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Rebel Girls Lead!

Explore four different Rebels who may not have lived in the same time or place, but who are connected to each other by their rebel spirit and vision. Meet the leaders: Qiu Jin, Hatshepsut, Simone Veil, and Lupe Gonzalo!

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls. It’s based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This story was produced by Robin Lai with sound design and mixing by Craig Billmeier and Robin Lai. It was written by Katie Sprenger. Fact-checking by Joe Rhatigan. Narration by Erica Durham. Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi. Thank you to the whole Rebel Girls team who make this podcast possible. Stay rebel!


Hey Rebels, sit back, relax, close your eyes if you want to.

We’re about to explore four different Rebels who may not have lived in the same time or place, but they’re connected to each other by their rebel spirit and vision.

While you listen, see if you can find the connections between these stories as we take you around the world and back again, traveling through time, space and possibilities…

First, we travel back in time to ancient Egypt to meet a pharaoh who history TRIED to erase…

Long before Cleopatra, a woman ruled Egypt for twenty-five years. Her name was Hatshepsut and she was the first woman to ever be- come pharaoh.

At the time, the idea of a woman being pharaoh was so strange that Hatshepsut had to act as though she was a man in order to convince Egyptians that she was their legitimate leader. She proclaimed herself king and not queen and canceled the female suffix in her name; she wore men’s clothes and sometimes even put on a false beard!

Hatshepsut reigned longer and more successfully than any other pharaoh in all of Egyptian history. But apparently that wasn’t enough. Twenty years after she died, someone tried to erase her from history. Statues of her were smashed, and her name was removed from the records.

Why? Because, a female pharaoh freaked people out. What if her success encouraged other women to seek power?

Thankfully, it’s not so easy erase the memory of someone immortalized in stone.

Enough traces of her life and work remained for modern archeologists to piece together her story.

Hatshepsut’s mummy, wrapped in linen and perfumed with resins, had been removed from her original grave and hidden, but it was found in the Valley of the Kings a few years ago. 

Next, a Rebel who devoted her life to ending war…
Simone Veil

Simone could not understand war. “Why would one country want to attack another?” she asked. She was a Jewish girl living through the Second World War—one of the most violent conflicts the world had ever seen—and her whole family had been deported by the Nazis to a concen- tration camp.

By the time the war came to an end, Simone had lost her mom, her dad, and her brother. She had witnessed so much injustice that she felt a great urge to do something about it. She studied law and became a judge in France.

Simone got married to a man who worked in aeronautics. One day the French president visited their home to ask her husband if he would like to join the government. By the end of the president’s visit, it was Simone who was offered the job. She became the health minister in the president’s cabinet.

When France and other countries decided to unite their citizens in the European Union, Simone ran to become a member of the European Par- liament. She won—and even became its first president!

As president, Simone focused on reconciliation, even when that meant working with Germany, whose Nazi regime had once caused so much pain to her people. But she knew war was not—and had never been—an answer. She believed that peace and justice were worth fighting for. Simone thought that was what the European dream was about, and she devoted her life to it.

“The idea of war was for me something terrible,” Simone Veil once told a journalist. “The only possible option was to make peace.” 

Now, a Chinese feminist whose fight for equality made her a national hero…
Qiu Jin

Once, a girl named Qiu Jin followed her father’s orders and married a wealthy merchant whom she didn’t love. Unsurprisingly, theirs was not a happy marriage.

“That man is worse than an animal … He treats me as less than nothing,” Qiu Jin wrote. She dreamt of becoming a famous poet, but her husband made fun of her and told her she’d never reach her goals.

At that time, China was evolving from an empire ruled by a dynasty into a republic run by the people. Every day, revolutionary groups were formed and underground newspapers spread new ideas about the future of the country. Qiu Jin wanted to be part of this transformation, so she left her abusive husband and moved to Japan.

There, she educated herself about women’s rights, and she learned that the ancient practice of foot-binding was hurting millions of Chinese girls.

When she returned home, Qiu Jin founded the Chinese Women’s Jour- nal. She also began encouraging women to overthrow the Qing dynasty. “With all my heart,” she wrote, “I beseech and beg my two hundred mil- lion countrywomen to assume their responsibility as citizens. Arise! Arise!

Chinese women, arise!”

Qiu Jin opened a school that was supposed to train sports teachers but actually trained revolutionaries. She was warned that government officials were on their way to arrest her, yet she refused to run away. “I’m willing to die for the cause,” she said.

She was executed, but she became a national hero and a symbol of women’s independence in China and all over the world. 

Our final story is of a woman from Guatamala who refused to step aside when her people weren’t being treated right! 
Lupe Gonzalo

Every mile of the long, difficult journey from Guatemala to the United States, Lupe thought of her children back home. She missed them terribly but hoped that the money she would earn as a migrant worker in the United States could give them a better life.

Lupe found work picking fruits and vegetables in Immokalee, Florida. She spent hours in the fields lugging heavy baskets of tomatoes and peppers in temperatures well over a hundred degrees. But even after filling baskets all day, she earned only enough to pay for food and a bed in a crowded trailer.

Worse than the labor was the way she and other women workers were treated. Sometimes employers refused to pay them. Sometimes they touched Lupe and her fellow workers in ways that made them angry, afraid, and uncomfortable. They said ugly things to them and abused them. Lupe knew she and the other workers deserved to be treated with respect. One day, she decided she could be silent no longer.

Lupe joined a group called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

She helped start a project called the Fair Food Program. This program asked grocery stores and restaurants to buy food only from farms that paid workers fairly and gave them safe and healthy working conditions. Thanks to Lupe and her fellow organizers, some of the biggest food companies in the world have committed to the Fair Food Program, and countless workers’ lives are better. 

So, did you figure out the connection? Think for a moment.  What did all these women, from all over the world and all throughout history have in common? 

They were all leaders. They inspired people to work hard, to think differently, and to treat each other with more respect. They are connected by this: their common drive to make the world a better place. 

The Rebel Girls bond is strong and we wish you dreams full of inspiration…