Eleanor Roosevelt

Although rules are meant to be broken, in history, all rule-breakers have been punished severely. However, some of them managed to break the rules and the law and still managed to secure a greater good for the human race. For these historical figures, the road to justice and equality wasn’t easy and came at the price of personal freedoms. Thankfully, these lawbreakers were able to change our world for the better. Here are ten such amazing ‘rebels’ –

#1. Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt wasn’t just the longest-serving First Lady in American history; she was also the most unorthodox one. At a time when women of all ages were expected to specialize in only a few societal roles, Eleanor Roosevelt took on the role of the country’s first “Activist First Lady” and opened up countless avenues for women, African Americans, and other oppressed factions of the society.

Throughout her tenure, she traveled across the world, engaged with disheartened masses, and promoted women’s entry into key political roles. Her newspaper column titled “My Day” was read by millions at a time when the country was embroiled in the gruesome World War II.

Here fight against racial injustice and gender discrimination made her an FBI target. Although she was never arrested, in a 3000-page FBI dossier, she was accused of being a Communist. Thankfully, these accusations from people with orthodox viewpoints didn’t deter Roosevelt from being brave and bold. To this day, quotes Eleanor Roosevelt are studied by aspiring leaders from all fields.

#2. Mohandas Gandhi

India’s foremost independence leader was also a notorious rule-breaker. In 1922, the ‘man of peace’ was arrested for treason and civil disobedience after a protest turned violent. After serving five years in prison, Gandhi continued challenging the British colonial rule and was arrested again in 1930 for challenging the cruel British-imposed salt tax. Thankfully, he was released a year later, and his “Quit India Movement” finally secured the country’s freedom in 1947.

#3. Irena Sendler

During World War II, while Nazi soldiers were hunting down Jewish citizens, Polish Catholic social worker Irena Sendler was busy rescuing them. She led a group of over ten people who rescued over 2,500 Jewish children from Warsaw’s ghettos. The Gestapo arrested her in 1943 and put her in the Pawiak Prison for her traitorous actions. Thankfully, she wasn’t executed as planned, and after the war ended, she was rewarded by many organizations for her brave actions.

#4. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., widely known as the poster-boy of the 1950’s US civil rights movement, was arrested five times, and some of his most influential speeches like the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” were composed in prison. Thankfully, his anti-establishment practices caused seismic impacts on race relations in the country and finally led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (abolishing racial segregation). The Nobel Peace Prize winner said it’s our moral responsibility to break discriminatory laws.

#5. Rosa Parks

Rosa Pars was another African American civil rights activist who was arrested for breaking an Alabamian law that demanded African American people give up their bus seats to white passengers whenever a bus was full. Her determination to retain her seat led to her arrest and triggered a 381-day boycott of Montgomery’s public transportation system. In 1956, the Supreme Court finally banned segregation on public vehicles.

#6. Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a social activist and women’s rights advocate from Pakistan. As a teenager from Northwest Pakistan, a region under the reign of the terrorist group called Taliban, it was illegal for Malala to go to school. She broke this law and was shot in her head by a gunman. Thankfully, she survived the vicious attack and has authored a bestselling book called ‘I am Malala.’ She is still an active voice for women’s rights and education.

#7. César Estrada Chávez

César Chávez was a labor activist who founded the early version of the United Farm Workers union in 1962. Chávez was arrested multiple times at protests where he advocated for the legal rights of farmworkers. Despite the lawmakers trying their best to suppress Chávez, he negotiated hundreds of contracts, which led to the state of California passing a law that allowed the state’s farmers to unionize.

#8. Roxana Saberi

Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist, was arrested in Iran for over three months after being accused of undercover activities and spying. She was tortured by Iranian officials and was even forced to make false confessions. After years of hell, she was finally released from prison after serving a two-year sentence. Her literary works have since exposed the plight of women in Iran.

#9. Emmeline Pankhurst

This British political activist was one of the masterminds behind the UK’s famous suffragette movement, which ultimately secured women’s right to vote in 1928. Pankhurst was arrested multiple times for civil disobedience and leading violent protests.

#10. Susan Brownell Anthony

Susan Brownell Anthony was a lawbreaker, a social reformer, and a feminist who was vital to the American women’s suffrage movement. She founded the “Women’s Loyal National League” and the “American Equal Rights Association” – organizations that fought vehemently against slavery and racial discrimination.

In 1872, at Rochester, New York, she was arrested for the crime of voting. The 19th amendment to Constitution, which finally allowed women to vote in 1920, is popularly recognized as the “Anthony Amendment” in her honor.