Ultra Violet: Luminous Icons 2019

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2019-11-30)

Originally published: November 10, 2019 Last Updated: November 30, 2019

In 2017 U2 introduced a segment of their show that was titled HerStory, each night featuring a section of luminous icons on screen. These were women who have fought for equality, were pioneers in politics and science, and indeed many of the women featured were local to where U2 were playing, adding a local touch to each show.

In Auckland over the last week, those luminous icons appeared again. As U2 played “Ultra Violet (Light My Way)” some familiar faces appeared on screen, this time joined by many new.

The visual piece, HerStory, was developed by Alice Wroe. Wroe was interviewed by Cathleen Falsani in a report on U2.Com published near the end of the first leg of the 2017 tour. In that piece, Wroe goes into detail on the development of this piece, how the women are chosen as well as how they are organized on the screen. If you think you see patterns, that could be because the positions they are in are often carefully selected.

Below we are keeping track of each of the women appearing on the screens thus far on the 2019 tour, and what cities each has appeared in. We have also included a short biography for some of the accomplishment of these women, as well as information about when they were born. After the alphabetic listings are a list of organizations and groups shown during this piece on this screen, and then after that, a list of the changes made with each show.


  • AU1 = Auckland, November 8, 2019
  • AU2 = Auckland, November 9, 2019
  • BR = Brisbane, November 12, 2019
  • ME = Melbourne, November 15, 2019
  • AD = Adelaide, November 19, 2019
  • SY1 = Sydney, November 22, 2019
  • SY2 = Sydney, November 23, 2019
  • PE = Perth, November 27, 2019
  • SI1 = Singapore, November 30, 2019
  • SI2 = Singapore, December 1, 2019
  • SA1 = Saitama, December 4, 2019
  • SA2 = Saitama, December 5, 2019
  • SE = Seoul, December 8, 2019
  • MA = Manila, December 11, 2019
  • MU = Mumbai, December 15, 2019


The list below is not currently complete. We know we are missing one name from the list, and will add this when this persons can be identified. If there is a ‘*’ next to someones name below, they also appeared in the 2017 tour presentation, those without are new for the 2019 tour.

Jacinda Ardern (AU1, AU2)
Ardern is a New Zealand politician, and is New Zealand’s 40th Prime Minister, taking office on October 26, 2017. She lead her country through the Christchurch mosque shootings, and was instrumental in introducing strict gun laws.

Sumita Banerjee (SI1)
Banerjee is the Executive director of AfA, Action for AIDS, a Singapore based, independent organization of HIV experts, dedicated to fighting AIDS/HIV infection in Singapore.

Kristine Bartlett (AU1, AU2)
Bartlett is a care worker for the elderly. In 2012 she fought for equal pay for workers in residential health care and home services. She is a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Lisa Bellear (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
Bellear was an Indigenous Australian writer, poet, activist, broadcaster and photographer. Her book Dreaming in Urban Areas looks at the experience of Aboriginal people in contemporary cities. She was a founding member of the Ilbijerri Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-op and her photographs were exhibited at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.

Georgina Beyer (AU1, AU2)
Beyer is a New Zealand politician, and was the worlds first openly transgendered mayor in the town of Carterton. Although retired from politics, Beyer continues to make appearances speaking on LGBT Human Rights.

Cate Blanchett (ME, SY1, SY2, PE)
Blanchett is an actress and theatre director from Australia. She also acts as a global Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and has supported causes such as the Australian Conservation Foundation and other climate and ecological causes.

Aretha Brown (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Brown is an Indigenous artist and youth activist in Australia, and the former Prime Minister of the National Indigenous Youth Parliament.Brown appeared on the Brisbane screens on the day after her 19th birthday.

Sinéad Burke (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Burke is an Irish writer, academic and broadcaster. She is working on a PhD on human rights education at Trinity College in Dublin. She is a co-founder of the Inclusive Fashion and Design Collective.

Patricia Chan (Golden Girl) (SI1)
Chan is a swimmer from Singapore who earned the nickname “Golden Girl” competing in swim events, winning 39 medals at the Southeast Asian games, and was the flag bearer for Singapore in the 1972 Olympics. Until 2005 she had the most medals of any Singaporean athlete in any sport at the Southeast Asian games.

Havana Chapman-Edwards (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Chapman-Edwards is a elementary school student and made news in 2018 when she was the only student at her school to join the national school walkout, and she continues to advocate for stronger gun laws in the USA. Chapman-Edwards is 9 years old.

Aya Chebbi (AU1, AU2, BR)
Chebbi is the first ever African Union Special Envoy on Youth, and the youngest member of the African Union Commission Chairperson’s Cabinet. She was a political blogger during the 2010 revolution in Tunisia, and has been a founder of multiple organizations including the Afrika Youth Movement.

Elizabeth Choy (SI1)
Choy was an educator and is regarded as a war heroine in Singapore. She supplied messages to prisoners of war as well as medicine and money when the Japanese occupied Singapore during World War II. She went into politics as well and in her lifetime also became a campaigner for the poor, needy and fought for the establishment of social services and family planning.

Helen Clark (AU1, AU2)
Clark is a New Zealand politician who served as Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1999 – 2008. She was the second woman to hold that office. After resigning from parliament she took the leadership of the United Nations Development Programme.

Amal Clooney (SI1)
Clooney is a Lebanese-British lawyer who specializes in international law and human rights cases. She is also the special envoy on media freedom for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She is the president of the Clooney Foundation for Justice to advance justice in courtrooms and classrooms around the world.

Toni Colette (SY1, SY2, PE)
Collette is an Australian actress and musician, acting in film, and on stage. She has won numerous awards including Emmys, a Golden Globe Award, among others. She was the global ambassador of the humanitarian charity Concern Worldwide, and has supported a wide range of charities including Greenpeace, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International and UNICEF.

Olive Cotton (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
Cotton was a pioneering photographer from Australia at a time when not many women worked in the profession. When faced with discrimination because of her sex on jobs, Cotton would refer to herself as the “assistant” to smooth things over. She is regarded as one of the best photographers of the 1930s.

Megan Davis (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
Davis is an Aboriginal Australian activist, and the first to sit to a United Nations body when she sat on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She is a human rights lawyer and directs the Indigenous Law Centre at the University of New South Wales.

Ellen Degeneres * (AU1, AU2, SI1)
Ellen is an American comedian, television host, writer and producer. She came out as a lesbian in 1997, and has been an active advocate for LGBT rights since that time. She is a member of Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and she acts as a spokesperson for the Human Rights campaign’s Coming Out Project. Ellen was born in 1958.

Henrietta Dugdale (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
Dugdale was an Australian woman who formed the first female suffrage society in Australia. She campaigned throughout her life for women’s rights, and for the protection of women against violent crimes. She was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2001.

Ruth Ellis * (AU1, AU2, SI1)
Ellis was an African-American woman, who spent her life crusading for the LGBT and African American rights. She was a lesbian herself, and the Ruth Ellis Center is an organization that is dedicated to helping homeless LGBT youth and young adults. Ellis lived from 1899 – 2000.

Miles Franklin (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
Franklin was an Australian writer and feminist. She established an annual literary award in Australia and was committed throughout her life to the development of Australian literature.

Cathy Freeman (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
Freeman is an Australian track and field athlete, and champion in the women’s 400 meters sprint at the 2000 Summer Olympics. She was the torch bearer for the opening ceremonies at those games. Since retiring from sport she has acted as the Ambassador of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, and has founded the Cathy Freeman Foundation, which works in indigenous communities to close the gaps in education between indigenous and non-indigenous children in Australia.

Keiko Fukuda (SI1)
Fukuda is a Japanese American martial artist, and one of the highest ranking female judoka in history. She is known as a pioneer of women’s judo.

Ichikawa Fusae (SI1)
Fusae was a Japanese feminist, a leader of the women’s suffrage movement in Japan, and a politician. Her activism was partially responsible for women gaining the right to vote in Japan. She also served as part of the Great Japan Women’s Association.

Hannah Gadsby (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Gadsby is an Australian comedian, author and television personality. She is openly lesbian and refers to her sexuality in her performances, and has also been a supporter of Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Melinda Gates * (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY2, PE, SI1)
Gates is an American philanthropist, and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates has degrees in computer science and economics, as well as an MBA. In December 2005, Melinda and Bill Gates were named by Time Magazine as Persons of the Year alongside Bono. Gates was born in 1964.

Emma González (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
González is an American activist and advocate for gun control. In high school, she was a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland FL. She co-founded the group Never Again MSD, a gun control advocacy group.

Jane Goodall * (AU1, AU2)
Goodall is an anthropologist and primatologist and author, and is one of the leading experts on chimpanzees. She is an advocate for Nonhuman Rights, and has also been named a UN Messenger of Peace.

Lucy Gray (AU1, AU2)
Gray is a climate change activist in New Zealand, and has been part of the School Strike 4 Climate activities, and has met with Prime Minister Ardern on the government’s plans to manage climate change. Gray was born in 2006 and is currently 13.

Catherine Hamlin (SY1, SY2)
Hamlin is an Australian gynaecologist and obstetrician, who co-founded the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, providing free fistula repair surgery to women suffering from childbirthing injuries. She has been awarded the Centenary Medal for long and outstanding service to international development in Africa, and is a member of the Order of Australia.

Sophia Hinerangi (AU1, AU2)
Hinerangi was a New Zealand tourist guide of Māori descent. She was the principal tourist guide of the Pink and White Terraces at Lake Rotomahana in the late 1800s. During the eruption of Rotomahana in 1886 she sheltered 62 people in her whare, and acted as the president of New Zealand’s Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Dr Thancoupie G.F. James (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
James was an Australian artist, educator and an elder of the Thainakuith people, and was known to be the last fluent speaker of the language of the Thainakuith.

Annette Kellermann (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
Kellermann was an Australian woman that broke with tradition in her career as a swimmer, wearing a one-piece bathing suit instead of the accepted pantaloons. She helped to popularize synchronized swimming as a sport, and also worked as an actress. She was an advocate for health and fitness throughout her life.

Moira Kelly (ME)
Kelly is an Australian humanitarian worker, and founder of the Children First Foundation, providing medical treatment to children in developing countries through international facilities including Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. She is a member of the Order of Australia.

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
Kunoth-Monks is an Australian actress, a politician and an Aboriginal activist. She broke new ground as the first indigenous female lead in a film, Jedda. As a politician she has been a leader in working for Indigenous Human Rights.

Lucy Lawless (AU1, AU2)
Lawless is a New Zealand actress, and has been a strong supporter of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage. She has been a climate ambassador for Greenpeace and in February 2012 was one of seven Greenpeace activists that boarded an oil-drilling ship in New Zealand to prevent it leaving for oil exploration activities.

Isabel Letham (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
Letham is an Australian surfer and swimming instructor, and is known as the first Australian to ride a surfboard, although she herself would dispute that claim. She was an accomplished swimmer, and went on to teach surfing and swimming, and was instrumental in bringing the sport of surfing to Australia regardless of whether or not she was first.

Sybil Lupp (AU1, AU2)
Lupp was a mechanic, and motor-racing driver, from New Zealand. She has been awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal.

Moms Mabley * (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Moms Mabley is the stage name of Loretta Aiken, an American stand up comedian, once billed “The Funniest Woman in the World”. She would often tackle topics such as racism. She came out as a lesbian and was one of the first openly gay comedians. Aiken lived from 1894 to 1975.

Katherine Mansfield (AU1, AU2)
Mansfield was a prominent New Zealand writer, born in 1888. Born Kathleen Murry, she appears on the screen under her pen name.

Yursa Mardini (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Mardini is a competitive swimmer from Syria, currently living in Berlin. She competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics as a member of the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team. She is a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.

Connie Mudenda * (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Mudenda is a (RED) Ambassador and an HIV-positive AIDS activist. Connie lost all three of her children to AIDS, but has since had a daughter who was born HIV free in 2012. She was born in 1970.

Hilda Flavia Nakabuye (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Nakabuye is a 22 year old student from Uganda, and is also has been protesting climate change and is working to bring attention to the affects climate change are having on Africa and beyond.

Pania Newton (AU1, AU2)
Newton is a New Zealand based lawyer, who is an activist for Māori land rights. She is one of the founders of SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape), protesting the development of land at Ihumātao in New Zealand, a Māori village.

Michelle Obama * (AU1, AU2)
Obama is an American lawyer and writer, and also served as First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. Obama is an advocate for poverty awareness. Obama was born in 1964.

June Oscar (BR, ME, AD, PE)
June Oscar is an Australian indigenous rights activist, working in community health and welfare, and advocating for better living conditions for Aboriginal people living in remote communities. She is an officer of the Order of Australia. She is also a film and theatre producer, and acted as the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

Lily Parr (AU1, AU2, SI1)
Parr was an English sports figure, a professional football player, and the first woman to be inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame. She died in 1978 at the age of 73.

Yuen Peng McNeice (SI1)
Peng McNeice was born in Malaysia, and grew up in Singapore. She was a philanthropist and conservationist, who campaigned to protect the environment, and a supporter of animal welfare causes. She acted as the president of the Girls’ Life Brigade and she has funded a number of research and education efforts for the preservation of the environment and animals.

Nova Peris (BR, ME, AD)
Peris is an indigenous Australian athlete and politician. She participated in sprinting in the 1998 Commonwealth Games and the 2000 Olympic Games. She also was elected to the Australian Senate in 2013 but has since retired.

Begum Rokeya * (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Rokeya was a Bengali writer, social activist and a champion of women’s rights. She advocated that men and women should be treated equal in her writing. Rokeya lived from 1880 – 1932.

Sia (AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
Sia is an Australian singer, song writer, screen writer and music video director, from Adelaide. SIA has been active with PETA, and has protested against pet breeding. She appears on screen with her face obscured, as she often does in public appearances.

Ruth Sienkiewicz-Mercer (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Mercer was a quadriplegic and throughout her life became a disability rights activist in the USA.

Kate Sheppard (AU1, AU2)
Sheppard was a prominent figure in the suffrage movement in New Zealand, petitioning for the rights of women to vote in that country. She acted as the first president of the National Council of women of New Zealand, taking that position in 1896.

Catherine Helen Spence (AD)
Born in Scotland, Spence moved to Australia where she was an author, journalist, politician and a leader of the suffragist movement in Australia. She was Australia’s first female political candidate.

Magdalene M. Szubanski (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
Szybanski is an Australian actress, comedian and writer. She was a prominent face of the same-sex marriage campaign in Australia, and was a co-chair of the Australia Marriage Equality group. She has been named an officer in the Order of Australia.

Margaret Leng Tan (SI1)
Tan is a classical musician, born in Singapore, and known for her use of unconventional instruments including dishes, toy pianos, and food packaging. She was the first Singaporean musician to play Carnegie Hall in 2002. She now resides in Brooklyn.

Rosetta Tharpe * (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Sister Rosetta Tharpe is an American singer, songwriter, and musician. She was active in the 1930s and 1940s and was known for her gospel recordings, and she is counted as an inspiration by early rock ‘n’ roll musicians including Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. She lived from 1915 – 1973.

Margaret Thomas (SI1)
Thomas is a sociologist. journalist and editor, living in Singapore. Thomas is a founding member of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), a feminist, and a crusader for human rights, especially for the rights of the aged and elderly.

Merle Thornton (BR)
Thornton is an Australian author and academic. She is a feminist activist, and in 1965 she chained herself to a bar to protest women being excluded from serving in public bars. She founded the Equal Opportunities for Women Association in Brisbane.

Greta Thunberg (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Thunberg is a 16 year old climate activist from Sweden. She organized a series of school climate strikes, which lead her to becoming a lead figure in the worldwide movement to address climate change. She was nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

Sojourner Truth * (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Born Isabella Baumfree, she was an African-American women’s rights activist, born in 1797 and died in 1883.

Ākenehi Tōmoana (AU1, AU2, SI1)
Tōmoana was a leader among the Māori, and was a strong advocate for women’s rights, the well being of the Māori, and in 1893 helped to present a motion in parliament calling for Māori to be given the right to vote and to stand in parliament.

Venezia Wee (SI1)
Wee is a law undergraduate in Singapore and is the founder of the Global Water-Crisis Awareness International Movement. She campaigns for awareness of water use and conservation, and she’s been named as one of Singapore’s 10 inspirational women in law.

Mary Wollstonecraft * (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Wollstonecraft was an English writer in the late 1700s. She is possibly best known for her book A Vindication of the Rights of Women published in 1792, where she argued that women are not inferior to men, they just lack the education provided to men. Wollstonecraft lived from 1759 to 1797.

Artemisa Xakriabá (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Xakriabá is a 19 year old indigenous climate activist from Brazil. She is part of a worldwide climate movement, and focuses on bringing attention to climate change and its impact on Brazil and the Amazon.


Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera * (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Johnson and Rivera were key figures in the gay liberation movement in New York. Johnson was one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising in 1969, a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and formed the trans advocacy group STAR with Rivera. In 2017 both appeared on the screens of the tour, but separately. Auckland marks the first time they appear together.

Phyllis Papps and Francesca Curtis (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
Papps and Curtis are the Lifetime Achievement Award recipients at the Australian LGBTI Awards in 2019. In 1970 Papps and Curtis were featured on Australian television, interviewed about their sexuality, and have campaigned over the years for the rights of LGBTI rights.

Yoko Ogawa and Chizuka Oe (SI1)
Ogawa and Oe are a Japanese couple, together for 25 years, and in January 2019 submitted their marriage registration in Tokyo, which was turned down because they are a same-sex couple. They are part of a challenge to seek the government to recognize gay marriage in Japan along with 12 other same-sex couples.

Movement for the Ordination of Women (BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE)
A movement founded in the 1970s in Australia by Patricia Brennan, they campaigned for the ordination of women as deacons and priests in the Anglican Church of Australia.

Pussy Riot * (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
Pussy Riot is a punk rock group from Russia, who have staged numerous performances where they would promote themes such as feminism, LGBT rights, and would oppose Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Sari Squad * (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
The Sari Squad were a group of women, who helped to defend multicultural gatherings in London in the 1980s. They also got involved in political activism.

Singapore Women’s Everest Team (SI1)
The first all-female expedition from Singapore to reach the summit of Mount Everest, in 2009.

Suffragettes (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, SI1)
Suffragettes were members of women’s organizations in the late 19th century who were advocating for the vote to be extended to women. The movement reached through the UK, USA, Canada and other countries. The 2019 show has shown photos for UK Suffragettes, America’s Suffragettes, Japanese Suffragettes and Indian Suffragettes.

Women’s Liberation NZ (AU1, AU2, SI1)
The Women’s Liberation movement in the 60s and 70s pushed for equality for women worldwide, but it is the activities in New Zealand that appeared on screen during the first two shows.

Women of Iceland * (AU1, AU2, BR, ME, AD, SY1, SY2, PE, SI1)
In 1975 to demonstrate that women were indispensable for Iceland’s economy, the women went on strike for the day. 90 percent of women in that country did not go to their paid jobs, and further, there was no housework or child-rearing for the day. The strike was held in International Women’s Year.


For the first two nights in Auckland no changes were detected. But when the tour moved to Australia, there was a big shake up in the screen with a number of faces being removed and 18 new faces being added. There was only a minor change as the show went from Brisbane to Melbourne, two women were removed, Merle Thornton and Aya Chebbi, and in their places are two new faces, Moira Kelly and Cate Blanchett. When the show moved onto Adelaide, the two new additions for Melbourne, Kelly and Blanchett were removed, and in their place were Sia and Catherine Helen Spence. For the shows in Sydney, Toni Collette and Catherine Hamlin were added to the screens, Cate Blanchette returned to the screen, and Catherine Helen Spence, was removed. Melinda Gates was removed from the first Sydney show, but returned during the second Sydney show.

After the tour left Australia, many of the Australian specific women were removed from the screens. A few squares not seen since New Zealand have returned to the presentation, including Lily Parr, Women’s Liberation New Zealand, Ruth Ellis, Ellen DeGeneres and Ākenehi Tōmoana. Added to the presentation are twelve new faces, which are listed above and include Amal Clooney, Ichikawa Fusae, Elizabeth Choi, Sumita Banerjee, and the Singapore Women’s Everest Team among others. The majority of the new additions are from Singapore, or have resided there, but there are also faces from Japan starting to appear in the presentation, as well as women from other countries.


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