 1997, her memory remains a bright light in the world.

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc was only a teen when, in 1429, she led French armies against the English occupation of their country. Claiming she was guided by visions from God, she was a great strategist and leader who helped defeat a well-trained British army.

She was later captured, tried for heresy and found guilty in a trial that is one of history's most infamous. At age 19, she was burned at the stake, earning her a reputation as a heroine and martyr.

In 1920, she was canonized, making her one of the patron saints of France. To this day, she remains one of the most popular Roman Catholic saints.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe is best remembered as a blonde bombshell, famous off-camera and on from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. She was more than a sex symbol, though, and she refused to be stereotyped as a dumb blonde. She spoke out in support of equal rights for everyone and discussed politics with President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Senator Robert Kennedy.

Her death at age 36 is still the subject of much debate, and led to her becoming an icon. Now, 51 years after her death, she is as popular as ever. Monroe is one of the top-grossing dead celebrities, with image rights and other things earning her estate millions of dollars each year.


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