At The Federalist, we frequently write about the amazing things women do and say. As 2016 comes to a close, we’ve compiled a list of the women who went above and beyond to make the world a better place this year.
1. Dolly Parton
Not only did she receive the lifetime achievement award at the CMA Awards this year, but she pledged to give $1,000 a month to families who lost their homes in the devastating wildfires that ravaged Sevier County, Tennessee. As Mollie Hemingway wrote in August, Parton’s sense of patriotism is inspiring.
Back in 2003 or so, I went to the National Mall to watch the fireworks. On the walk back home, my foreign-born (now also a U.S. citizen!) sister-in-law and I were stopped by a police officer as we walked past the Capitol. Dolly Parton walked in front of us in her full rhinestoned American flag ensemble glory and you have never heard two sisters-in-law squeal with as much delight as we did that night.
Throughout her career, she’s had seven albums hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, including her latest, “Pure and Simple.” Her charity also gives away free books to nearly a million children in need every month, and her TV Christmas specials are ones you cannot miss.
2. Kellyanne Conway
After taking the helm of the listless Trump campaign in August, Conway helped shape a more disciplined candidate, with a message focused on a stronger economy and national defense. Conway is like the pretty brainiac who tamed the school jock, got him to shut up in class, and made him carry her books. Hell, she even got him to study once in a while. She’s the kind of example I want for my own daughters on how to handle an egotistical, sometimes boorish male boss: with firmness, class, and calm.
When she turned down the opportunity to be the White House press secretary so she could spend more time with her four kiddos, Kellyanne told the world there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be there for one’s children during their formative years — a message the media often attacks.
3. Leah Remini
Leah Remini is using her celebrity microphone to expose a multi-billion-dollar “religion” called Scientology. A&E’s “Leah Remini: Scientology The Aftermath” is being reported as the network’s highest-rated series launch in more than two years. Despite Scientology’s attempt to intimidate and silence her, Leah is exposing the crimes and abuses this “religion” has been practicing for years, turning Scientology’s obsession with celebrities back on itself. Escaping this so-called religion was just the beginning for Leah, and 2016 is bringing a whole new level of badass to her fight. Every Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET, Leah Remini is standing up to bullies and giving a voice to the voiceless.
4. Carrie Fisher
The woman who played Star Wars’ Princess Leia, a.k.a. a “damsel who could very much deal with her own distress,” died in the final days of 2016, leaving behind a legacy as an outspoken advocate for mental health.
Fisher was honest about her struggles with mental illness and addiction, and was never one to mince words about her Star Wars character or what it means to be a woman. As Holly Scheer writes, Fisher understood was it really means to be a feminist.
Fisher understood, and showed generations of girls and boys, that the feminist lie that removing barriers and obstacles is what makes men and women equal is asinine, and that true strength is overcoming what life (and the Dark Side) throws in your path. While the men in Star Wars epically succumb to the Dark Side, Fisher’s princess had no time for that nonsense: ‘friendly reminder that leia has lost her adoptive parents, entire planet, father, husband, son and been abandoned by her brother and yet has never been tempted by the dark side even once. take notes skywalker boys ya’ll weak as shit.’ Fisher never tried to be one of the boys, and she didn’t need to be to be an icon.
Real women like Fisher overcome obstacles instead of whining about them.
5. Elizabeth from Netflix’s ‘The Crown’
When Queen Elizabeth was crowned at just 27 years old, she was no shrinking violet, but a strong and capable leader determined to hold her country together despite cultural and political upheaval throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.
Elizabeth, as she is depicted in Netflix’s “The Crown,” displays great restraint and maturity at a young age. Instead of using her position to enact change or push for radical reform, she recognizes it is her duty by birthright to defend the traditions her kingdom was built upon and the constitution that preserves them. Gracy Olmstead sums this up well in her review of the first season.
Elizabeth isn’t a useless figurehead; she’s keeper of the country’s constitution. She defends all the mores and customs of the past. She preserves its values, religious and political. When the wild and changeful billows of cultural ‘progress’ seek to undo tradition and unravel custom, she is supposed to safeguard both.
6. Little Sisters of the Poor
The Little Sisters of the Poor had the fight of their lives in 2016. President Obama’s Health and Human Services tried to force the nuns to choose between violating their faith or being crushed by millions of dollars in fines. For over 150 years, the Little Sisters have selflessly cared for the elderly, sick, and dying. Instead of letting the government steamroll them, they took their battle to the Supreme Court. On May 16th, in an unprecedented decision, the Supreme Court issued an unanimous order vacating all lower court decisions, telling the government they could not fine the Sisters and ordering them to work out a solution that respected the Sisters’ beliefs.
7. Kristina Arriaga
As the executive director of Becket Law, a nonprofit firm dedicated to protecting religious freedom, Kristina Arriaga stood up for the Little Sisters and helped lead them to their legal victory. In addition to being honored with Newseum’s 2017 Free Expression Award alongside Hugh Hefner this year, Arriaga was appointed to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).
For more than 20 years, she has fought for human rights by helping Native American eagle feather dancers get their eagle feathers back after they were seized in a raid by the government, to helping a Sikh Bronze Star medal recipient serve in the army with his articles of faith. She’s also helped Cubans flee from the Castro regime while working under former political prisoner Armando Valladares at the U.N. Human Rights Commission.