While their names remain absent from most history books, these women and their achievements are anything but forgotten.
Who writes history? Some say it’s the winners, while others think it’s whoever is telling the story. But what if some stories are just not being told? Now we could sit around and discuss why or we could just try our best and tell them ourselves. That’s exactly what I intend to do. And while these few lines definitely won’t do these ladies justice, I’m certain they’ll help keep their legacies alive. And so, without further ado, here are seven exceptional women who changed the world without you knowing.
Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)
Although born long before the digital age, Lovelace still managed to set the course for the technology we use today by becoming the world’s first computer programmer. Born to one of England’s most famous poets, Lord Byron, Ada’s mother feared that the girl would inherit her father’s erratic nature. And so began Ada’s education in math and science.
Mentored by English mathematician Charles Babbage, in her adolescence, she was able to study his creation Difference Engine. Moreover, she helped him during another project that came to be the Analytical Engine, the world’s first computer. And amid her work and endless notes, she wrote an algorithm the engine could use to calculate Bernoulli numbers. That’s aside from establishing a process known as ‘looping’ that computer programmers use to this day.
Ada Lovelace was the first person to realize that computers could be much more than big calculators. Although her code was never properly tested as Babbage’s engine was never built, her work ultimately paved the way for the future of computing.
Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894)
In our world of social media, it seems that every couple of days a new trend pops up that takes the internet by storm. Who are the trendsetters? We may never know. But what we do know is that besides being an activist, Amelia Bloomer was the first-ever trendsetter. I mean, what else would you call the person who revolutionized women’s clothing and fought for the right for women to wear pants (something that was considered a criminal act)?
Aside from getting clothing garments named after her, Bloomer also launched one of the first newspapers written, edited, and published by women dedicated to women’s issues named The Lily. Dissatisfied with writing for her husband’s newspaper, she used her newspaper to support women’s suffrage and the temperance movement.
Huda Shaarawi (1879-1947)
Born in a time when Egypt was saturated with harems, i.e., living spaces separate from men dedicated to women of upper-middle-class families to protect them, Huda grew up realizing that her gender acted as a barrier to the freedom she desired. And so, she decided to do something about it. In 1908, she established the first philanthropic organization run by women, offering services to both impoverished women and children. Two years later, she opened a school for girls and was always involved in planning lectures and enriching women’s minds.
Furthermore, she played a vital role in the Egyptian Revolution of 1919, as she encouraged and led women resulting in the largest women’s protest against British rule. And she didn’t stop there. After Egypt gained independence, she worked to ensure that things wouldn’t go back to how they were. Consequently, this led to the action she’s well-known for, as she removed her veil (a requirement thought to protect women at the time) in a crowded train station. She not only significantly impacted the women of Egypt, but her influence reached the Middle East and the world, changing it for the better.
Frances Marion (1888-1973)
As a film enthusiast, I find the industry’s current struggle with representation and gender equality very saddening. However, Hollywood wasn’t always like this. In fact, in its silent era, Hollywood was a women’s world, with women in director’s chairs and behind the cameras. Not only were they writers of many hits but also the editors. And one of them was the most original and successful screenwriter in Hollywood’s history — Frances Marion.
Writing more than 300 scripts over the course of her career, Marion won two Oscars. But perhaps her biggest achievement was simply being the person that she was. Not only did she support and champion other women in the industry, but she was also a strong advocate of creative control, something not many writers get. And that’s aside from literally writing the book on Hollywood screenwriting titled How to Write and Sell Film Stories, one of the first guides of its kind.
Bessie Coleman (1892-1926)
While Amelia Earhart is a household name, Bessie Coleman, another record-breaking pilot, is lesser-known. Something quite surprising as she was given some pretty cool nicknames such as ‘Brave Bessie’ and ‘Queen Bess’. Also, how could one forget the first African American woman of Native American descent to get a pilot’s license?
After being rejected from flight schools in the United States for being African American and a woman, Coleman decided to try her luck in France, where French women were allowed to learn how to fly airplanes. She learned French, moved across seas, and soon enough became known for her grand performances and dangerous air tricks. Not only did she work to encourage women and African Americans to reach their dreams, but she also actively stood against segregation and discrimination, refusing to perform anywhere where either was found.
Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000)
Unlike the other women on this list, many knew of Hedy Lamarr’s name. However, this wasn’t necessarily due to her genius mind but rather her beauty and success as Hollywood’s most famous and beautiful starlet at the time. Few know that while Lamarr was a flourishing actress, she was also a brilliant inventor.
Feeling like she wasn’t doing enough to make the world a little bit better, she teamed up with George Antheil, another inventive spirit. Together they created the Secret Communications System, aiming to switch radio frequencies amidst the chaos of World War II so that enemies could not decode messages. Although their work wasn’t taken seriously during that period, their technology ultimately led to the wireless communication of today’s cell phones, GPS navigators, and Wi-Fi.
Patsy Takemoto Mink (1927-2002)
Being a daughter of second-generation Japanese immigrants in a time when the United States was saturated with racism doesn’t really add up to an easy life. Yet that didn’t stop Patsy Takemoto Mink from becoming the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first Asian-American woman to serve in Congress.
After being rejected from several medical schools, Mink decided to try her hand at law school. It was this decision that led her to become the first Japanese-American woman to practice law in her home state of Hawaii. She later used her power as a congresswoman to fight for gender and racial equality, affordable childcare, and bilingual education. But perhaps her most significant achievement was co-authoring the Title IX law, with Senator Birch Bayh, which prohibited sex discrimination in education settings.
Although this list is far from inclusive as countless other women have made a massive impact on the world that we know today, you too can help spread their stories and ensure that they are given the recognition they deserve. All you have to do is find them, read about them, and most importantly, talk about them.
Photo: Yuliya Bokhanchenko/Shutterstock
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