A little over 100 years ago, the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting white women the right to vote in the United States. Soon after, Native American women gained voting rights, but most women of color had to wait until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.
Today, August 26th is known as Women’s Equality Day, a holiday meant to recognize the work of the women who came before us and honor those still fighting for liberation. That’s why we’re highlighting some of Austin’s most badass ladies who are working to make the world a better place for everyone. Check them out:
1. Briona Jenkins
Briona Jenkins serves as the Austin Justice Coalition’s Director of Development. Nicknamed “the love child of Oprah, Beyonce, and Michelle Obama,” Briona is a sought-after public speaker and activist for LGBTQIA+ rights, women, and communities of color. When she isn’t working, Briona stays incredibly active in the Austin community. She is also the Co-Director of the New Leaders Council’s Austin Chapter Board and has served on the boards of Keep Austin Fed, Austin Black Pride, and Lone Star Victims Advocacy Project.
You can keep up with Briona and her work via her podcast, The Tea with Bri.
2. Jameila “Meme” Styles
Meme is the founder of MEASURE, a data-driven, community-led platform that measures and reports community policing statistics. She founded the organization in 2015, and she hasn’t slowed down since; along with having several awards under her belt for her work with MEASURE, she’s also responsible for the annual Big Data & Community Policing Conference, as well as the Innocence Initiative, which seeks to protect Black girls through the elimination of adultification bias.
Follow Meme on Instagram to keep up with her work!
3. Kim Updegrove, RN, CNM, MSN, MPH
A registered nurse and certified nurse midwife (CNM), Kim Updegrove has dedicated her life to saving babies’ lives. She heads Austin’s Mothers’ Milk Bank, an organization that provides prescribed donor breast milk to babies in need. Kim is also a past president of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), and currently chairs the guidelines committee helping to ensure quality control of donor human milk and cultivates the development of nonprofit milk banks. Though she’s local to Austin, she’s been sought-after around the world for her prowess on the health of women and babies.
4. Maddy Braat
Maddy Braat is the host of local podcast All My Leftists Live In Texas, which serves as an “educational podcast and digital outlet making the mess of information about local politics more digestible and accessible.” Maddy creates informative, easy-to-read content for the podcast to keep folks informed and drive engagement in local politics on a state and city level.
5. Val Benavidez
Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of progressive religious and community leaders and young Texans based in Austin. Val Benavidez serves as the President and Executive Director, working to bring together faith leaders in support of social justice issues, including reproductive freedom and abortion access as well as LGBTQIA+ equality. Val also tackles a wide range of other issues as well, including voting rights, church-state separation and opposition to school textbook censorship.