Huffpost Women

10 Women We're Grateful For This Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday to reflect on the things -- or people -- you're grateful for.

This year, we'd like to mark Turkey Day by celebrating some of the incredible women who have made an impact over the last 12 months. Here are 10 women we are especially thankful for in 2013:

1. Wendy Davis

wendy davis

The Texas State Senator made headlines in June when she held an 11-hour filibuster in an attempt to to block Senate Bill 5, which introduced harsh new abortion restrictions. Her dedication to women's reproductive issues -- and those iconic pink sneakers -- warmed our hearts and made us feel more politically energized than we had in months. Davis will also be running for Governor of Texas in 2014. We're also hoping a movie of her life story -- featuring Connie Britton, of course -- is in the works.

2. Edie Windsor

edie windsor doma

After Windsor's partner of over 40 years Thea Spyer passed away in 2009LINK, Windsor was asked to pay $363,053 in federal state taxes when inheriting Spyer's estate. Windsor was not legally recognized as Spyer's spouse -- despite the fact that the two had married in Canada in 2007. Windsor took her case all the way to the Supreme Court, and in June 2013, the court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional.

“One of the things I felt did not have to do with the money but had to do with … with my country is not giving dignity to this beautiful person I lived with,” Windsor told ABC News after the ruling. “And today, my country gave dignity and appreciated who she was.”

Honoring the woman she loved and taking on the U.S. government? Badass.

3. Malala Yousafzai

malala yousafzai

The 16-year-old survived an October 2012 assassination attempt after speaking out against the Taliban's practice of banning girls from school, and has become an activist for women 's education. This amazing young woman has furthered her cause by speaking in front of the United Nations on Malala Day 2013, meeting with Queen Elizabeth II and the Obamas, and writing a memoir. We find her resilience and dedication to helping others truly inspiring.

4. Sheryl Sandberg

sheryl sandberg
"Lean In" has become such a crucial part of the national dialogue about women and work that it's hard to believe the book only came out in March 2013. Sandberg's book is smart, well-researched and peppered with personal anecdotes about her own professional and personal journeys. Though Sandberg's advice isn't one-size-fits-all, women of all career fields and personal circumstances have something to learn from her and the question, "what would you do if you weren't afraid?"

5. Mindy Kaling

mindy kaling jewelry

We're grateful that someone as hilarious and outspoken as Mindy Kaling exists in the world. The creator and star of "The Mindy Project," who is one of the only women of color heading a TV show, has been outspoken on issues like body image and women in comedy. And when Lena Dunham interviewed Kaling for Rookie: Yearbook Two, we loved hearing what inspires Kaling about other women:

I love women who are bosses and who don't constantly worry about what their employees think of them. I love women who don't ask, "Is that OK?" after everything they say. I love when women are courageous in the face of unthinkable circumstances, like my mother when she was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Or like Gabrielle Giffords writing editorials for the New York Times about the cowardice of Congress regarding gun laws and using phrases like "mark my words" like she is Clint Eastwood. How many women say stuff like that? I love mothers who teach their children that listening is often better than talking. I love obedient daughters who absorb everything -- being perceptive can be more important than being expressive. I love women who love sex and realize that sexual experience doesn't have to be the source of their art. I love women who love sex and can write about it in thoughtful, creative ways that don't exploit them, as many other people will use sex to exploit them. I love women who know how to wear menswear.

6. Deb Cohan

Before going into surgery for a double mastectomy this November, the OB/GYN and mother of two asked her medical team to participate in a flash mob to the Beyonce song "Get Me Bodied." Cohan's response to her very personal health crisis was incredibly uplifting -- and brought more awareness to a disease affecting 1 in 8 American women. Could she be more amazing?

7. Gloria Steinem

gloria steinem

We appreciate Gloria Steinem every year, but she's been particularly awesome in 2013. Remember when she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- and then wore the giant medallion on CNN? Or when she schooled us all on the Miley Cyrus VMAs controversy? Or when Female Force released a 33-page comic book about her life? Gloria, you're a national hero.

8. Shonda Rhimes
shonda rhimes gilded lillys

The rise and rise of the "Scandal" and "Grey's Anatomy" writer, director and producer is nothing but good news. Rhimes has brought us incredibly complex female characters like Olivia Pope and Miranda Bailey, as well as what is arguably the most amazing female friendship on television in the form of Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang.

Rhimes is also an admirably fearless woman. During a Nov. 7 NPR interview, she shared how she refused to change her vision even when TV executives were critical of her writing:

I remember having an early discussion at ABC with people who no longer work at the network before "Grey's" was picked up, where I was sort of brought into a room and a bunch of older guys told me that nobody was going to watch a show about a woman who had casual sex and threw a guy out the night before her first day of work, that that was completely unrealistic and nobody wanted to know that woman. And I remember sort of sitting in that meeting and thinking, "Wow, they don't know anything that's going on in the world right now."

9. Laverne Cox

laverne cox

The "Orange Is The New Black" star and transgender rights activist is currently the only transgender actress playing a series regular on television.

“As a trans woman of color, I’ve often looked for my story in the media and I haven’t seen it," Cox told OUT Magazine when she was named one of the 100 most influential gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people of 2013. "Or I’ve seen sensationalized, exploitative images of trans women of color, where they’ve been the victim of a crime. It’s wonderful to have this very human story about this trans woman that people are really connecting with.”

Cox does amazing work both as an actress and an activist. We can't wait to see more from her on both fronts.

10. Melissa Tapper Goldman

Tapper Goldman is the creator of the documentary "Subjectified: Nine Young Women Talk About Sex" and the accompanying storytelling blog, Do Tell. "Do Tell is making space for conversations that couldn’t otherwise exist," Tapper Goldman told the Huffington Post in a November 2013 interview. "I’m already seeing that with the submissions that capture people’s painful experiences as well as their pleasure and joy."

We seriously applaud Tapper Goldman for making spaces for women to talk about sex openly and without judgment -- and all the women willing to share their stories and experiences.

What women are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Comment below, or let us know on Twitter @HuffPostWomen.

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