Everyone sees the world through their own lens. For a majority of the history books circulating schools, the lens is one that highlights a lot of strong men and their accomplishments. That’s not to say we didn’t learn about women at all in school – Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Emily Dickinson, to name a few. That’s also not to downplay the many accomplishments and advancements men participated in throughout history. However, a lot of what we learned in school focused more on men than women. We’re here to reveal another fascinating side of history full of strong and innovative women leaders throughout time! So sit back and get ready to learn about this awesome women!
Margaret Hamilton, Scientist Who Took Us To The Moon
Margaret was the Director of the Software Engineering Division at the MIT Laboratory, which developed the on-board flight software for the Apollo space program. In fact, she coined the term, “software engineering.” When asked about the subject in an interview, Margaret said, “Software during the early days was not taken as seriously as other engineering disciplines. I fought to bring it legitimacy. I began to use the term, ‘software engineering.’ When I first used it, others found it quite amusing. It was an ongoing joke. They liked to tease me about my radical ideas.” It goes without question that we wouldn’t have landed on the moon without the “radical ideas” Margaret Hamilton implemented!
Zenobia, Queen of the East
Zenobia was the queen of the Palmyrene Empire in Syria in the 3rd century. She spoke many languages, wrote a book chronicling thousands of years of Asian history, and was an important diplomat in Syria. Not only was Zenobia smart, but she was also ruthless and courageous. She spear-hunted bears and lions on horseback. After her husband was murdered, she declared herself the Queen of the East and invaded Egypt. She fixed the economy, built strong alliances with Arabia, and defeated the Roman army when they came to attack.
Noor Inayat Khan, British Secret Agent & Fighter Of Nazis
Noor Inayat Khan was a British secret agent during WWII, stationed in Nazi-controlled Paris. She knew going in that people who took that job only lasted about 6 weeks before getting killed. Noor lasted 5 months before getting captured by the Nazis. However, she fought the Nazi interrogation so much so that they became scared of her and labeled her a dangerous prisoner. She never gave up any information, and her last word before death was, “liberté.”
Madge Syers, The First Female British Figure Skater
Madge Syers was a pioneering figure in the world of skating. In fact, she totally changed the sport. Back in 1902, she competed in the world championship, which was an all-male event at the time. She won the silver medal. That year, the International Skating Union officially voted in favor of barring women from figure skating. Marge flew in the face of the ruling and entered other competitions. She competed in the British championship the next year and won first place. In 1905, the ISU reversed their ruling, finally allowing women to officially compete.
Queen Hatshepsut, Pharoah of Egypt
We all learned about Cleopatra, but Hatshepsut was paving the way for female pharoahs 14 centuries earlier. Hatshepsut was only the third female Pharoah Egypt ever had, and she was the first one to attain the full title and power of the position. After her husband died around 1476 B.C., she acted as regent for her infant stepson. However, in 1473 B.C. she took on the full powers of a pharaoh, thus becoming the ruler of Egypt. Her grab for power was highly controversial so in her fight to legitimize her rule, Hatshepsut secured the support of important influential political and religious leaders. As the ruler, she extended trade and ushered in an era of peace for Egypt. She also took on ambitious building projects such as the Temple of Deir el-Bahri in western Thebes. After her death in 1458 B.C., her stepson, Thutmose III, ruled for 30 years. In an attempt to erase the gap in the dynasty of male pharaohs and to cover up the legacy of an influential female leader, Thutmose III had almost all evidence of Hatshepsut eradicated. He made almost all of her images to look more like a man and he tore down a majority of her buildings. It was only in 1822 that scholars learned of Hatshepsut’s existence when they were able to decode and read the hieroglyphics on the walls of Deir el-Bahri.
Nettie Stevens, Genetisist
Nettie Stevens discovered the sex chromosome – the XX/XY chromosome that determines how embryos become male or female. Thanks to her work, we also know that the sex is determined by male’s sperm, thus disproving thousands of years of men blaming women for not giving them a male heir. Her discovery in 1905 “was the culmination of more than 2,000 years of speculation and experimentation,” Stephen Brush said in The History of Science Society. However, at the turn of the 20th century, women scientists were still a novelty. Nettie’s mentor, legendary biologist, E.B. Wilson, is often credited for this discovery. He had authority over Nettie and he had more weight and respect within the scientific community.
Ada Lovelace, The Fist Computer Programmer
You’ve undoubtedly heard of the famous poet, Lord Byron, but have you ever heard of his daughter, Ada Lovelace? Her mother insisted she be tutored in math and science – a rare occurrence in the 1820s. Ada was extraordinarily gifted in the area of mathematics. She is credited with coming up for the first concepts for computors. Ada developed the process of looping – which is still used in computer programs today. She is considered the first computer programmer and she may have been the first person to ever talk about coding. Unfortunately, Ada’s brilliance was mostly ignored for her entire life. Ada finally got the credit she deserved when B.V. Bowden republished her research and articles in 1953.
Ida B. Wells, The First African-American Journalist
Ida B. Wells has an amazing story. She was born into slavery in Mississippi but ultimately became the first African-American journalist. She spent several years teaching in different towns in the south after attending college at Rust University. In 1884, Ida moved to Memphis and continued her education at Fisk University in Nashville in the summers. By 1890, she put her journalistic skills to work and lead the anti-lynching movement.
Mary McLeod Bethune, Educator and Activist
Mary McLeod Bethune founded several private schools for black children after they were denied education elsewhere. She helped found the National Association of Colored Women and founded the National Council of Negro Women. She also served as an advisor to FDR. Mary fought hard to educate both blacks and whites in America about the accomplishments of black people, even though at the time many people believed blacks were sub-human. Mary was the only black woman present when the United Nations was founded.
Rosalind Franklin, Helped Discover DNA
Rosalind Franklin played a major role in the discovery of DNA, though her work was outright stolen and credited to many of her colleagues. Rosalind got her Ph. D in physical chemistry from Cambridge University, where she learned crystallography and X-ray diffraction. She used her extensive knowledge and techniques and applied them to DNA fibers. One of her photographs (taken through hundreds of hours of X-ray exposure) contained key information and insight into the structure of DNA. Two colleagues stole her photograph and used it as a basis for building their theory for DNA. They received a Nobel Prize in 1962 for their work. They sighted the infamous photograph as “stimulated by general knowledge.”