You probably know her story. She was a beautiful young woman who stood out when Persian King Xerxes was selecting a wife. She came from a Jewish family, a fact she hid when she agreed to marry the king. As Queen, Esther saw her people oppressed and plotted against by other politicos in the king's court. She was able, however, to leverage her position and her favor with her husband to not only save her uncle's life but to also protect the entire Jewish people. She boldly approached the throne, something that normally would have resulted in an immediate death sentence even for the queen. Her story is chronicled in the eponymous book of the Bible.
2. Florence Nightingale
At 17, she felt God calling her to serve others. She tended to soldiers in Crimea and went on to revolutionize the field of nursing. She could have led a cushy, luxe life with her wealthy family, but felt from early on that denying that life enabled her to more deeply commit to God's work for her. In a time when women had almost no property rights, she was expected to marry to ensure her class standing—not enter a field that was viewed as lowly. Caring more for the lives of others than what others thought of her life, she pressed on to become the health hero we remember today, training other nurses and healing thousands. (More on Florence here).
3. Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth epitomized what it means to fight for freedom. Born into slavery, Truth was sold at age nine along with a flock of sheep for a mere hundred dollars when her first owner died. She was sold three more times, fell in love, had a daughter named Diana before she was forced into an unwanted marriage and had three more children. Eventually, she escaped slavery, with her youngest daughter in tow. She sued her past owner for the illegal sale of her son and became the first black woman to win such a suit against a white man. Sojourner used her freedom to relentlessly advocate for abolition and women's rights. In her Ain't I A Woman speech, she leveraged the rhetoric being used against women, namely an interpretation of Genesis that blamed Eve entirely for the downfall of humanity, by cleverly saying, “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they're asking to do it, the men better let them." Sojourner's conversion to Christianity came with a fire that burned brightly for the Lord, drawing many to her who would listen to her recount slave life and advocate for abolition and women's rights based on Biblical truths.
4. Lilias Trotter
She came from a wealthy, well-educated London family and had an incredible talent for painting. As her art flourished, many encouraged her to commit her life fully to artistic endeavors. An art critic and friend said if she would do so, "she would be the greatest living painter and do things that would be Immortal." Instead, she put a pause on her painting career - if she was going to devote her life to one thing fully, it would be to loving the Lord. After spending years canvasing the streets of London, helping prostitutes recover their lives by equipping them with new employable skills, Lilias moved to North Africa and lived out her life in Algiers, despite her deteriorating health. Notably, Lilias adapted what she stated was the Westernized approach to evangelism to actually fit the culture of Algiers. She learned Arabic, joined forces with Arabic scribes to do writings that accompanied her Biblically-inspired paintings, spoke scripture to traditional drum beats, and wrote a devotional guide tying 7 I Am statements to the "sincere hunger for things of the spirit" in Sufi mysticism.
5. Lin Zhao
Baptized at 15, Lin became a Christian and a member of the Chinese Communist Party party early in her life. "To patriotic young people, the “new democracy” that the Communists promised seemed like a hopeful antidote to the corrupt, inept, and repressive rule of Chiang Kai-shek. And Lin Zhao, like many others, saw a direct connection between Christianity and the CCP’s struggle against the forces of evil in Chinese society." When she began to see corruption and abuse of power in the ranks of the CCP, she became disenchanted with the party and eventually joined her friends who had disagreed with the party and were sentenced to hard labor. She was tortured and imprisoned for many years, under great duress of depression and suicidal ideation. In prison, she wrote Christian devotionals, letters, and poems, using her own blood as ink and sheets and clothing as paper. She refused to recant her beliefs in God and in justice for all people and paid the ultimate price.