100 Important Women in History
Jane Addams was born on September 6, 1860, in the small town of Cedarville, Illinois, one of eight children. Her mother died when she was only three years old, which may have caused her desire to become a doctor when she was a child. But she was unable to become a doctor and fulfill her dream because she often had back pains and was ill and sickly most of the time.
In 1877, Jane attended the Rockville Female Seminary where she learned to write and speak with authority, traits that would come in handy during her later years. When she graduated from the seminary in 1881, she found herself ill and depressed, and became more so after her father died that same year when she was only 21.
With her father dead, Jane and the rest of her family moved to Philidelphia where she attended the Women’s Medical College, once more trying to live her childhood dream. Yet, she became ill once again, and had even more of an emotional setback when her brother, Weber, had a mental breakdown.
Jane never graduated. Instead she took a trip with her stepmother to Europe from 1883 to 1885 and lived in Baltimore from 1886 to 1887. But it wasn’t untill 1887, when she traveled to Europe with a group of friends, that her life began to take direction.
When Jane traveled to London, England, Addams found herself amazed at the huge amount of poverty that England’s industrialization had caused. She also saw a settlement house called Toynbee Hall, used in order to teach workmen, from which sprouted her interest in social reform.
When Jane returned to the United States, she traveled to Chicago and turned an old mansion there into a settlement house called Hull House which she used in order to care for children, give medical care, and try to clean up the disease-causing waste on the city streets. While in Chicago, she also managed to enlighten and educate the poor and spoke often at church groups and women’s clubs and also talked to college students.
In 1898,Jane began to become known throughout the nation for her speeches and was even recommended to meet with President Woodrow Wilson by a close friend of his, Charles R. Crane, who had heard her speak. She even tried to stop World War I from coming, even though it was inevitable. She also encouraged meditation and became an officer of the Progressive party and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, of which she became president in 1915. She was even offered a job by the Red Cross, but she refused because it was run by the military and hence, supported war.
In 1931, Jane received the Nobel Prize for all she had done, including her help with the worldwide disarmament after World War I, Hull House, and many other accomplishments. She died on May 21, 1935, having written many books on prostitution, women’s rights, juvenile delinquincy, and militarism, and trying to achieve her dream of making every child happy.
Susan B. Anthony
“Women must not depend upon the protection of a man, but must be taught to protect herself.”
-Susan B. Anthony
“I have just been condemned, not to a shameful death, which can only apply to felons, but rather to finding your brother again…I seek forgiveness for all whom I know for every harm I may have unwittingly caused them…Adieu, good, gentle sister…I embrace you with all my heart as well as the poor, dear children.”
Saint Joan of Arc
“The day when Joan was burned, the wood was got ready to burn her before the sermon was finished or the sentence had been pronounced. And no sooner the sentence uttered by the bishop, without any delay, she was taken to the fire, and I did not see that there was any sentence pronounced by the lay judge. But was at once taken to the fire. And in the fire she cried more than six times ‘Jesus,’ and above all with her last breath she cried in a loud voice ‘Jesus!’ so that all present could hear her. Almost all wept with pity, and I have heard say that the ashes, after her burning, were gathered up and cast into the Seine.”
-Mauger Leparmentier about Joan of Arc
Aspasia of Miletus
Although not much is known about Aspasia, her birth has been determined as falling somewhere in between 460-455 B.C. in Miletus, Greece. Sometime around 445 B.C., Aspasia moved to Athens and acted as a hetaira, a kind of prostitute, but one that was almost treated like the upper class. There, she met the most powerful and influential men in Athens, including Pericles, to whom she became a mistress.
Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor
“We’re not asking for superiority for we have always had that; all we ask is equality.”
-Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
“She inspired a generation who were desperate for change.”
-Martin Smith about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
“The benevolence of her heart,
the sweetness of her temper, and
the extraordinary endowments of her mind
obtained the regard of all who knew her, and
the warmest love of her intimate connections.
Their grief is in proportion to their affection
they know their loss to be irreparable
but in the deepest affliction that are consoled
by a firm though humble hope that her charity,
devotion, faith and purity have rendered
her soul acceptable in the sight of her
-inscription on Jane Austen’s gravestone
Ella Baker was born December 13, 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia. She was brought up from the start with a strong feeling towards equality between blacks and whites, for she used to listen to her grandmother’s tales about when she was a slave, how her owner had whipped her because she had refused to marry the man who he wanted her to marry.
Ella attended Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and graduated as valedictorian in 1927 and then moved to New York City. In 1930, Ella joined the Young Negroes Cooperative League in order to develop economic power for blacks using collective planning. In 1940, Ella joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and became the field secretary and director of branches. Although she resigned in 1946, she still played an active role and still fought to desegregate the public schools of New York City.
In 1957, she moved to Atlanta where she helped organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Martin Luther King’s new organization, and also helped with Crusade for Citizenship, a voter registration campaign.
In 1960, Ella founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) after a group of black college students refused to leave Carolina A&T University’s cafeteria after having been denied service on February 1 of that same year.
Ella Baker died on her birthday, December 13, in 1986, at the age of 83 in New York City.
Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike
This is the summary of the life that I could find about Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike. In 1940, she married S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who was prime minister of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Her husband was assassinated in 1959, so his party called the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) chose Sirimavo to be their leader.
In 1960, SLFP won the election, and Sirimavo became prime minister. Her program was the same one that her husband used. She kept the Sinhalese language and culture along with the Buddhist religion, had a socialist economic police, and kept neutrality when dealing with foreign relations. While prime minister, she established Simhaleses as the only official language.
However, in 1965, she had lost popularity, and did not win the election. Nonetheless, she was prime minister again in 1970. This time she further restricted free enterprise, carried out reforming land, nationalized industries, and created a new constitution that made an executive presidency and turned Ceylon into the republic Sri Lanka.
Again, in 1977, she lost popularity and lost the election, SLFP winning only eight of 168 National Assembly seats. In 1980, she was barred from political office and stripped of her rights.
In 1986, President Jayawardene gave her her rights back and she lost the election in 1988 again. In 1989, she joined and became the leader of her adversarial party. In August 1994, her daughter, Chandrika, won the election and appointed Sirimavo prime minister once again, and they governed against Tamil separists.
Just recently, I heard from somewhere that Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike passed away.
“She was perhaps the most perfect incarnation of mercy the modern world has known.”
-Detroit Free Press about Clara Barton
“The fascination of any search after truth lies not in the attainment, which at best is found to be very relative, but in the pursuit, where all the powers of the mind and character are brought into play and are absorbed in the task. One feels oneself in contact with something that is infinite and one finds a joy that is beyond expression in ‘sounding the abyss of science’ and the secrets of the infinite mind.”
Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir was born as Simone Lucie-Ernestine-Marie-Bartrand de Beauvoir on January 9, 1908 in Paris, France. She attended Sorbonne for an education and in 1929 passed agregation in philosophy. From 1931 to 1943, Simone was a teacher, but in 1943, started her true writing career.
Most of Simone’s works included her opinions of existentialism, the belief in individuality and freedom of individuality, as well as her feministic beliefs. In 1943, Simone wrote She Came to Stay, illustrating how the human conscience treats other consciences as opponents and what society’s meaning was. She also wrote The Blood of Others in 1944.
The Mandarins appeared in 1954, winning the Prix Gancourt, a type of award. This book talked about leaving personal status in exchange for political activism. In 1964 came A Very Easy Death, dealing with the issue of aging and society’s attitude towards the elderly.
Simone also wrote a couple autobiographies, the most famous ones being Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter in 1958 and All Said and Done in 1972. In her autobiographical works, Simone usually put her own life in the time period that she lived in and saw how things worked out.
Probably one of Simone’s most famous works was an essay called “The Second Sex”. This dealt with the abolition of what Simone called the “eternal feminine”, equality between the male and female sexes, and woman’s role in society. This became a true classic of feminist literature.
Through her own writings, Simone de Beauvoir became a forerunner of the feminist movement and was an advocate of existentialism. She also co-created a monthly review called Le Temps modernas with a close personal friend. Simone died on April 14, 1986 in Paris, France at 76 years old.
“…faith, Sir, we are here to Day, and gone to Morrow.”
-Aphra Behn, “The Lucky Chance”
Ruth Fulton Benedict
Ruth Fulton was born in New York City in 1887. Her father died when she was only eighteen months old, so her mother moved the family around a lot. They traveled to Missouri and Minnesota before they found their home in Buffalo, New York in 1898. Ruth graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College and then left the United States to spend some time in Europe with some college friends. Then in 1910, Ruth was a social worker, and from 1911 to 1914 approximately, she was a teacher.
Shirley Temple Black
“If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
-Shirley Temple Black about her life
Shirley Temple was born on April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, California, one of three children. She began taking singing and dancing lessons when she was two years old, and when she was three and a half, she became an actress. She was the most popular motion picture star for five years straight, appearing in movies like Little Miss Money Marker, Poor Little Rich Girl, The Little Princess, Rebecca of Stoneybrook Farm, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and more.
In 1934, Shirley was named “the outstanding personality of 1934″ by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Then in 1935, Shirley became the youngest actor to win an Academy Award (as well as the first child to win one).
However, as Shirley grew up, she became less and less popular with the public. A TV show called “Shirley Temple” appeared in the 1940′s, but was so ineffective that it had to be taken off the air. In 1945, Shirley married a man named John Agar, and they had a daughter together. However, they divorced four years after the birth of their daughter. Later, she married Charles A. Black and they had two children.
In 1974, Shirley served as the US Ambassador to Ghana in Africa for two years, and also was the first woman to serve as chief protocol. She also wrote her own autobiography called Child Star, which won awards. Shirley had dolls made after her and also two drinks: Dirty Shirley and Shirley Temple Cocktail. She also invented the color “Temple Blue” at her own wedding. Presently, Shirley Temple is retired.
Elizabeth Blackwell was born in 1821 near Bristol, England. When she was eleven, a fire destroyed her father’s business and her family moved to New York City. In the following years, they moved around a lot. They found themselves in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1835 and Cincinnati, Ohio in 1838, where her father died. After her father’s death, Elizabeth and her family opened a private school in order to support the family.
Bonnie Kathleen Blair
Bonnie was born on March 18, 1964 in Cornwall, New York. Right from the start, Bonnie was very skilled at skating, and began entering speed skating races when she was just four years old. In 1986, she won the world short-track title for speed skating in Chamonix, France. Then, in 1987, she created a world record in a 500 meter speed skating race. Also in that year, she won her first world sprint championship, and her brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. So, Bonnie began her fundraising for the American Brain Tumor Association.
Louise Arner Boyd
Louise Arner Boyd was born in 1887 in San Rafael, California, near San Francisco. When she was only 13 years old, she inherited all of her family’s fortune and began to travel around Europe. In 1924, she visited the Arctic on a Norweigan cruise liner, and this one visit sparked her interest in polar exploration. So, in 1926, she took some friends from Norway to the Arctic Ocean on a Norweigan ship to see more of this beautiful Arctic.
Pearl S. Buck
“One does not live half a life in Asia without return. When it would be I did not know, nor even where it would be, or to what cause. In our changing world nothing changes more than geography. The friendly country of China, the home of my childhood and youth, is for the time being forbidden country. I refuse to call it enemy country. The people in my memory are too kind and the land too beautiful.”
-Pearl S. Buck from A Bridge for Passing
Marie Anne de Cupis de Camargo
“She is considered to be one of the most brilliant dancers to be seen, in particular for her sensitive ear for music, her airiness, and her strenth.”
-a critic about 15 year old Marie Anne de Cupis de Camargo
Rachel Carson was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania on May 27, 1907 and grew up in her birthtown of Springdale. She graduated from Chatham College (formerly known as the Pennsylvania College for Women) in 1929, then studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory. In 1932, Rachel received her Master of Arts in zoology from John Hopkins University. During the Great Depression, Rachel wrote radio scripts for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and also wrote natural history article in the Baltimore Sun for the payments.
Catherine the Great
Catherine was born in 1729 in Stettin, Prussia, which is now Szczecin, Poland. Her original name was Sophie Fredericke Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst and she was a German princess. Sophie moved to Russia in 1744 and was married in 1745 to the Grand Duke Peter of Holstein. Sophie converted her religion from Lutheranism to Russian Orthodox, and her husband Peter became Peter III of Russia in 1762. However, her husband was not very well liked and did much to antagonize his people and the courts, so Sophie and the imperial guard overthrew him, and Sophie was declared empress Catherine I
St. Catherine was born on March 25, 1347 in Siena, Italy. When she was a young girl, she began to see visions that she believed were from God. So, when she was seven years old, she pledged her self to God, and when she was 17, she became a nun. In 1366, Catherine began to tend to the ill, especially the ones with horrible infectious diseases. She also served the poor, and was always happy, even though she occasionly starved herself to be closer to Christ.
Chien-Shiung Wu was born in 1912 in Shanghai, China. In 1934, she received her Bachelor of Science degree in China, and two years later, she traveled to the United States. After receiving her Ph. D. from the University of California at Berkeley, she taught at Smith College before settling down at Princeton University in 1944. During World War II, Chien worked on the Manhattan Project and she also held several honorary positions at several Chinese Universities. She also became a professor of physics at Columbia University.
“For her actual beauty, it is said, was not itself so remarkable that none compared with her, or that no one could see her without being struck by it, but the contract of her presence, if you lived with her, was irresistable, the attraction of her person…and the character that attended all she said or did, was something bewitching.”
-Plutarch about Cleopatra
Cleopatra, actually known as Cleopatra VII, was born in Egypt in 69 B.C. In 58 B.C., her father Ptolemy XII was expelled from power, so Cleopatra helped him regain his power. However, her father died in 51 B.C., and Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII took the throne. In 48 B.C., Cleopatra was exiled by her brother, who had taken control as supreme Pharoah. So, Cleopatra created an army in Syria and joined forces with Roman Julius Caesar, who became her lover and supported her cause. With his help, Ptolemy XIII was killed in 47 B.C. and Caesar pronounced Cleopatra as queen of Egypt.
As it was a custom, Cleopatra married her younger brother, 11 year old Ptolemy XIV. Cleopatra also had a child whom she named Caesarian and later became Ptolemy XV. He was thought to be Caesar’s child, not Ptolemy XIV’s. Then, Caesar was assassinated and her husband, Ptolemy XIV, was poisoned and died. Although Cleopatra has been implicated with possible having poisoned him, we are unsure if she really did poison him or not.
After knowing him for a few years, Cleopatra married Mark Antony around 35 B.C., even though he was also married to a woman named Octavia. Together, they had a pair of twins who they named Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios, and also another child who was named Ptolemy XVI. In 32 B.C., war was declared upon Egypt from Octavius, the brother of Mark Antony’s other wife, because Antony had left Octavia for Cleopatra. Antony and Octavia soon divorced, but Cleopatra still was forced into war.
Sadly, Cleopatra’s army was defeated in the Battle of Actium, and many sorrowful events followed. Mark Antony heard that Cleopatra had died, so he fell on his own sword in 31 B.C., effectively committing suicide. Cleopatra built a temple in Antony’s honor called the Caesarium, which had the two small obelisks called “Cleopatra’s Needles” in it. These obelisks were later given to America and Britain as gift in the 1800′s. One is now in the Embankment in London, and the other is in Central Park in New York City.
Saddened by Antony’s death, Cleopatra killed herself in 31 B.C., although it is much disputed over whether she simply poisoned herself or let her asp (a type of snake) complete her death. Although her life has ended, her fame continues. She has been the basis for many works of literature, including Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra, John Dryden’s All for Love, and George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra. She has also had many movies titled and made about her, including ones in 1914, 1934, and 1963, among others.
Juana Inés de la Cruz
“It seems to me debilitating for a Catholic not to know everything in this life of the Divine Mysteries that can be learned through natural means.”
-Juana Inés de la Cruz
“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”
Marie Curie was born as Maria Skladowska in Warsaw, Poland on November 7, 1867. At age 16, she won a gold medal for graduating from secondary school and then started working as a teacher to help support her family. When she was 18, she worked as a governess and financed her sister through medical school with the money she received.
In 1891, Marie went to Paris and worked at a laboratory of the physicist Gabriel Lippman. There, in 1894, she met Pierre Curie, and they were married on July 25, 1895. In the summer of 1898, Marie and Piere discovered the element Polonium. A few months later, she and Pierre also discovered Radium. Marie also obtained pure metallic radium with A. Debierne and in 1903, Marie won the Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with her husband and another scientist. She became the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics.
Marie then introduced a different teaching method at Sevres, a school for girls, that was based on demonstrations of experiments. She was made chief assistant of the laboratory at Sevres in 1904.
On April 19, 1906, Marie’s husband, Pierre, died, but she was still able to continue her scientific work. She became the first female head of Laboratory at the Sorbonne University in Paris in 1906 and also received another Nobel Prize, this one in Chemistry, in 1911. She was the first person ever to win two Nobel Prizes. In 1922, Marie became a member of the Academy of Medicine.
On July 4, 1934, Marie died of leukemia, probably caused by her exposure to radiation during her experiments. She had been a woman who had contributed much to the study of radioactivity, among other things. In 1995, her ashes were enshrined under the dome of the Pantheon in Paris, the first woman to be laid there for her own merits. In 1996, a movie debuted about her and her husband called “Les Palmes de M. Schutz.” Marie has two craters named after her (one on the moon, one on Mars) as well as a NASA rover with her name. Her image is on many stamps and coins worldwide, though especially in Poland, her birth country.
Agnes George de Mille
Agnes George de Mille was born in 1905 in New York City. She attended UCLA (the University of California in Los Angeles) and chose to become a ballet dancer. Her debut was in a ballet in New York City, and after that date, she began to tour Europe.
“If fame belonged to me, I could not escape her; if she did not, the longest day would pass me on the chase, and the approbation of my dog would forsake me.”
“Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace with yourself.”
Marian Wright Edelman
Marian Wright Edelman was born on June 6, 1939 in Bennettsville, South Carolina. She attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1960 and Yale University Law School in 1963. After Yale, Marian began registering African Americans for voting in Mississippi. Then, she moved to New York City where she became an attorney for the Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor of Aquitaine was born in the Middle Ages some time around 1122. Unlike most women in those day and some of the men, Eleanor was very well educated. When she was a child, her mother and her little brother died, as well as her father in 1137. Eleanor became the richest heiress in France, since her family had left her all their money.
Beatrix Jones Farrand
Beatrix Cadwalader Jones was born in New York on June 19, 1872. In 1893, she began reading, photographing, observing, and writing down details about Bar Harbor, Maine, a place where her family would go each year. She also spent much of her time admiring gardens. From 1890 to 1891, she studied at the Arnold Arboretum, where she learned how to landscape, which was to be her profession. In 1896, her parents divorced, but that did not keep her from starting to be a landscape artist. A year later, in 1897, she designed and constructed a small cemetery in Seal Harbor, Maine. This very well may have been her first actual project. After that, she constructed many gardens, most of them in New York State, but also including the East Gardens for the White House.
“Creative minds stretched and emboldened by excellence in their educational training. Dreamers, visionaries, free spirits. At home with concepts. Thinkers with uncanny chemical intuition. Persistant, almost stubborn, in their resolve. With a childlike impetus at play and just a little bit of luck”
-Edith Flanigen about her researchers
“So much has happened, it’s as if the whole world has suddenly turned upside-down…When I write, I can shake off all my cares.”
-an excerpt from Anne Frank’s diary
Rosalind Elsie Franklin
Rosalind Elsie Franklin was born on July 15, 1920 in London, England. She was educated at one of the only girls schools with classes in physics and chemistry. When she was 15, Rosalind decided to become a scientist, but her father wanted her to become a social worker. Nonetheless, she entered Newnham College in Cambridge in 1938, and graduated in 1941.
Betty Naomi Friedan
Betty Friedan was born as Betty Naomi Goldstein in Peoria, Illinois on February 3, 1921. When she was 17, she graduated from high school and soon after, she attended Smith College. She graduated in 1942 with a degree in psychology. She was offered a scholarship to receive her Ph. D. in 1944, but she declined the offer, moving to New York City and working as a workers’ press reporter.
Elizabeth Gurney Fry
Elizabeth Gurney was born on May 21, 1780, in Norwich, England, the fourth of twelve children. In 1799, she became a strict Quaker and religion became her life. On August 19, 1800, Elizabeth married the wealthy and orthodox Quaker Joseph Fry. They had their first child in 1822 and ended up having eleven children. She became a Quaker minister in 1811.
“The especial genius of women I believe to be electrical in movement, intuitive in function, spiritual in tendency.”
Indira Gandhi was born in Allahabad, India, on November 19, 1917, an only child. In order to receive a well-rounded education, Indira attended Visva-Bharat University in West Bengal and the University of Oxford. In 1942, Indira met and married Feroze Gandhi, a member of the national Congress Party like herself.
In January 1966, Indira was elected as the president of the Congress Party after the death of the former president. She also became the Minister of Information and broadcasting as well as Prime Minister of India. However, one year later, she lost the election, but she won the election again in 1971.
Also in 1971, Indira aided in the creation of Bangladesh (formerly East Bengal) by supporting East Bengal in a war against Pakistan. Once more, bad luck came Indira’s way, and in March 1972, she was accused of violating the election’s rules. In 1975, she was deprived of her position, but she tried to keep her seat by putting India in an emergency state.
Once more, in 1977, Indira lost the election, but her supporters created the Congress (I) Party (with the “I” standing for “Indira”) and they both were able to regain the election in 1980. However, Indira repeatedly received threats about India’s political integrity, and even some Sikh extremists used violence with their autonomous demands. In order to stop the Sikh extremists, Indira bombed the Golden Temple of the Sikhs in June 1984. Around 450 Sikhs were killed in this bombing.
Seeking revenge for the bombing of the Golden Temple, two Sikh extremists, posing as Indira’s bodyguards, assassinated Indira on October 31, 1984, in India’s capital of New Delhi. One gunman was killed, and the other was wounded. Indira had done much for her native country of India, including all that is mentioned above, but she also established close relations between India and the Soviet Union and developed India industrially.
Sarah and Angelina Grimke
Although two separate women in being and entity, these two women were so important together and couldn’t be separated. So, these women count as one unit. I’m sure they would have liked it this way.
Caroline Lucretia Herschel
“Every leisure moment was eagerly snatched at for resuming some work which was in progress, without taking time or changing dress, and many a lace ruffle…was torn or bespattered by molten pitch…I was even obliged to feed him by putting his vitals by bits into his mouth;-this was once the case when at the finishing of a 7 foot mirror he had not left his hands from it for 16 hours…”
-Caroline Lucretia Herschel of taking care of her brother, William
Judith E. Heumann
Judith E. Heumann is an enormously influencial woman who pioneered for equality for people with disibilities. When she was 18 months old, she was diagnosed with polio, and had to spend her life in a wheelchair. She was allowed to attend school until the 4th grade, though she did graduate from two colleges: Long Island University (1969) and University of California at Berkeley (1975). It was from the University of California at Berkeley that she received her Master of Arts in Public Health Administration. She wanted to be a teacher, but was turned down by the New York City school system because she used a wheelchair. In response, she filed a suit against them and won.
Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin
“She will be remembered as a great chemist, a saintly, gentle and tolerant lover of people, and a devoted protagonist of peace.”
-M. F. Perutz about Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin
“among the most advanced and exciting in the world”
-quote about Ariel Hollinshead’s work
Mary Phelps Jacob
“very soft, short and so well designed it separated the breasts naturally”
-Beatrice Fontanel about Mary Phelps Jacob’s brassiere
“For many generations, more than we can count, we bowed our heads and submitted to blindness and begging. This blind and deaf woman lifts her head high and teaches us to win our way back by work and laughter. She brings light and hope to the heart.”
-Quote from a Japanese woman about Helen Keller
Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880, in the state of Alabama in the United States. As an infant she was healthy, lively, and happy, but when she was 19 months old she contracted a horrible fever and she was left deaf and blind.
So, Helen communicated by using specific signs that meant specific words, like wrapping her arms around herself and shivering if she wanted ice cream. But her attitude began to go downhill when she was 5 and discovered other people would talk with their mouths. This made her very upset, so she threw tantrums which got worse as she got older. When she was almost seven years old, her family got her a tutor: Anne Sullivan.
Helen had finally found her match, for Anne could control her with sheer willpower and force. Soon, Anne began teaching Helen words by signing them into Helen’s hand (forming letters with her fingers) so Helen could feel them. Anne spelled out “water” and splashed water on Helen’s hand repeatedly. Finally, Helen realized what words related and their spellings.
Anne and Helen’s progress continued for almost fifty years. Helen learned how to read and write Braille, a language where letters are made from a series of raised dots. Helen also learned Tacoma, reading people’s lips by touching them as they moved and feeling the vibrations. This was an amazing feat because this is very difficult to do and a very small sum of people can accomplish this. And, of course, Helen learned how to speak verbally.
In 1888, Helen and Anne attended Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts. Then, in 1894, they attended Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York together. While in Radcliffe College, Helen wrote her own autobiography titled The Story of My Life. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904. Then, in 1932, Helen was elected vice president of the United Kingdom’s Royal Nation Institute for the Blind.
Helen died in 1968, having accomplished many feats. In addition, she had helped set up the American Foundation for the Blind and had been a fervent socialist and suffragette. Helen Keller International, an organization devoted to the blind, was created in her honor.
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean Moffitt was born in Long Beach, California, in 1943. As a kid, she was very interested in tennis and learned it at a very young age. She attended college at California State College at Los Angeles (then Los Angeles State College). When she was 18 in 1962, Billie Jean suprisingly defeated the world’s leading women’s tennis player, Margaret Smith Court, at Wimbleton. After this incident, nothing could stop her and she became one of the most successful players in tennis history.
Aleksandra Mikhaylovna Kollontai
Aleksandra Mikhaylovna was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on March 31, 1872. She was the daughter of an Imperial Russian Army general and married a man named Vladimir Mikhaylovna Kollontai. In 1898, Aleksandra abandoned society and her position and joined the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, spreading the word for revolution. She also traveled to the United States where she tried to stop the U.S. from participating in World War I.
“People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.”
Susette La Flesche Tibbles
Susette La Flesche was born on the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska in the year 1854. Since she was Native American, her name was Inshata Theumba, meaning “bright eyes.” She went to a Presbyterian school for an English language education and then continued her education in Elizabeth, New Jersey. After her schooling, she returned to the Omaha Reservation and taught at a school of government.
Maya Lin was born in Athens, Ohio, on October 5, 1959, of Chinese lineage. Maya attended Yale University and graduated in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and sculpture. During her senior year, she entered a contest for the design of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. Her design was chosen and accepted, winning the contest.
Juliette Gordon Low
Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon Low was born in Savannah, Georgia, on Halloween: October 31, 1860. She was called “Daisy” by her friends and attended private schools far from her home, spending most of her time without her family. One of her schools was in Virginia and was headed by Thomas Jefferson’s granddaughters. Another was a French school in New York City.
Anne Sullivan Macy
Joanna Sullivan was born in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, on April 14, 1866. For her whole life, she was called by her nickname, Anne or Annie. Her mother died when she was eight, and when she was ten, her father deserted her and her siblings. On top of that, she became blind from an earlier illness. In 1880, she entered the Perkins Institution for the Blind where she underwent surgery and regained some of her sight. She graduated in 1886 at the top of her class.
“We are a revitalized tribe. After every major upheaval, we have been able to gather together as a people to rebuild a community and a government. Individually and collectively, Cherokee people possess an extraordinary ability to face down adversity and continue moving forward. We are able to do that because our culture, though certainly diminished, has sustained us since time inmemorial. This Cherokee culture is a well-kept secret.”
Barbara McClintock was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on June 16, 1902. She lived most of her childhood with her aunt and uncle because her mother had emotional problems and couldn’t handle her. In 1908, she moved with her family to Brooklyn, New York, and began to have fun playing the piano and ice skating.
Catherine de Medici
Catherine de Medici was born in Florence, Italy, on April 13, 1519. Although she was the daughter of a duke and a princess, she was quickly orphaned. She was educated by nuns in both Rome and Florence.
“The German Madam Curie.”
-Albert Einstein about Lise Meitner
Rigoberta Menchu Tum
Rigoberta Menchu Tum was born in 1959 in northwestern Guatemala to a Quiche-Mayan family. When she was young, a couple of her siblings and friends died because of unsafe labor conditions and extreme poverty. Because of this, Rigoberta never had a formal education. When she was just eight years old, she worked with her family as a migrant agricultural laborer on large coastal farms. After that, she worked in Guatemala City as a maid.
Maria Montessori was born in Ancona, Italy, in 1870. She was the first woman to become a physician in Italy and studied at the University of Rome. She specialized in psychiatry and pediatrics and taught medical school at the University of Rome.
“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in 1910 in Skopje, now the capital of Macedonia. When she was 18, she became part of Ireland’s Order of the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto. She trained in Dublin, Ireland and Darjiling, India.
Agnes took her vows to become a nun in 1937, the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and service to the poor. She also decided that her name would be Theresa after the patron saint of foreign missionaries, Saint Theresa of Lisieux.
Mother Theresa worked as a principal at a high school in Kolkota, but the sight of the sick and dying in the streets made her change her mind of what to do. In 1948, she was allowed to leave her office to help the sick. In 1950, she and her helpers formed the Missionaries of Charity and Mother Theresa was the leader.
In 1952, Mother Theresa established in Kolkota the Pure Heart (Nirmal Hriday) Home for Dying Desititutes and in 1979, she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her accomplishments.
In 1990, Mother Theresa’s health was declining and she had to cut back on her activities. However, a book of her quotations and anecdotes Mother Theresa: In My Own Words was published. A year later, she chose Sister Nirmala to be the next leader of the Missionaries of Charity. She died on September 5, 1997.
Baroness Murasaki Shikibu
“…[there was a] moment in the history of our country when the whole energy of the nation seemed to be concentrated upon the search for the prettiest method of mounting paper scrolls!”
-Baroness Murasaki Shikibu about the nature of court life in her time
Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy, on May 12, 1820. Named after her birthplace, Florence spent most of her childhood in London, Derbyshire, and Hampshire. Although she didn’t attend school, her father taught her well, so well in fact, that she could do mathematics, history, and philosophy, and spoke Greek, French, Italian, Latin, and German.
On February 7, 1837, Florence heard the voice of God, telling her that she had a mission. However, Florence had no idea what that mission was. She found out in 1846 when a friend sent her a book called the Year Book of the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses, which taught her elementary nursing techniques. In 1852 in London, she was given the position of superintendent of the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen. However, Florence wanted more.
In March 1854, the Crimean war began. Florence volunteered as a nurse with a group of other women and left her home on October 21, 1854. On November 5, 1854, she arrived in Barrack Hospital at Scutari. There, the condition of the facilities were inadequate, but Florence was able to make do. She came up with 200 scrubbing brushes, washed patients clothes, and supplied the hospital, among other things. She would personally attend to every patient and did not allow any other woman in the wards after 8:00 p.m. Florence would check on and comfort the patients at night, walking the halls with a lamp. It was because of this that the soldiers gave her the nickname, “The Lady with the Lamp.”
In May 1855, Florence went to the battlefront in Crimea, but she became sick with the Crimean fever and was told she only held authority in Barrack Hospital. Still, on March 16, 1856, she became widely known as superintendent of the Female Nursing Establishment of the Military Hospitals.
After all her patients had been released, Florence returned to England and even consulted with Queen Victoria in October 1856. From this meeting came a promise for a royal commission from the Queen. This royal commission, the Royal Commission on the Health of the Army, was created in 1857, and this commission also formed an Army Medical School in 1857 as well. Another royal commission was created as well in 1859, and this commission established a Sanitary Department in 1868.
In 1860, Florence created the Nightingale School for Nurses at St. Thomas’ Hospital. This was the first of its kind, and Florence reformed the workhouses and trained the midwives and nurses herself. However, her health began to fail her. She had been an invalid starting in 1857, and in 1901, she became completely blind. Florence died in London, England, on August 13, 1910. She had been asked, previously, if she wanted to be buried in Westminster Abbey, but she declined the offer.
“I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me…shapes and ideas so near to me…so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t occurred to me to put them down…”
Emmeline Pankhurst was born in Manchester, England, on July 14, 1858. In 1879, she married a lawyer who had created in England the first women’s suffrage bill and the Married Women’s Property Acts, Richard Marsden Pankhurst. In 1889, Emmeline created the Women’s Franchise League which, in 1894, gave married women the right to vote not in the House of Commons, but in local office elections. Then, in 1903, she established WSPU, the Women’s Social and Politcal Union. On October 13, 1905, her daughter, Christabel, and Annie Kenney, were arrested for technical police assault as well as the refusal to pay fines after demanding women’s suffrage at a Liberal party meeting.
“Back then, we didn’t have any civil rights. It was just a matter of survival existing from one day to the next. I remember going to sleep as a girl hearing the Klan ride at night and hearing a lynching and being afraid the house would burn down.”
One of five children, Maria Eva Duarte was born in Argentina in 1919. When she was seven years old, her father died, and she, along with her mothers and sisters, had to work as cooks for a rich family in order to survive. In 1933, when she had an acting part in the play “Student’s Arise”, she decided that she was going to be an actress. So, she went to Buenos Aires to find acting jobs, which was very difficult. She worked as a model at times and got parts in a few plays, including “La Senora de Perez,” but it was hard to have enough food and money to live on. However, when she dated the owner of Sintonia Magazine, she found that she had enough food, money, and jobs and realized that having an impressive boyfriend was directly related to how well she did. At the time, she also worked as a radio host at Radio Argentina, Radio Belgrano, and a third radio station.
Eva then persuaded a party to be hosted by Colonel Anibal Imbert, and this changed her life forever. There, she met Colonel Juan Domingo Peron, then the secretary of the United Offices Group. As they began to fall in love, Juan became Under Secretary at the War Ministry and the head of Secretary of Labor and Welfare. On February 24, 1944, Juan refused to resign and the president of Argentina was forced to resign instead. Juan soon became the vice president to the new president, and Eva stayed with him.
It was Eva who convined Peron to help the workers, and she also persuaded him into putting her mother’s boyfriend and herself into Director of Posts and Telegraphy positions. It would seem that Eva had a lot of influence over Juan, for he would ask for her advice at times. But then, on October 9, Juan was asked to resign again from office, but this time because of Eva. Juan resigned, and when he returned home, Eva got his friends to give him their support. She also asked him to get his papers, for there was a crowd outside and he had to speak in front of them. He wasn’t arrested after this, but he was put in jail. After Eva managed to release him, the people in the streets were yelling “Peron for President!”
On December 9, Eva and Juan were married at a small wedding. Then, Juan ran for president and was highly supported by the poor. He was elected on March 28 and Eva became the First Lady. As First Lady, she had all the Argentinians call her by her more informal and friendly name, Evita, and helped out the poor and the country as much as she could. She organized the Peronista party’s women’s branch, showing her support of women’s rights. She also created the Eva Peron Foundation, which helped people get money, housing, and clothing. Mostly, she helped out the poor, whom she called “los descamisados,” meaning “the shirtless ones,” by establishing orphanages for children, among other things. Eva also toured Europe and was received well in Spain, but was not well received in France, Great Britain, or Italy. She certainly must have been happy to return to her country of Argentina.
In 1951, Eva decided she would run for vice president. The descamisados supported her, but the military didn’t because they didn’t want a female vice president. So, Eva was unable to become vice president. Sadly, she died at a fairly young age on July 26, 1952.
Christine de Pizan
Christine de Pizan was born in 1364 in Venice, Italy. When she was five years old, she went with her father and her family to live in the court of France’s Charles V. There she was very well educated, learning French in addition to Italian, and she most likely knew Latin as well.
Pocahontas was born in Gloucester County, Virginia, in March 1595. Her real Native American name, given by her father, Chief Powhatan, was Matoaka. Her pet name was Pocahontas, meaning “my favorite daughter” and “frolicsome.” In 1607, settlers came to the Chesapeake Bay area and a man named John Smith, the military leader of Jamestown, was taken prisoner by her people some years later. Pocahontas was the one who saved John Smith’s life, possibly having flung herself over him as he was about to be clubbed to death, but this has not been proven true. After saving him, she urged her Native American people that he be returned to Jamestown and her father, Chief Powhatan, honored her request.
Anne was born on February 6, 1665, in London, England, the daughter of James II, King of England. In 1672, her father converted to Catholicism, but Anne remained Protestant. In 1683, her marriage was arranged to Prince George of Denmark, and they were married.
Victoria was born in England on May 24, 1819. Her father died when she was only eight months old, and when she was eighteen, she ascended the English throne after the death of William IV. It was her reign that made England grow both economically and socially. Called the Victorian Era, it was known for Victoria’s laizze-faire ways, meaning “hands-off.” Her first law was passed in 1832, the Reform Act that gave legislative authority to the House of Lords and executive authority to the House of Commons.
In 1840, she married her German cousin, Prince Albert. Together, they organized the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851, although this was mostly attributed to Albert. They used the proceeds to build industrial and cultural museums in Kensington. However, in 1891, Albert died of typhoid, and Victoria became a recluse for more than 25 years in mourning. Although she was named the Empress of India in 1878, she only began to reappear after the Golden Jubilee of 1887, celebrating her 50th year ruling.
During her reign, Queen Victoria doubled England in size, kept England almost free of war (with only three small exceptions), had nonexistant European entanglements, formed the Liberal and Conservative parties, and broadened suffrage with the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884.
Victoria ended up having the longest reign in history, dying on January 22, 1901. Sadly,the Victorian Era died with her.
“Our future lies with today’s kids and tomorrow’s space exploration.”
-Dr. Sally Ride
“Before Alexandra’s death, she was known to be obstinate, cold, and withdrawn. But to those in her family circle she was warm, friendly, and endearing, only shy when encountered with strangers. I believe that she was a complex woman who was just misjudged but should be known for being loyal to her country and family.”
-Elaine Reyes about Tsarina Alexandra Romanov
Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City, New York, on October 11, 1884. Both of her parents and one of her brothers died before she was ten years old, so she and her surviving brother were raised by her relatives. When she was 15, she attended Allenswood girls boarding school in London, England. In 1902, she had to return to New York even though she was happy in England because she had to prepare for her induction into society. It was then that she began teaching at a Manhattan Lower East Side settlement house.
On March 17, 1905, Eleanor married her distant cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, in New York City, New York. Together, they had six children, but one died as an infant. She was elected to the Senate in 1911, but in April 1917, she returned to volunteer work. With the war going on, she visited wounded soldiers and participated in the Navy’s Marine Corps Relief Society and a canteen of the Red Cross. In 1921, Eleanor joined the Women’s Trade Union League and took an active role in the democratic party. She also became a member of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the League of Women Voters.
Then, Eleanor’s husband became president of the United States, and she became first lady. She had regular press conferences with women correspondents, became the president’s “eyes and ears”, wrote a newspaper column every day called “My Day”, helped with child welfare, housing reform and equal rights for all racial minorities and women, defended African Americans rights, and helped new political parties get a new start in government.
In 1945, Franklin died and Eleanor was appointed as a United Nations delegate and was the Commission on Human Rights’ chairman from 1946 to 1951. In 1948, she helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in 1961, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy appointed her as his Commission on the Status on Women’s chair.
Eleanor died in New York City, New York, on November 7, 1962, of a rare form of tuberculosis. She is buried at Hyde Park where her husband lived and where their library stands.
Whether spelled Sakajawea, meaning “Boat Launcher”, or Sacagawea, meaning “Bird Woman”, Sakajawea played an important role in history. She rose the Native American woman to higher levels of admiration and respect, among other recognitions. She was most likely born in 1790 in Eastern Idaho, a Native American of the Shoshoni tribe. When she was just ten years old, she was kidnapped by the Hidatsa, another tribe, and was brought to the North Dakota border. There, she was eventually sold to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader. They were married and soon after, Sakajawea became pregnant.
Margaret Louise Higgins was born in Corning, New York, on September 14, 1879, the sixth of eleven children. In 1896, she attended the Clawerack College and the Hudson River Institute. Then, four years later in 1900, she entered the White Plain Hospital nursing program. Two years later, she met William Sanger and they were married. They settled down in Hastings, New York, but moved back to the city, choosing New York City in 1910. There, she joined the Liberal Club and the Women’s Committee of the New York Socialist Party. She also began joining strikes, like 1912′s strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts and 1913′s Paterson, New Jersey strike.
“I think that someone will remember us in another time.”
“The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred. There are so many of us for one job it matters little if 140-odd are burned to death.”
“Don’t worry about your background, whether it’s odd or ordinary, use it, build on it.”
Lucy Stone was born in West Brookfield, Massachusetts, on August 13, 1818. She attended the first woman’s college, Oberlin College in Ohio, and graduated in 1847. After that, she became one of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society’s lecturers and also spoke on her own about women’s rights. In 1850, she organized the first national women’s rights convention.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe was born on June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut, one of thirteen children. Her father was a Calvinist preacher that expected his sons to be preachers, too. Because of this forced upbringing, two of Harriet’s brothers killed themselves. As for her sisters and herself, they were supposed to be good Calvinist women. Harriet’s sister, Catherine, founded a seminary called the Hartford Female Seminary, and Harriet attended school there and also taught there after graduation until 1832.
Harriet Russell Strong
Once again, the inevitable has occured. I have undercovered another woman who history does not seem to know much about, and I really don’t have anyone else of this genre on this list either. This is Harriet Russell Strong.
Bertha von Suttner
Bertha von Suttner was born in Prague, Bohemia, in the Austrian Empire, on June 9, 1843. She was the Suttner family’s governess starting in 1873 and she became engaged to the engineer and novelist Baron Arthur Gundaccar von Suttner. However, both their families opposed the relationship, so Bertha became Alfred Nobel’s Paris secretary-housekeeper and secretly married Arthur.
Emma Tenayuca was born on December 21, 1916, in San Antonio, Texas, one of eleven children. She lived with her grandparents during her childhood to ease her parent’s strife. When she was 16 years old, she joined the labor movement and found out all about the Finck Cigar Company strikes. She graduated from Brackenridge High School in 1934 and became an elevator operator. However, she was still in the labor movement, and was arrested once when she joined the Finck Cigar Company picket line.
Valentina Vladimirovna Nikolayeva Tereshkova
Valentina Vladimirovna Nikolayeva Tereshkova was born in Maslennikovo, Russia, on March 6, 1937. In 1961, she volunteered for a cosmonaut program (a cosmonaut is the Russian form of astronaut) and was accepted because she was an “accomplished amateur parachutist.” Before this incident, however, Valentina was a textile worker. From 1962 to 1990, Valentina was a U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet member, which is the U.S.S.R National Parliament.
Margaret Hilda Roberts was born in Grantham, England, in 1925. She attended the University of Oxford and earned her chemistry degrees. Then, from 1947 to 1951, she used her degrees as a research chemist.
In 1951, Margaret married Denis Thatcher and two years later, in 1963, she became a tax lawyer after passing the bar exam. In 1959, she was elected to the House of Commons by the Conservative party. This was her first start in politics, which would soon become an important part in her life. From 1970 to 1974, she was the Minister of Science and Education under Edward Heath. With this position, she abolished free milk in schools, although this caused much protest.
In 1975, Margaret won the leadership of the Conservative party and in 1979, the Conservative party became the leading party. Also that year, she became the first female prime minister and held the position from 1979 to 1990. She was also the first person to win the election for three consecutive terms. She decreased the role of the government in the economy of England and privatized housing, education, and health care.
In 1982, the Falkland Islands, belonging to Argentina and the United Kingdom jointly, were taken totally by Argentina. Reacting, Margaret sent her own forces to take them back and succeeded in defeating them. On June 1983, the Conservative party won the election and was in power again, but in October 1984, a murder attempt was made on Margaret’s life. Luckily, she survived the bomb in Brighton’s Grand Hotel, but she resigned in November 1990.
Alexandrine Pieternella Francoise Tinne
Alexandrine Pieternella Francoise Tinne was born in The Hague, Netherlands (Holland), on October 17, 1835. She was a Dutch explorer of northern Africa, but it was strange to have a female explorer going to different continents at that time. She wanted to map the White Nile in Sudan, Africa, as her goal. In 1861, she went on her first expedition on the Nile with her aunt and mother. She traveled to Gondokoro, Sudan, where she was supposed to meet the British explorer John Hanning Speke. However, he never showed and she went to find the Nile’s source by herself. She went west near the Gazelle River (Bahr al-Ghazal) and the Sobat River, investigating near Lake Chad, especially the Nile Basin. Sadly, her mother and aunt and a few others died of fever during her expedition.
“Ain’t I a Woman?”
“You’ll be free or die!”
-Harriet Tubman’s motto when a runaway had second thoughts about escaping a life of slavery (Harriet would point a gun at the questioning runaway while saying this to prove her point)
Tz’u Hsi was born in Peking, China, on November 29, 1835. She started out as no more than the Hsien-feng emperor’s concubine. Then, in 1856, she gave birth to their son and the emperor died soon after. Hence, the boy became the emperor T’ung-chih, but he was too young. Instead the regency governed, which was usually a group of elders, but the power instead was given to Ts’u Hsi and two other partners.