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More women who made History

Women have achieved a great many things throughout History.


Here are fifteen women (in no particular order) who have positively impacted the world and had an impact on History.


Looking for our first fifteen women who made History? You can see them here.


16. Maya Angelou


Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson on 4th April 1928 in Missouri, America. She is well known as being an author, poet and civil rights activist.


When she was only 8 years old, she was abused by her mother’s boyfriend. she told her family about what had happened, and he was later found dead (presumably killed by Maya’s extended family). Maya felt responsible for his death and was so consumed by guilt that she stopped talking for a period of years.


With help from one of her teachers she managed to regain her voice. Throughout her life she worked as a singer, dancer, actress, composer, director, author and civil rights activist. She wrote seven autobiographies, published many books and poems. She would often recite her poetry to spellbound crowds. In 1972 she was the first black woman to have a screenplay produced.


She died on 28th May 2014 and tributes were given to her by artists, entertainers and world leaders, including Barak Obama.


17. Clara Barton


Clara Barton was born on Christmas Day in 1821. She is famous for being a nurse, humanitarian and the founder of the American Red Cross.


Her first experience of nursing was when she was a teenager and she helped to care for her seriously ill brother. She had no formal nursing education, as this was not usual at the time and all her nursing knowledge was self-taught.


She risked her life to bring supplies, such as clothing and food to soldiers during the American Civil War. She learned how to store and distribute medical supplies and offered emotional support to the soldiers by keeping their spirits high.


After the war, when she returned home, she was determined to set up an organisation to help victims of war and violence. After some initial opposition she was finally successful and set up the American Red Cross in May 1881, which is still running today.


She continued to work closely with those in need, helping people whose homes were flooded, with a yellow fever outbreak and the aftermath of war. She worked in hospitals in Cuba when she was 77 years old.


She died of pneumonia at home in 1912, at the age of 90.


18. Amelia Earhart


Amelia Earhart was born on 24th July 1897 in Kansas. She is most well known for being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Amelia, along with her younger sister, had a love of adventure. Unlike most young girls at the time, they spent a lot of time playing outside, climbing trees, hunting rats and playing with a homemade sled.


During her twenties she had her first experience in an aeroplane and after that moment became determined to learn to fly. She took on a variety of jobs including a photographer, a truck driver and a stenographer in order to pay for her flying lessons. In May 1923 she became the sixteenth woman in the United States to be issued with a pilot’s licence.


In 1928 she was selected to be the first woman to be flown across the Atlantic Ocean. In June of that year, she departed Canada as a passenger in a plane piloted by Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon. On landing in Wales, the next day, she quickly became an international celebrity. She wrote a book about her experience and began a lecture tour across the United States.


She was determined to justify the fame that the 1928 flight had brought her and so in 1932 she crossed the Atlantic alone. In addition to her piloting feats, Earhart was also well known for encouraging women to reject constrictive social norms and to pursue their dreams.


In 1937 she set out, along with Fred Noonan as a navigator, to fly around the world. The flight was expected to be difficult, but on 2nd July 1937 the plane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean, after radioing the coast guard to inform them they were running out of fuel. A search was sent out for the plane, but was not found. The disappearance of Amelia and Fred has been the source of much intrigue over the years and although she was never found Amelia was declared dead in January 1939.


19. Katia Krafft


Katia Krafft was born on 17th April 1942 in France. Katia was a volcanologist who, along with her husband Maurice got close up footage and photographs of many volcanoes.


Katia and Maurice met at university and were married in 1970, their career as volcanologists lasted around twenty years.


Where other scientists were afraid to get too close to erupting volcanoes, Katia was fearless, she would go right up to the edge of the volcanoes. Katia took measurements, collected gas readings and collected samples at the volcanoes. Her work has given us a better understanding of volcanoes including how they are formed and how eruptions affect the ecosystem.


Katia would photograph the spectacular eruptions whilst studying the volcanoes and Maurice would capture these eruptions on video. She wrote numerous books about her findings with volcanoes and made a documentary named ‘The Volcano Watchers’


In June 1991 Katia and Maurice were filming eruptions at Mount Unzen in Japan. They were caught in a pyroclastic flow which unexpectedly flowed out of a small channel which they were standing next to. They were killed instantly.


The Centre for the Study of Active Volcanoes at the University of Hawaii has since set up fund in memory of the Krafft's. The donations received are used to educate people in countries of high volcanic risk about the hazards active volcanoes pose.


20. Boudicca


Boudicca was the queen of the Iceni people of modern-day East Anglia. She is famous for leading a major uprising against occupying Roman forces in AD 61.


Boudicca was married to the Iceni king Prasutagus, who was an ally of Rome and they had two daughters together. When Prasutagus died he split his private wealth between his family and the emperor Nero. However, the Romans ignored his wishes and took his property. Boudicca objected to this and was flogged, and her daughters were tortured.


In response Boudicca raised a rebellion throughout East Anglia, she led the Iceni, the Trinovantes and other tribes in a revolt destroying Camulodunum (Colchester), Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St. Albans). It is said that she destroyed at least 70,000 Romans, including the Roman 9th Legion.


Boudicca and her followers were eventually destroyed in a battle led by the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus. It is not known how Boudicca died, but it said that she may have been killed in the battle, or she may have poisoned herself to avoid being captured.


21. Marie Curie


Marie Curie was born on 7th November 1867 in Warsaw, Poland. She is well known for her discoveries of two new elements and her contribution to finding treatments for cancer.


Her father was a teacher and, although not wealthy, her parents believed in the importance of education for their children. In 1891 she moved to Paris where she earnt higher degrees and began her scientific work. In 1895 she married Pierre Curie, whom she worked very closely with.


Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity in 1986, Pierre and Marie continued with his work, examining many substances and minerals for signs of radioactivity. They managed to extract and identify two previously unknown elements, which were named polonium and radium. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work in 1903.


In 1911 Marie Curie was awarded another Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry. This Nobel Prize was for work she completed for documenting the properties of radioactive elements and their compounds. These compounds have become important as sources of radiation in both scientific experiments and in the field of medicine, where they are used to treat tumours.


Marie Curie was the first woman to be given a Nobel Prize and was the first person to be awarded a Nobel Prize twice.


Marie Curie died in 1934 from a blood disease which is thought to have been caused by an overexposure to radioactivity.


22. George Eliot


Mary Ann Evans was born on 22nd November 1819 in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. She is known by her pen name,George Eliot, and was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator and is thought of as one of the leading writers of the Victorian era.


As a child, she loved to read and was obviously intelligent. She was fortunate to be given some formal education at a time when education was often not given to girls. After the age of sixteen she was able to continue her education with self-study, due to the fact that her father had access to the libraries on the estate he worked on. Her regular visits to the estate allowed her to see the differences between the lives of the landowner and the poorer people who lived on the estate. This gave her comparisons that she would later draw on in her literary works.


She wrote seven novels under the pen name George Eliot. Although women could be published authors at the time, they were stereotypically limited to writing about romance and other light hearted subjects. She wanted to be taken seriously and write about a variety of topics, hence the pen name. Her books are well known for being realistic with detailed descriptions of life and the countryside.


She died on 22nd December 1880 from a combination of a throat infection and kidney disease.


23. Rosa Parks


Rosa parks was born on 4th February 1913 in Alabama. She is well known for being a civil rights activist who famously refused to give up her seat to a white person on a segregated bus.


Rosa became active in the civil rights movement during the 1940s when she joined the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People), became the organisations secretary and started investigating cases of injustice in the black community.


On 1st December 1955 Rosa was travelling on a bus in Alabama. She was sat in the designated black area towards the back of the bus. A white man got onto the bus and had nowhere to sit because all of the seats in the white section were taken. Rosa and three other black passengers were told by the bus driver to stand to add an extra row to the white section, so the man could sit down. The other three people obeyed, but Rosa refused. She was subsequently arrested for refusing to move.


Rosa’s arrest inspired Nixon to instigate a protest where every black person boycotted the buses for a day. People walked, took taxies or shared lifts in order to avoid the buses. In the end the black people living in Montgomery continued to boycott the buses for a total of 382 days.


After her arrest Rosa Parks became a well known icon of the Civil Rights Movement. In the 1990’s she published two books, her autobiography and a book which includes her memoirs.


She died 24th October 2005 in Detroit, Michigan at the age of 92.


24. Simone Segouin


Simone Segouin is a former French Resistance fighter who was born on 3rd October 1925 in Eure-et-Loir, France.


Simone was a tomboy and had three brothers who taught her how to fight. Her father was a farmer, who served his country during the first world war. When the second world war started, she was determined to find a way to help her country, despite only being a teenager. She joined a French Resistance group and took the nom de guerre ‘Nicole Minet’.


She stole a bike from German soldiers, painted it so it wouldn’t be recognised and used it to move around without attracting notice so she could deliver messages and look at what was going on without being detected. Simone undertook military training and helped to sabotage the Germans, destroying their supply chains and blowing up bridges.


After the war ended, Simone was promoted to lieutenant and awarded the prestigious Croix de Guerre.


25. Emmeline Pankhurst


Emmeline Pankhurst was born on 14th July 1858 in Manchester, England. She is most well remembered for organising the UK suffragette movement and her part in helping women to win the right to vote.


Her parents were both politically active and had some views that would have been viewed as extreme or revolutionary. In 1889 she founded the Women’s Franchise League, along with her husband, Richard and then later in 1903 she founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). WSPU membership was open for women only and its purpose was to give women a voice, in 1906 the members of WSPU became known as suffragettes.


Emmeline, along with many other suffragettes were involved with many demonstrations and marches, which sometimes included arson and the smashing of windows. Unsurprisingly she was arrested numerous times over a period of years. While incarcerated she went on hunger strike which led to violent force feeding attempts by the authorities. In 1913, in response to the wave of hunger strikes, the government passed what became known as the 'Cat and Mouse' Act. Hunger striking prisoners were released until they were strong again, and then re-arrested


In 1918 women over the age of thirty who met certain criteria were finally given the right to vote. Emmeline Pankhurst died in 1928, the same year that women were granted the same voting rights as men.


26. Gertrude Ederle


Gertrude Ederle was born on 23rd October 1905 in Manhattan, New York. She was an American competition swimmer, Olympic champion and world record holder. She is most famous for becoming the first woman to swim across the English Channel.

Gertrude did not learn to swim until she was nine years old, and it would be a further six years before she learnt proper swimming techniques.


In the 1924 Olympic games she won two bronze medals and one gold medal. In 1925 she became the first woman to swim the length of New York Bay, impressively breaking the men’s record. Her record would stand for a massive 81 years. In the same year she attempted to swim across the English Channel, but her coach forced her to stop part way across.


She was not deterred by her first failed attempt and on 6th August 1926 she became the first person to swim across the English Channel. She completed the swim in 14 hours and 31 minutes, beating the previous record by a massive two hours!


Gertrude had had poor hearing since childhood, but her hearing became worse after her channel swim. She spent most of the rest of her career teaching deaf children to swim. She died on 30th November 2003 at the age of 98.


27. Queen Victoria


Victoria, in full Alexandrina Victoria was born on 24th May 1819 at Kensington Palace, London. She was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20th June 1837 until her death in 1901, her name is given to the Victorian era. She reigned for 63 years and is the second longest reigning monarch, after only Queen Elizabeth II.


Victoria was a head strong and philanthropic monarch. She was very heavily involved with politics and was determined to influence government policies. Despite seven attempts being made on her life, she was immensely popular with the public, she became a national icon, and her popularity grew throughout her reign.


During her time on the throne Victoria expanded the British Empire and became the Empress of India in 1876, another role that she would keep until her death.


Queen Victoria had nine children and forty-two grandchildren. Her grandchildren married into royal families across a number of countries including Germany, Greece, Norway, Romania, Russia, Spain and Sweden. This gave her the nickname the ‘grandmother of Europe’.


Victoria died on 22nd January 1901 at the age of 81.


28. Rosalind Franklin


Rosalind Franklin was born on 25th July 1920 in Notting Hill, London. She was a chemist whose work was fundamental to understanding the molecular structure of DNA.


She was educated at various private schools and graduated from Cambridge University. She had a passion for science and worked as a research scientist whilst obtaining a PhD from Cambridge. She learnt techniques such as X-ray crystallography and diffraction, she was able to use these techniques to fibres od DNA. She was able to produce an x-ray image of the DNA structure, which later became known as photograph 51.


James Watson and Francis Crick are credited for the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953 and they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962 for their work. Watson and Crick did a great deal of work that has helped us to understand more about DNA, but the idea of the DNA double helix structure was obtained when Crick was shown photograph 51, which Rosalind Franklin had taken.


Finally, Rosalind Franklin left the laboratories working on DNA and began working on the structure of viruses, she published a total of 17 papers in the five years that she worked on the research on viruses.


Rosalind Franklin died on 16th April 1958 from ovarian cancer at only 38 years old.


29. Joan of Arc


Joan of Arc, or Jeanne d’Arc in her native French was born in 1412 in Domremy, France to a peasant, farming family. She is well known for leading the French army to victory over the English at Orleans at only 18 years old.


When Joan of Arc was born a long standing war was in progress between England and France over who should be heir to the French throne, this was known as the hundred years war.


Joan of Arc is said to have had important visions from God, telling her to save France by expelling the English and helping Charles to be the rightful king. She managed to obtain an audience with Charles and was eventually provided with armour and a horse so she could accompany the French army to Orleans where they defeated the English. He was crowned Charles VII on the 18th July 1429.


Eventually she was captured and tried as a heretic by the English and some French supporters. She was charged with 70 different counts, including witchcraft, heresy and dressing like a man. She was found guilty and on 30th May she was taken to the market place in Rouen and burned at the stake in front of around 10,000 people, she was 19 years old.


30. Émilie du Châtelet


Émilie du Châtelet was born as Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil on 17th December 1706 in Paris France. She was a noble woman who is best known for completing a translation of Isaac Newton’s work Principia Mathematica.


Émilie was fortunate to receive a good, well rounded education when she was growing up, which was unusual for girls at the time. She was educated in subjects such as mathematics, literature and science and was fluent in Latin, Italian, Greek and German. She was also encouraged to question things that were stated as fact.


During her life she published many books and theories based around natural philosophy, theology and the source of human happiness. She had an interest and extensive knowledge in science and mathematics and focused intellectually on the work of Newton, Leibniz and Christian Wolff. At the time Newton’s theories were unpopular in France, but she was able to write capably about the Newtonian Physics.


In 1749 she completed her work based on Newton’s Principia Mathematica, which as well as a complete translation included comprehensive notion on the theories. Émilie du Châtelet died on 10th September 1749, less than a week after giving birth. Her work was published ten years after her death and her translation of the Principia is still the standard translation of the work into French today.

Want to see another fifteen women who made history? Check out our first article here.

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