15 Famous Speeches by Women in History: Hatshepsut to Michelle Obama

July 21, 2023

9 min read

15 Famous Speeches by Women in History - Hatshepsut to Obama

We’ve collected 15 famous speeches by women in history that provide a glimpse into the power and persuasian of women over time. From Hatshepsut’s coronation speech to Michelle Obama’s keynote address at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, you’ll see how words have the power to move people to belief and action.

So, let’s dive in to this fascinating journey through time.

#1: Hatshepsut • Coronation Speech • c. 1473 BC

Hatshepsut ruled Egypt from c. 1479/8 to 1458 BC. When she ascended to the throne, she gave a speech to the Egyptian people, declaring her divine right to rule and her commitment to upholding Egypt’s traditions. The speech was recorded on the “Dream Stela.”

The speech was a powerful and persuasive declaration of Hatshepsut’s legitimacy as ruler, helping her solidify her position as pharaoh and inspire the people of Egypt to follow her leadership.

#2: Queen Esther • Speech to King Ahasuerus • c. 479 BC

Next up in our list of famous speeches by women in history is Queen Esther’s speech to King Ahasuerus. This is also one of the most famous speeches in the Bible. Esther risked her life to go before the king with a major request. First, she reminded the king of his duty to protect his subjects. Then, the queen bravely told him that she was a Jew, and that Haman’s plan to kill her people was unjust. Ultimately, she asked the king to spare the Jews.

At first, the king was angry with her for coming before him without being summoned, but her words eventually persuaded him. He ordered the execution of Haman, and he issued a decree to protect the Jews from harm.

Esther’s speech is a powerful and moving story of courage, compassion, and the power of words. It’s a reminder that we all have the power to make a difference in the world, even if it means taking risks.

#3: Joan of Arc • Trial Testimony • 1431

Joan of Arc’s trial testimony was part of a series of interrogations that took place in Rouen, France, from February 21 to May 24, 1431. Judges appointed by the English, who controlled northern France, oversaw the trial. They accused Joan of heresy, witchcraft, and cross-dressing.

Joan’s testimony is one of the most important sources of information about her life and beliefs. She described her childhood, her visions, and her mission to lead the French army to victory against the English. She spoke about her belief that God chose her to save France.

Judges often interrupted Joan’s testimony. But, she refused to recant her testimony. On May 24, 1431, the judges found Joan guilty of heresy and sentenced her to death by burning at the stake.

#4: Queen Elizabeth I • Spanish Armada Crisis • 1588

Queen Elizabeth I’s speech to her troops at Tilbury Camp in 1588 was a powerful and inspiring call to arms. She spoke in response to the Spanish Armada’s planned invasion of England. The queen knew her people were afraid, but she wasn’t. She herself would take up arms and even die if necessary. She urged her troops to fight bravely, as she was willing to do.

The speech was a landmark moment in English history. It helped rally the troops and boost morale. It also helped to solidify Elizabeth’s reputation as a strong and decisive leader.

#5: Sojourner Truth • “Ain’t I a Woman?” • 1851

Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech was a powerful and influential speech in the history of the women’s rights movement. She challenged the prevailing notion that women were inferior to men by asking a series of rhetorical questions and speaking about her own strength, intelligence, and importance as a mother.

Truth’s speech, delivered on May 29, 1851, at the Woman’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, was a moving call to action. It inspired women all over the country to fight for their rights.

Still, her speech doesn’t come without some controversy. Although many people don’t realize, Truth’s first language wasn’t English and contrary to popular belief, she never lived in the Southern U.S. A man named Frances D. Gage changed her dialect to imitate that of a Southern slave. This completely removed all traces of Truth’s Dutch heritage and instead replaced it with Gage’s own, inaccurate version: “Ain’t I a Woman?”

#6: Susan B. Anthony • “On Women’s Right to Vote” • 1873

Next up in our list of famous speeches by women in history is Susan B. Anthony’s speech “On Women’s Right to Vote” — a powerful and impassioned call for women’s suffrage. She argued that women are citizens and that they have the same rights as men, including the right to vote. Anthony delivered the speech on May 19, 1873, at the New York State Woman Suffrage Convention in Albany, New York.

Not everyone in attendance received the speech well. Some people interrupted Anthony and tried to silence her. However, she was able to finish. The speech was a success, helping to galvanize the women’s suffrage movement. Today, people still remember it as a classic example of oratory.

#7: Virginia Woolf • “A Room of One’s Own” • 1928

Author Virginia Woolf’s two-part lecture “A Room of One’s Own” argues that women need financial independence and a room of their own in order to write fiction. Woolf delivered the lecture in 1928 at the women-only Cambridge colleges of Girton and Newnham. In 1929, she published it as a book.

“A Room of One’s Own” is a classic work of feminist literature that has inspired generations of women to pursue their dreams. It’s also a reminder that women need to be able to write freely in order to achieve equality.

#8: Eleanor Roosevelt • “The Struggle for Human Rights” • 1948

Eleanor Roosevelt’s speech “The Struggle for Human Rights” was a call to action for the protection and promotion of human rights. Speaking in Paris on September 28, 1948, the former first lady argued that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a “living document” that people should put into practice.

The speech is a powerful reminder that all people, regardless of their nationality, religion, or sex, should be treated with dignity and respect.

#9: Queen Elizabeth II • Coronation Speech • 1953

Next up in our list of famous speeches by women in history is Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation speech. Broadcast live on radio and television on June 2, 1953, it was a landmark moment in British history. The speech set the tone for Elizabeth’s long and successful reign. It was notable for its emphasis on peace and understanding. In a world that was still recovering from the Second World War, Queen Elizabeth II’s call for peace was a welcome message.

The British people received the speech well, and it helped to solidify Queen Elizabeth II’s position as a symbol of hope and unity.

#10: Mother Teresa • Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech • 1979

Mother Teresa’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech was a powerful and moving call to action, delivered in Oslo on December 10, 1979. She spoke about the importance of love and compassion for the poor and the suffering. She said that “the greatest disease in the world today is not leprosy, nor TB, nor malaria but rather the feeling of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for.”

Mother Teresa’s speech was a landmark moment in the fight against poverty and suffering, inspiring people all over the world. The speech is still relevant today, as it continues to challenge us to think about the needs of “the least of these.”

#11: Margaret Thatcher • “The Lady’s Not for Turning” • 1980

UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher delivered her famous “The Lady’s Not for Turning” speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton on October 10, 1980. She responded to critics of her economic policies, who were calling for her to abandon her plans for a radical economic overhaul. Thatcher said that she wouldn’t abandon her plans and that she would continue to pursue her vision of a free-market economy.

The speech was a landmark moment in British political history. It marked Thatcher’s determination to stay the course on her economic policies, and it helped to cement her reputation as a strong and decisive leader.

#12: Benazir Bhutto • Return From Exile • 1986

Benazir Bhutto served as the 11th and 13th prime minister of Pakistan. She was the first woman to head a democratic government in a Muslim-majority country. Bhutto gave a powerful and emotional speech in Lahore on April 10, 1986, calling for democracy in Pakistan. She had been in exile from the country for nearly nine years, and this was her first public appearance since coming home to Pakistan.

Bhutto called for the overthrow of the military dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq and for the restoration of democracy. She said that democracy is the only way forward and that the country cannot progress under military rule. She also said that the people of Pakistan will not give up until they achieve democracy. The speech helped galvanize the opposition to Zia-ul-Haq’s rule. People still remember it as a classic example of oratory.

#13: Maya Angelou • “On the Pulse of Morning” • 1993

Next up in our list of famous speeches by women in history is Maya Angelou’s “On the Pulse of Morning” — a powerful and moving call to action. In her poem, she spoke about the importance of hope, resilience, and the human spirit. She said that we are the dream and the hope of the world and that we must never give up on ourselves.

Angelou delivered her poem at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton at the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 1993. It was the first time that a poet delivered a poem at an inauguration, and it helped solidify Maya Angelou’s reputation as one of the most important voices of her generation.

#14: Malala Yousafzai • Speech to the United Nations • 2013

Malala Yousafzai addressed the United Nations on July 12, 2013 — her 16th birthday. She spoke about her experience as a young girl whom the Taliban shot for speaking out for the right to education, and she urged the world to stand up for girls’ rights. Malala’s speech is a reminder that all girls, regardless of their background, deserve to have access to education.

The speech was also a major boost for the Malala Fund, which works to provide education to girls around the world. The Malala Fund has helped to provide education to over one million girls in Pakistan, Nigeria, and other countries.

Check out the transcript, summary, and analysis of this speech from Yoodli’s AI speech coach.

If you’d like to get the same type of feedback on your speaking, sign up for Yoodli for free. Learn more about Yoodli.

#15: Michelle Obama • Democratic National Convention • 2020

Former first lady Michelle Obama gave a moving speech at the Democratic National Convention on August 17, 2020. In the convention’s keynote address, she spoke about the importance of hope, resilience, and the American dream. She talked about her own experiences as a Black woman in America, and she urged the country to come together and heal from its divisions.

Obama’s speech was a landmark moment in American history, as it was the first time that a former first lady had given a speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Wrapping Up

What would you add to our list of famous speeches by women in history? Let us know in the comments below!

Note: This post was created in partnership with artificial intelligence.


Start practicing with Yoodli.

Getting better at speaking is getting easier. Record or upload a speech and let our AI Speech Coach analyze your speaking and give you feedback.

Get Yoodli for free