Notable Women in History

“Harvard Computers.” Photo taken on May 13, 1913. Image courtesy of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The month of March celebrates the momentous accomplishments women have achieved and the boundaries they’ve broken throughout history. In politics, science, art, service, journalism, academics, civil rights, and countless other areas, women continue to demonstrate an incredible impact on the world.

Here are a few of the women who have made significant marks on history and paved the way for those who followed. If you’re really inspired by these figures, you can see them and others in a solitaire game about notable women in history. 

Maya Angelou

Renowned African American author, poet, playwright, and political activist, Maya Angelou was born in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. Over her lifetime, she authored 36 critically acclaimed books, the first, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” detailing her childhood in the Jim Crow South. This was one of the most widely read autobiographies by a 20th-century Black woman. Angelou gained mainstream exposure for her poetry when she read during President Bill Clinton’s swearing-in ceremony in 1993.

Jane Austen

Overlooked as a significant novelist during her brief life, Jane Austen later became one of the most celebrated writers of the 19th century. Born in southern England in 1775, Austen penned just six novels, including “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility.” Her ability to craft everyday characters faced with dramatic situations continues to enthrall readers. Austen’s timeless works have inspired movies, shows, and miniseries.

Clara Barton

Called to serve, Clarissa “Clara” Harlowe Barton was compelled to care for soldiers of the Civil War on the battlefields. Known as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” she treated and comforted the sick. After the war, Barton traveled to Europe and learned about the Switzerland-based Red Cross. Inspired, she returned home and worked with influential friends to develop the American Red Cross, which protected and provided for the sick and wounded in crisis in the United States. Barton served as president of the organization for 23 years.

Rosalind Franklin

At just 15 years old, Rosalind Franklin determined that science was her vocation. Born in London in 1920, Franklin only lived to 37. But in that short time, she made groundbreaking discoveries. While studying chemistry at Cambridge University, she learned crystallography and X-ray diffraction. She applied those techniques to DNA fibers, coming up with a photo that became the foundation of the DNA structure.

Wangari Maathai

Founder of the Green Belt Movement, Wangari Maathai was born in Kenya in 1940 and became the first woman to earn a doctorate in East or Central Africa. She was a professor, author, and visionary environmentalist who developed a successful reforestation program that launched in Africa and was adopted across the globe. Maathai was named the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for her contributions to sustainability and peace. 

Mother Teresa

Called to serve the poor through the Church, Mother Teresa, born Agenese Gonxhe Bojaxhiu of Albania, chose to enter the religious life as a missionary at the age of 12. When she was 18, she joined the Sisters of Loreto and was eventually sent to India to teach young children English. She took her vows in 1931. Mother Teresa was known around the world for her humanitarianism, and she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She was canonized Saint Teresa of Calcutta in 2016.

Mary Curie

Madame Curie was the first woman to win the nobel peace prize for her work discovering radioactive substances. Beyond science, she helped develop ambulances which saved countless lives during WWII. She also put her life on the line. Her long term exposure to radiation eventually killed her.

Needless to say, countless women have made an impact on our world with accomplishments large and small. They’re not only worth recognizing, but celebrating. Women’s History Month not only helps us remember the milestones women have made, but also reminds us to continue to drive towards a just and equal society.

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