Julie Van Grol is seriously the teacher we wish we had in college! This badass babe is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and teaches at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. She is also an illustrator whose work has been featured on a number of major website including Takepart.com and The Huffington Post. Julie launched a series called #100DaysofBadassBabes on August 1st on Instagram as a way to celebrate influential women throughout history and around the world who deserve more recognition.
“Every day, for the next 100 days, I will illustrate a portrait of an inspiring, powerful, influential woman (this, of course, includes transwomen and I’m all about lifting up non-binary & gender-fluid folks, too). The hope is to not only celebrate all this badassery, but also learn a lot about the often unsung figures of culture and history,” she wrote on her blog.
Some of the women she has included so far include Malala Yousafzai, Yusra Mardini (the Olympic swimmer and Syrian refugee whose story of bravery and courage earned her a spot in the first ever Olympic Refugee Team), technology pioneer Ava Lovelace, trans actress Laverne Cox, Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, First Lady Michelle Obama, and marathon trailblazer Katherine Switzer.
Woof. Day 31 of #100daysofbadassbabes almost didn’t happen. My very full work-plate is getting in the way of my babes! You can probably tell by this sketch. It has everything to do with my crazy schedule and nothing to do with how much I admire this woman. I present to you Berta Caceres. Berta was a Honduran environmental activist and also a fierce defender of the rights of indigenous people. She garnered attention for her grassroots campaign that pressured one of the world’s largest dam builders to back out of the construction of a dam over the Río Gualcarque, a river in western Honduras that is sacred to the indigenous Lenca people. Berta was assassinated in her home in March. A year before her murder, Berta acknowledged the risks she was taking by being such a visible and passionate activist. There had been multiple threats on her life and those of her supports and cohorts. She acknowledged the danger that she faced, and insisted that she keep fighting for the rights of indigenous people of Honduras and protect the natural environment against the encroachment of development projects. (Sound familiar?) Let’s admire Berta’s commitment to her land and its people, and her remarkable bravery in standing with her cause. #bertacaceres #illustration #100badassbabes
But there are also many women who are not as well known as others, whose stories Julie felt needed to be shared with a wider audience. Sister Simone Campbell is a Catholic nun and a founder of the social justice-minded group Nuns on the Bus, Honduran feminist activist Berta Caceres, who fought for land rights for Indigenous farmers, Corazon Aquino, the first female president of the Philippines and an integral figure in the People Power Revolution which brought down a dictator, Indian eco-feminist Vandana Shiva who fights for gender equality in her field of biodiversity and environmentalism, and Lili’uokalani, the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
She is almost three quarters of the way through her set 100 days, and so far we are incredible impressed and astounded by such a badass (is there any other appropriate word??) women, some of whom we have never even heard of!
Day 22 of #100daysofbadassbabes is another babe in a leadership position (and she very well might be taking on another one soon!): Ilhan Omar. Ilhan was born in Somalia, which she fled with her family at age 8. After spending 4 years in a refugee camp in Kenya, Ilhan and her family moved to the U.S. and settled in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis. Ilhan first became interested in democracy and public service at the age of 14, when she was working as an interpreter for her father at the local DFL caucuses. In her career, she has committed herself to supporting working families, access to education, racial equality, and empowering women to actively participate in business and government. She is currently the director of policy initiatives at Women Organizing Women, an organization that creates space for women to step into public leadership postions. Earlier this month, Ilhan made history by winning an extremely competitive DFL primary election for the Minnesota House of Representatives, beating out one of the longest-serving legislators in Minnesota history (Phyllis Kahn). If elected, Ilhan will be the first Somali-American legislator in the United States. #womenincharge #illustration #ilhanomar #minnesota #100badassbabes
“I’m really passionate about social justice and intersectional feminism…I talk to my students a lot about the importance of representation of marginalized communities and how powerful media is. Privileged people, including graphic artists, should use their platform to project responsible messages and make sure they’re not projecting stereotypes or oppression,” she explained.
One of the common traits among these women is the knowledge that many of them have had to overcome hurdles and barriers to get where they are today. Whether it is comedian Leslie Jones being relentlessly trolled by racists on Twitter after ‘Ghostbusters’ premiered to education activist Malala Yousafzai literally being shot in the head by members of a terrorist organization, it is important to reiterate just how difficult and often hostile a place the world can be at times to women who dare to live outside the norms.
Julie told The Huffington Post’s Erin Spencer why she told her particular title and the meaning it holds.
“Babes are the people who encounter obstacles, give ‘em the middle finger, and do the thing regardless,” she said.
For day 19 of #100daysofbadassbabes I wanted to acknowledge the incredible story of Yusra Mardini. Mardini recently competed in the 100-meter freestyle and butterfly in the Rio Olympics on the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team. Mardini and her sister fled war-torn Syria in August 2015, which required a month-long journey through Lebanon and Turkey and a journey across the Aegean Sea to get to Greece. The dinghy that carried them was only meant for 6 or 7 people but instead held 20. When the boat’s motor failed and the dinghy began to take on water, Yusra and her sister (along with 2 other passengers who could swim) jumped out and proceeded to push the boat for 3 hours until they reached Lesbos. They made their way through Europe and eventually settled in Berlin, where they met up with their parents. Yusra quickly resumed her athletic training and had her eyes on the Rio Olympics. In June of 2016, Yusra was one of 10 athletes chosen to be on the Refugee Olympic Team, which was assembled thanks to the Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. Bach recognized the necessity of such a team, considering the currently worldwide refugee crisis. Take a moment to visit welcomingrefugees.org to learn about what you can do to welcome refugees and immigrants to your community! Minnesotans, you can also visit iimn.org and find out how to donate goods and funds to help ease the transition for those who are coming to Minnesota. #yusramardini #olympics #rio2016 #iimn #welcomerefugees #illustration #100badassbabes
It wasn’t a hard task coming up with 100 women for her project. At first she started a list by herself, then expanded it to a Google doc which she shared with her friends to invite suggestions. It took a mere 2 hours to get to 100 names, showing how important these stories are. Ever since beginning her series she has had even more suggestions from fans and followers, so if you want Julie to know about a woman she has yet to include, we suggest you get in touch with her before the 100 days is up.
If you have already done the math, you will know that day 100 will arrive after Americans go to the polls to vote for our next President (November 8). So there is a chance one of her future posts could be about how the US elected its first female president in over 200 years. But there is still time to go before that date, so we encourage you to follow Julie on Instagram, comment and share her images and stories that accompany each woman.
We are so inspired by #100DaysofBadassBabes so we have shared a few of our favorite images from her Instagram account throughout this post, and below.
Day 10 of ##100daysofbadassbabes features one of my absolute FAVES: Kathleen Hanna (@mskathleenhanna ). She is best known as the frontwoman for Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, both feminist rock bands. She was truly a pioneer for making space for girls and women in the punk scene by making her activism an essential part of her music and performances. Her music has also been the soundtrack to most of my Bad-Ass Babe portraits for the past 10 days. And my morning runs. And my commutes. #illustration #bikinikill #letigre #riotgrrrl #kathleenhanna #feminism #100badassbabes
A photo posted by Julie Van Grol (@julievangrol) on
Kept it kinda sketch-y for day 6 of #100daysofbadassbabes. I present to you Maya Lin, artist and designer best known for her design of the Vietnam Memorial in DC. Read up on how her design was chosen and the controversy that ensued. Today, it’s seen as one of the most powerful memorials in the country. . . #illustration #mayalin #design #sculpture #100badassbabes
Day 4 of #100daysofbadassbabes: the one and only Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was the second woman appointed to the SCOTUS and the first Jewish woman to have the job. She’s been fighting for women’s equality for over half a century and stands up against discrimination of all kinds. Folks, give a curtsy and a fist pump for our girl #RBG . . #ruthbaderginsburg #feminism #babe #scotus #100badassbabes
Day 38 of #100daysofbadassbabes : Indian scholar, author, and environmental activist Vandana Shiva. Vandana has argued for the wisdom of India’s traditional Vedic practices and writes and speaks to topics of biodiversity, bioethics, globalization, and indigenous knowledge. She has been an outspoken opponent of corporate patents on seeds, and has taken on many campaigns and battles against what she sees as “biopiracy.” Vandana also plays a vital role in the Ecofeminist movement, arguing that positive changes in agriculture will only happen if people reject the “patriarchal logic of exclusion,” and that all genders need to be engaged and work to change the system. #vandanashiva #100badassbabes #illustration
Day 9 of #100daysofbadassbabes actually has TWO babes: Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. While both of these incredible activists accomplished amazing things independently, they also worked together to create STAR: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (“T” was later changed to stand for “Transgender”), an organization that worked to support New York City’s LGBT youth, particularly homeless queer youth and transwomen of color. Their stories (and that of their communities) rarely make it to the mainstream, and it’s time that that changed. I’d like to note that both Rivera and Johnson had more fluid gender idenities, usually using pronouns she/her, but their bad-ass babedom was ever-present. #illustration #sylviarivera #marshapjohnson #payitnomind #LGBTuesday #lgbtqbabes #100badassbabes