We have a lot to thank women for. Long denied a vote or even recognition, many women have still managed to beat the odds and achieve success.
Some women have gone even further and dominated in traditionally male industries. Others have set standards and invented things that we couldn’t imagine modern society without.
Regardless of where they have come from or what they were up against, these female role models progressed. They gave us something to look up to and their achievements stand the test of time.
We take a look at history’s most incredible female role models, from the past and present day.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FEMALE ROLE MODELS
Although still viewed as masculine subjects, many women have been innovators in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths.
Many refer to the daughter of Lord Byron and Anna-Isabella Byron as “the world’s first computer programmer”. Her mother was a mathematician and encouraged Ada’s love of logic in childhood.
Her tutor, Mary Somerville introduced her to another mathematician Charles Babbage, who she formed a working relationship with. She wrote elaborate notes between 1842 – 1843, which are considered important in the history of computers.
100 years later, famed code-breaker Alan Turing used Lovelace’s notes and algorithm for the world’s first modern computer. Originally an important military tool, eventually this evolved into what we now work and play on!
Grace Hopper coined the phrase: “it is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” She said that because in the military that meant asking many people above her before doing her work.
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper received both her Master’s Degree and Ph.D in Mathematics and Physics from Yale University. She joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in December 1943.
At the time, both these things were highly unusual for a woman, but Grace was formidable and fantastic. She became one of the first three programmers on Mark I, one of the earliest computers.
She also wrote the 561-page manual for the Mark I. She also helped create and promote COBOL, a computer language still in use today.
Born in 1897, Amelia Earhart didn’t believe in gender roles from an early age. When her family moved to Chicago, she canvassed schools seeking out the best science program.
During the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918, Earhart was a nurse and ended up contracting pneumonia. This gave her chronic sinusitis, which would affect her flying later in life, but she never faltered.
She learned how to repair cars and then started flying lessons in 1920. Determined to raise $1,000, she worked as a stenographer, photographer and truck driver.
Although Earhart was the 16th female to receive her pilot license in America, she broke many records. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and eventually became Vice President of National Airways.
She inspired a generation of female aviators, wrote several best-selling books and disappeared attempting to circumnavigate the globe by plane.
Although Hedy Lamarr was famous as a beautiful actress in the 1930s and 1940s, that wasn’t her most significant achievement. The Austrian-born beauty was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014, 14 years after her demise.
Lamarr and the composer George Antheil developed a new system that used frequency hopping for Allied torpedoes. This happened at the start of World War II, but the US Navy didn’t fully adopt it until the 1960s.
Later, the principles of her work formed the basis for Bluetooth and GPS technology. Lamarr is now credited with having invented WiFi.
So next time you are posting to Instagram, sending an email or playing poker online, thank Hedy Lamarr.
FEMALE ARTISTS AND AUTHORS WHO BLAZED A TRAIL
Changing our perspective and shaping our world, female icons in art and literature are many. It’s a shame that some were not recognized in their own lifetime.
Born in 1775 into a family of eight, Jane Austen was years ahead of her time. Even in her novels, she questioned women’s roles in society, becoming a feminist icon when it was unheard of.
When she became a teenager, she began writing novels, many of which are considered classics. Pride and Prejudice is an enduring tale, which has received the Hollywood treatment several times over.
She wrote poems and stories to entertain her family, which were described as full of “anarchic fantasies of female power”. During her lifetime, her books were published as “By a Lady”.
When Austen died, her brother Henry disclosed the truth. She had made some money in her life from writing, but posthumously has had enormous success.
Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was born in July 1907. Although disabled by polio, Kahlo was smart and was expected to study medicine before a bus accident changed that.
Kahlo turned her attention to art and began to explore themes of postcolonialism, gender and race in her work. She became the first Mexican artist to be featured at the Louvre in Paris.
Her self-portraits are almost instantly recognizable, even to those who don’t know art. Kahlo has become an icon, a symbol of feminism and non-conformity due to her work, her constant pain and politics.
OTHER NOTABLE WOMEN
There is no doubt that these brave women have paved the way and inspired others. The list is endless but we have other brilliant role models such as:
- Malala Yousafzi, who defied the Taliban, overcame an gun attack and became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate ever
- Rosa Parks, who sparked the Civil Rights Movement in the USA
- Emmeline Pankhurst, who led the Suffragette Movement in the UK and helped women win the vote
Women continue to defy the restrictions placed on them around the world. These women have gone even further and achieved what some thought impossible.
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