#91 Women who changed the world

History has a habit of disappearing the women that helped to make it.  At school I studied Einstein and Newton, too many Henrys, Harolds and Williams.  Darwin, Bell, Eddison, Joule and Rutherford.  Shakespeare, Dickens, Priestley, Brecht, Artaud, Aristotle, Sophocles and Plato.   Monet, Picasso, Klee, Dali and Van Gough.  Churchill, Hitler, Venn and Richter. Fibonnaci, Pythagoras, Wordsworth and De la Mere.  Men, men EVERYWHERE!  Aside from Marie Curie and the British Queens, my entire curriculum was male.

Yet don’t be mistaken, both men and women have done incredible things throughout history, it’s just that women were usually given far fewer opportunities than men, hence their invisibility in the curriculum, but it doesn’t mean that they weren’t out there doing wonderful, genius and inspirational things.

I asked my nearest and dearest for a list of women they believe made a difference in history.  Here is a list of 40 women that changed the world through their thinking and actions.  There are many, many more , but it would take forever to list them all.  I’ve kept the description brief, if you want to know more, you’ll have to do your own research.  It’s just a pointer, in case your curriculum feels weighed down by men and you want to find out what the women were doing while men were being written in to (and writing) the history books.

  • Hallie Flanagan – Federal Theatre Project US 1930’s
  • Emmeline Pankhurst – Suffragette
  • Marie Curie – Scientist, the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Margaret Sanger – Campaigned to introduce the contraceptive pill
  • Joan Littlewood – English Theatre Director.
  • Jane Somerville – Cardiologist. Saved lives, changed medicine.
  • Chelsea Manning – for standing up against the US government even thought it cost her so much.
  • Rosa Parks –  an African-American civil rights activist.
  • Camila Batmanghelidjh- British businesswoman, charity leader and author.
  • Maya Angelou – author, poet, dancer actress and singer.
  • Martha Gellhorn – War journalist
  • Elizabeth 1st – British Monarch
  • Lydia Cacho-Mexican journalist, feminist, and human rights activist.
  • Nadia Boulanger. She taught conducting and composition in Paris.
  • Voltairine de Cleyre – American Anarchist writer and Feminist
  • Florence Nightingale -English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing
  • Pussy Riot – Feminist Punk Rock protest movement in Russia.
  • Margaret Atwood – Writer
  • Princess Diana – English Princess.
  • Hermione Grainger (Mummy’s choice) – Harry Potter character.
  • Emma Thompson (Mummy’s choice)  British Actress.
  • Wendy Davis (my choice) – staged an 11 hour filibuster against a con-abortion bill in Texas.
  • Tracy Chapman – American Singer / Song writer
  • Malala Yousafzai – Education Activisy
  • Anne Frank – Writer, Holocaust Victim
  • Zlata Filipovic (my choice) – Bosnian writer and activist
  • Kate Sheppard – Universal suffrage in NZ 25 yrs before votes for women in uk.
  • Sojourner Truth – African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist.
  • Mother Theresa – for helping and valuing the children no-one else would touch
  •  Sappho, – for being an early lesbian poet who’s still read today
  • Rachel and Margaret McMillan – Socialist Education campaigners
  • Aung San Suu Kyi – Burmese Politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner
  • Eleanor Roosevelt – American politician and activist for women’s rights and African and Asian American rights
  • Hypatia – Early Philosopher and Astronomer
  • Aphra Behn – Writer / and for science
  • Emily Wilding Davison – Suffragette
  • Martina Navratilova – Czech and American tennis player and coach
  • Patty Smith – Singer / Songwriter / Visual Artist
  • Yvonne Goolagong – Australian former World No. 1 female tennis player
  • Harper Lee – Writer (To Kill a Mocking Bird)

And as ever, there are women everywhere, continuing to make quiet history.  Someone suggested I also mention the Mums.  I agree to that, and in addition, the grandmothers, aunts and sisters – actual family and found families (the ones we choose for ourselves.)


Thank you for Kath Burlinson for sharing this from your Aunt – a letter urging that we remember the women of war, as well as the men.

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