We have all heard about Madame Curie and Sirima Bandaranaike. However, there are many notable women in history who are forgotten. Our schools often tend to stick to the text book version of things. However, here is a list of the top ten women they should have taught you about in school.
Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)
American educator and civil rights activist
Mary McLeod Bethune was a tremendous educator and civil rights activist. She founded private schools for African-American children when they were denied education elsewhere, helped found the National Association of Coloured Women and founded the National Council of Negro Women (and participated in most of the national groups for African-Americans) and served as an advisor to FDR.
“She worked her ass off to formally educate both blacks and whites in America about the accomplishments of black people at a time when a large percentage of American citizens believed that blacks where biologically sub-human. She hung out with W.E.B. Du Bois and was the only black woman present when the United Nations was founded.
Zenobia (third century)
Queen of Palmyrene Empire in Syria
Queen Zenobia was the warrior queen of what is now Syria, a feminist and a diplomat. She spoke at least four languages, wrote a book chronicling a thousand years of Asian history and spear-hunted bears and lions from horseback. She and her husband, in full battle armour, led armies across Persia, defeated an invasion of Goths (not the Hot Topic kind) and was such a badass that the Pope praised her bravery. When her husband was murdered she arrested the murderers and offered them up as human sacrifices at the Temple of Baal just to prove a point.
But Zenobia was just getting started. She declared herself Queen of the East, invaded Egypt, and ruled over a gigantic empire. She fixed the economy, built alliances with Arabia and sent the Roman army packing when they dared to mess with her.
Maya Deren (1917-1961)
revolutionary American filmmaker
Born in Kiev before moving to the US, Maya Deren was an incredible filmmaker, dancer, writer and photographer and essentially the mother of avant-garde film. Her short films today are on YouTube and are still incredibly powerful and moving. They still feel revolutionary and have been completely mind blowing back in the 1940s and ’50s.
Lucy Stone (1818-1893)
American abolitionist and suffragist
Lucy Stone was a feminist activist and abolitionist. Stone was the first woman in Massachusetts to obtain a college degree and after college she helped take immense leaps for both the feminist and abolitionist movements. She was a published author and journalist as well as a successful orator. Plus, she wore trousers in the 1800s.
Nettie Stevens (1861-1912)
Nettie Stevens discovered that the sex of an organism is determined by its X and Y chromosomes – disproving hundreds of years of men blaming women for not giving them a ‘male heir’.
Margaret Hamilton (1936)
computer scientist whose work took us to the moon
Margaret Hamilton led the team that developed the in-flight software for the Apollo missions. Man wouldn’t have set foot on the moon without her work.
Veronica Franco (1546-1591)
Veronica Franco was a 16th century courtesan, poetess and editor. She was a well-educated woman, a rarity at the time and part of the intellectual class of courtesans. She published at least two books of poetry, edited others, belonged to Venice’s most prestigious literary circle, and advocated for poor women and children. She was tried for witchcraft, but the charges were dropped and she was believed to have had a liaison with King Henry III of France. Veronica Franco was a woman making her own way at a time when women were little more than property.
Artemisia I of Caria (5th Century)
queen and naval commander in the Greco-Persian wars
Artemisia I of Caria was a highly successful, unmarried queen in the 400s BC. As if that isn’t enough, she became one of the top military generals of the Persian Empire, where she was known for being super smart and strategic. The emperor even sent his kids to be raised around her in the hope that they would model themselves after her.
Hürrem Sultan (1526-1558)
one of the most influential women in the history of the Ottoman Empire
Hürrem Sultan, also known as Roxelana, was an Ukranian slave who entered the harem of Suleiman the Magnificent at the age of 15. She became politically influential, even leading to Suleiman to retire the rest of his harem, free her and marry her officially. She played a prominent role in politics and began the Sultanate of Women (a period of about 130 years when women had huge political influence over the Ottoman sultan).
Noor Inayat Khan (1914-1944)
Indian-American secret agent for Britain in World War II
Noor Inayat Khan was a British secret agent during WWII and worked as a radio operator in Nazi-controlled Paris. The job had an average lifespan of six weeks and she lasted nearly five months. She was eventually betrayed by a French pilot and interrogated for over a month at Dachau concentration camp. She fought the Nazis so hard during interrogation that they became scared of her and labelled her as a ‘dangerous prisoner’. She never gave a single bit of information to the Nazis in all her time at Dachau. Her last word before her execution was reported to be ‘liberté.